They may have played down the intense rivalry between themselves, but Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are pulling no punches to ensure they are a few paces ahead of each other in the digital content game. And while it’s a great time to be in the online streaming business — there’s a market that’s wide open and ample opportunity for quality, original content — the two biggies are keen on going to the extra mile to compete hard.
In November, at Netflix’s APAC Slate in Singapore, its vice president (product), Todd Yellin gave journalists a ring-side view of how the portal is looking to up its personalisation game. In a nutshell, Yellin’s take on personalisation was simple: one size does not fit all.
What this meant is that Netflix would work towards ensuring that everything on its content title display — pictures, videos, audio — would be personalised for audiences, on an individual level. "The average Netflix member chooses what to watch after looking at 40 or 50 titles,” said Yellin, later, in conversation with CNBC-TV18, “So, it's important for us to do two things — to bubble up to the top of the experience and present them a diverse selection of the 40 or 50 titles on top that are most relevant to them"
This means the right content for the right audience. And it wouldn’t be as simple as curating this content on the basis of age, gender or other predictable parameters, because in Yellin’s own words, “there are 60-year-old women who enjoy bloody action-dramas, and 28-year-old men who liked watching unscripted shows about wedding gowns — and we don’t judge.”
This meant Netflix would have to present audiences with the right content, and help them pick better and faster. “We began paying attention to what people watch,” said Yellin, “Based on what they've watched before, we show them relevant content that we think they're going to enjoy.” So, the portal began a process to curate the details — images and music included. “We try many images for each title and we personalise,” said Yellin, “Not only do we put the right title in front of you, but we put the right images to represent those titles." It doesn’t take an expert to figure out that the move is aimed at ensuring a viewer picks a title quicker and spends time consuming the content — and on the portal.
With Amazon Prime Video and Netflix locked in a head to head race for market share, it would seem that personalisation could be the big differentiator between the two players.
Netflix’s rival, Amazon, agrees. “You need to compete on how you engage with your customers, and Netflix is doing a really good job,” said Amazon chief technology officer Werner Vogels, speaking exclusively to CNBC-TV18 at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas, “If you look at the numbers for Netflix, 75 percent of the movies watched are driven by recommendations.”
But the question remains: is Amazon going to follow suit on the personalisation front? “We have a good history with personalisation engines, and we do the same thing too,” answered Vogels. But there’s a catch. Amazon wants to play to its strengths — and that’s newly released content that is procured quicker than the competition.
“Material that comes out of Netflix in general, is their home-grown product, which takes a lot longer to release, because you have a subscription model,” said Vogels, “In the case of Amazon Video, next to Amazon Prime, you can get the latest movies if you pay four dollars for it.” But what Vogels will do well to note is that Netflix has hit overdrive on its original content, releasing a slew of titles for Asian and Indian audiences.
While both: Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have played down their intense rivalry, it seems the ultimate match-up between the two could be a case of personalisation versus speed of content delivery.
First Published: IST