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Machine Learning And Artificial Intelligence Offer A Vital Tool For Broadcasters And Streamers

With an explosion of programming in recent years, both in the scripted and non-scripted categories, the challenge for any original content producer and provider, either in the digital or linear space, is to be noticed. Just how do you stand out in a landscape gutted with an endless array of programming a la the traditional broadcasters, the over-the-top (OTT) video providers (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney+, to name a few), the short-form specialists (You Tube, iTunes, Google Play and Dailymotion, for example), and, more recently, the social media platforms (including Twitter and TikTok)?

Then, of course, is the age-old dilemma: How do you find the type of programs the audience wants to consume?

“Content is king, of course. Just look at the shows that have broken out in recent years – Stranger Things, Tiger King, The Queens Gambit, The Mandalorian, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, to name a few,” noted Robert Russo, President and CEO of RNR Media Consulting. “Then there are all the short-form entries. But how you market to the right people and what you can offer to entice the audience to watch is equally imperative. The traditional ways to normally promote a TV series or any form of content – on air, on radio, in print and, now, online and on social media — are just not sufficient.” 

“Fifteen years ago, the shows you competed with were the ones airing in the time period. That’s how promotion was based,” noted Dave Morgan, COO, Simulmedia. “Then, once we had delayed viewing via the digital recorder, it was what was on the last couple of days. Suddenly, the marketer was competing with everything airing from the last week or so. Now, you are competing with everything that has ever been made, not to mention the record number of new stuff – both here and internationally.”

Launched in 2008, Simulmedia pioneered a data-first approach to TV and video advertising, helping brands target, plan, activate, measure and optimize all of their TV and video advertising.

“It’s no longer can I buy a page or do an integration in TV Guide, or can I buy enough spots to target the right people,” added Morgan. “Without question you have to get much smarter, you have to recognize that your audience is going to be smaller, and you need to have much deeper data driven insights.”

By the Numbers

The aftermath of COVID-19, no doubt, was the unexpected deterrent in the rapid rise of original produced series. According to cable net FX, who coined the phrase “Peak TV,” the 493 scripted series produced across all platforms in 2020 (not including non-scripted) represented a seven percent dip from the 532 in 2019. Comparably, that was the first time the volume of scripted originals experienced a yearly decline since FX began its yearly tally in 2009. In other words, 2019 could now be the official peak in content given the pandemic-related production shutdown.

“Even fewer produced original shows are still a massive increase over the not so distant past,” noted Robert Russo. “There is still no comparison. And that only accelerates the need to build engagement and enrich the interest in any original programing.”

“Data driven insights will help you understand exactly who the viewer is, what they may be thinking, and why they would want to watch the programming,” noted Dave Morgan. “The selection system you use to decide what media to buy, who to target, and when to target can no longer be a gut decision. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can help you find the high value viewers – those hard-to-find people – across all the broadcast networks and all streaming platforms.”

Enter Alfi, Inc.

Co-founded in 2018, Alfi is an example of an ad-tech and content AI SaaS platform company for digital out-of-home displays – from billboards to kiosks to the TVs in ridesharing — that creates machine learning models for content providers to safely deliver information. Here, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies work together to sense, comprehend, act, and learn with human-like levels of intelligence to better serve ads to people. It recognizes who is viewing a digital OOH (out-of-home) ad and services content based on the viewer’s profile with full anonymity. 

The goal behind Alfi is to improve the end user’s experience by using AI and machine learning to intelligently deliver relevant content to the right person, at the right moment, and in an ethical and respectful manner, making sure it is privacy compliant.

Alfi’s technology is stored in modified portable tablets in modes of transportation like cabs, Ubers and Lyfts, with an expansion to other venues planned in the near future. It is tailored as an option for any business or location where there are people or waiting times – airports, hotels and restaurants, malls and retail establishments, doctor’s offices and hospital waiting rooms, spas and salons, museums, and much more. And what it offers for its clients – broadcasters and streaming services in this particular instance (at a time when audience metrics are often withheld) — are the stats on what the individual is watching and what they want to see.

How it Works

Alfi’s proprietary AI algorithm understands small facial cues and perceptual details in real time that make potential customers a good candidate for a particular product. The automation respects user privacy; without tracking, storing cookies, or using identifiable personal information. And the companies utilizing Alfi can examine real-time analytics data including interactive experiences, engagement, sentiment, and click-through rate that are otherwise unavailable to out-of-home advertisers.

More specifically, Alfi enables real-time audience profiling, generating demographic snapshots of the people standing in front of an advertising screen using cameras that are used as sensors that detect different metrics (like age and gender).

If, for example, the technology senses a young woman observing the screen, the rotation of ads are tailored to that individual. Alfi then informs the advertiser (or any client) of the number of views, and each viewer’s reaction. And it is not interested in the specifics; your name, your phone number, your email address, or any other personal information.”

Why Alfi is An Option for Broadcasters or Streamers

In the media world, Alfi as a promotional vehicle for any content provider (on any platform) can feature an ad to promote a series. It can also offer a snippet of original content, perhaps, not seen in the current series. And the data it provides can inform the client what type of content the audience is interested in.

“Which actual programs are presented via artificial intelligence are now based very much on what programs the individual has actually watched in the past,” noted Simulmedia’s Dave Morgan. “The more you keep presenting the tiles – people will click on the titles to see the content or not – the more you learn and then you can make decisions which tiles to put up.”

“Places like Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu – they are already using artificial intelligence to determine which shows they’re presenting on the different screens,” he added. “And they get smarter as they learn what content the individuals are interested in.”

What Lies Ahead at Alfi

Miami-based Alfi has announced the opening of its London office and has recently signed a letter of intent with Lemma, the programmatic DOOH (Digital out-of-home) network, to cross-sell and promote each other’s operations and services as part of their respective offerings to customers across different countries. Alfi has also signed a contract to deliver its digital advertising technology in multiple kiosks located within a prominent shopping center in England.

“It is always important to look at all the different ways to target the audience you are trying to reach. That is certainly true of advertisers of specific products, while broadcasters and streamers are also trying to reach specific viewers with their library of content,” said media analyst Bill Carroll. “Naturally, Alfi requires a willingness by the end-user to participate. But, if done in a way that is non-intrusive, the end result could be reaching scores of more consumers with the type of insights necessary to find the programs that could stand out in the clutter.”

“In today’s world of technology, you have to be creative to build your brand,” he added. “And I see Alfi, and artificial intelligence in general, as a potential strong marketing tool in this era of ‘Peak TV.’”

“Looking ahead, we will surely be seeing more self-learning systems that get smarter in how they present programs and promotions to people in streaming,” noted Simulmedia’s Dave Morgan. “We will also probably get better and smarter about making things for people that they want to watch; and not just making things that we want to show.”

“AI right now should be part of any marketing campaign,” he said. “Without it you are simply at a disadvantage.”

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