There’s no denying that we’re living in the age of streaming media.

From music (when’s the last time you bought an mp3?) to movies and TV shows, users want to consume content on demand, when and where they want to – whether that’s lying in bed on a tablet or on a smartphone, squished between fellow commuters on the train into downtown.

Stats That Show Streaming Is On The Rise

As technology and better data networks expand, streaming media through apps is how most smartphone users spend their time. One study by Deloitte expects that global audio and video traffic combined is expected to reach 82% of all internet traffic by 2018!

The rise in app-ified video consumption is a testament to this trend. According to research from the NPD Group, more than 80% of all U.S. smartphone users stream video on their devices! As more users prefer to watch video content on 2nd and 3rd screens (rather than their traditional television), service providers are continuing to imagine creative ways to entertain and speak to their video-hooked public.

One study from Leichtman Research Group found that 57% of U.S. homes subscribe to one of the major streaming services — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu. While these streaming services get the lion’s share of attention, newer contenders like HBO Go and Showtime continue to gain some ground.

Streaming media apps have meant huge changes – not just for how we consume content, but also how apps learn and engage with customer. Media apps have given more data on consumer trends and interests than any cable conglomerate would have thought possible – which in turn, lets streaming services give the people exactly what they want.

Fan Boys’ Fantasies Realized, Thanks to Media Apps

Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu tend to be much more nimble than their broadcast counterparts, allowing them to more easily assess and respond to user interest.

In some cases, streaming services have been able to provide fan service that was previously only dreamed of by TV addicts!

Arrested Development is a cult classic series that didn’t get much love when it first aired on Fox in 2003, ending after 3 seasons. Only after cancellation did the show find its audience, and Arrested Development has boasted a band of devoted Development-die-hards ever since. Netflix recognized the show’s appeal and gave it a second run when it aired a new 4th season of Arrested Development on the Netflix streaming service in 2013, 7 years after the original show ended.

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The response was overwhelming – numbers indicated that 10% of viewers binged the entire 4th season by Sunday evening (when it first dropped) to Monday morning. One DSL network notes that 36% of Netflix traffic on Sunday was dedicated to Arrested Development!

While the 4th season wasn’t universally adored, it proved that picking up canceled fan-favorite shows has powerful potential (it also was an early reveal of the binging culture that would soon become the standard).

Breathing new life into old or failed projects has now become a popular practice for streaming services. Netflix hit it big again with an original series that served as a prequel to the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer, while Hulu gave the canceled but fan favorite The Mindy Project another season.

Well-received cable programming has also inspired themes for original shows offered by streaming services. The popularity of Weeds on Showtime (and on Netflix streaming) was what inspired Netflix to get behind Orange Is The New Black.

Analytics-Powered Appeal: How Streaming Services Speak To You (Yes, You)

Streaming services’ access to analytics data has played a major role in how new show concepts are selected, using customer behavior insights to dictate where funds should be focused.

Netflix’s streaming service allows them deep access to the likes, dislikes, and personal preferences of their subscriber base. They can look at episode time gaps (time between when a user watches a first episode and the next) and what percent of users who started a series finished it. They can even dig into the time and days of the week you watched the most content, as well as when you pause a show, rewind, how you search for shows, and much more!

This data gives Netflix a huge advantage in understanding how individuals consume media and what shows have the best chance of success.

Netflix also pays special attention to its recommendation algorithm, since it’s likely that your subscription depends on it!

Why is that? Well, Netflix looks at the same kind of churn and retention data we talk about with predictive app marketing. Netflix has no doubt discovered that users are less likely to cancel their subscription after watching X number of episodes, so their goal is to get you to reach that point – to make Netflix an indispensible aspect of your life.

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The best way to get you to keep watching shows? Awesome, targeted suggestions promoting shows you’ll love and binge. This method seems to be working quite well, as one study find that 75% of viewer activity is based on the algorithm’s recommendations – pretty incredible!

The rise of streaming apps also mean that individuals can be given unique TV trailer experiences based on what shows they’ve enjoyed in the past. For its House of Cards launch, Netflix actually created 10 different cuts of the trailer celebrating the new show. Each trailer spoke to a different audience – if you were shown to be a Kevin Spacey fan, you saw a trailer where he was featured heavily. If you were all about power women, you’d find a trailer focusing on the female leads in the show.

This kind of segmentation and personalization wouldn’t be possible without the deep data Netflix has been able to collect about its customers through its cross-platform app.

Specialized App Experiences

App culture has also offered a new way for fans to interact with their favorite shows, as some popular shows even manage to get their own standalone app!

One great example of this can be found in the cute, if somewhat cringe-ly named “Orange Is The New App,” an app all about Litchfield Penitentiary’s favorite inmates.

The app provides tons of great bonuses and extras for the Orange obsessed, with meme-style images that let users write their own clever captions and character face holes that let you become your favorite inmates, without the toilet hooch.


What’s The Future For Streaming Media Apps?

As users continue to enjoy accessing their favorite shows and movies on mobile devices, it’ll be the smartphone’s job to up the ante.

Already many cellular networks have needed to adjust their data and streaming policies so that users can use media apps without facing horrific phone bills every month.

Phones have already begun to make concessions in the name of media streaming – small phones were all the rage in years past, but now that it’s normal to binge an entire season of Bojack Horseman on your 8-hour bus ride to Canada, bigger phones are back. Soon, smartphone providers will need to decide how they’ll handle 4k video and will be expected to find other new ways to improve streaming quality.

What do you love about your favorite media apps? Anything you wish they did better? Share your thoughts in the comments!