Customer centricity is driving a new era in streaming media

Erin Peterson Accounts
Robert Love Solutions Architect
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Less than three years ago, the number of streaming viewers surpassed cable TV subscribers for the first time. This explosive growth has turned the media industry on its head. Instead of focusing on a handful of strategic deals with cable and satellite providers, content platforms have oriented their business around the preferences of individual consumers—who have more choice than ever about when, how, and what content they consume.

To compete in this customer-centric landscape, media companies have had to redefine almost every aspect of the streaming experience. They are creating new joint ventures with novel content experiences, giving consumers the freedom to fine-tune their subscription settings in just a few clicks, and allowing them to pay with their preferred payment methods across international markets. If the first wave of digitization in broadcast media was about the move into streaming, this second one is about open-ended optimizations of the streaming experience.  

Providing this flexible, consumer-focused streaming experience requires sophisticated financial infrastructure that goes far beyond simply sending a monthly bill. Stripe supports many of the leading media companies around the world, including FOX Sports Mexico, TF1 in France, DYN Media in Germany, and ITV in the UK. Here are the biggest trends we’re seeing in how media companies are using payments and billing systems to optimize the streaming experience.

Innovations in subscription billing to combat churn

This consumer-driven landscape has exacerbated a challenge for subscription companies: churn. Consumers can now unsubscribe or downgrade their subscriptions with a click or two—a far cry from the days of having to return a cable box or modem, or waiting for a technician to physically disconnect service. 

The stakes are high for media companies. In the past five years, overall churn rates for these businesses have nearly tripled. And according to Stripe research, 73% of leaders in media and entertainment agree that customers have become pickier than ever.

There are many different variables that affect churn rates, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to solving it. However, the most successful companies customize their strategy based on the type of churn and its business impact. For FOX Sports Mexico and ITVX in the UK, that meant a focus on combating involuntary churn from returned payments or outdated payment details. 

FOX Sports Mexico used several features from Stripe Billing to increase the likelihood of a transaction going through, such as Smart Retries—which uses machine learning to intelligently retry failed payment attempts at the best possible times—and automated failed payment emails. Together, these Billing features reduced FOX Sports Mexico’s involuntary churn, increased retention by 54%, and increased subscription revenue by 20%. 

ITVX, a streaming service in the UK, also looks to Stripe’s revenue recovery tools to increase the likelihood of a successful payment. With Stripe’s Smart Retries and card account updater, the team has seen a 10.6% increase in authorization rate, resulting in hundreds of thousands of pounds in profit that would have otherwise been lost. “We refer to involuntary churn as ‘mechanical churn’ because it’s the kind of churn that doesn’t have anything to do with your marketing efforts, or customer satisfaction. It’s about the machines. It’s about the technologies you choose to help you manage a payment failure. Most businesses set up their billing system and expect everything to go smoothly, but lots of problems can arise. Thankfully Stripe’s tools help us prevent it,” said Gabriella Monnington, head of product at ITVX.

New joint media ventures

Streaming media originally promised consumers a way to access content without the bloat of a cable package. However, the proliferation of streaming services has created the same problem it was meant to remedy. The average consumer subscribes to four different platforms and even then, they may not be able to watch everything they want, especially when it comes to sports. For example, if Premier League football fans based in the United States wanted to watch matches without cable, they would have to subscribe to up to three additional streaming services

To give customers access to content they normally wouldn’t see, some media companies start new streaming services on Stripe. Dyn Media is a new streaming platform from Germany that offers monthly or annual subscriptions for European sports content beyond soccer, such as handball, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, and hockey.

Other media companies that were once competing against each other for licensing rights are now partnering to form new streaming ventures. In January 2024, the YES Network and MSG Networks formed Gotham Advanced Media and Entertainment, a sports and entertainment venture that gives networks, teams, and sports properties an efficient way to launch their own streaming service. And FOX, Warner Bros. Discovery, and The Walt Disney Company’s ESPN will launch a joint sports streaming service later this year, giving consumers a new way to access live sports. 

These partnerships are another form of consolidation in the media industry, and they present their own challenges: companies typically lack the financial infrastructure needed to manage the intricate fund flows involved in a joint venture. Stripe Connect removes these barriers by enabling complex, multiparty money movement, such as collecting payments across properties and automatically distributing funds. Connect also helps manage certain tax forms, payments risk, and onboarding compliance so multicompany ventures don’t have to spend hours of manual work consolidating information across entities.

Localized content and payment experiences

Viewing habits have gone global. The majority of Netflix’s 269.6-million person global subscriber base live outside of North America. And in 2022, Amazon Prime Video signed a three-picture deal with a Lagos City–based production house, signaling the streaming giant’s expanding investment in Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. 

The global nature of media makes payments infrastructure a strategic element of any ambitious growth plan. Payment method preferences are diverse and vary regionally: one-click checkout is popular in some markets; buy now, pay later methods are mainstream in others; while in many regions, local payment methods such as Interac (in Canada) are how people prefer to transact. 

Media companies have to cater to payment preferences or risk losing customers altogether. A Stripe study found that 85% of online shoppers would abandon a purchase if their preferred payment method was not offered.

TF1 Group, France’s most popular free TV broadcaster, understood the importance of payment methods when it launched its on-demand streaming platform, TF1+, earlier this year. TF1 decided to use Stripe Payments to support a diverse catalog of available payment methods, including popular digital wallets such as Google Pay and Apple Pay.

“We wanted to give viewers as much choice as possible with TF1+. They can decide whether they want to watch free content, with ads, or whether they want to pay for an ad-free subscription. We followed this same philosophy with our payments strategy—it was very important for us to offer a wide range of payment options so customers can choose to pay with their preferred option,” said Thierry Bonhomme, CTO at TF1 Group. “And as we grow, our developers can also add new payment methods and currencies in just a few clicks with Stripe, saving months of engineering effort.”

The optimized streaming era is just beginning

Consumers will continue to demand more ways to control and customize their viewing experience. To meet these expectations, media companies require modern financial infrastructure to quickly add new content bundles, change pricing models, and personalize the payment experience. Stripe’s suite of tools—including Connect, Billing, and Payments—make this possible.

To learn more about how Stripe can help, please get in touch.

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