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Mobile Insights with InMobi: Robyn Meyers on Video Streaming during COVID-19

Matt Kaplan
Content Strategist
24 min read
Posted on May 01, 2020

Welcome to our second edition of Mobile Insights with InMobi! This is our new Q&A series, where we sit down with leading mobile marketing and in-app advertising experts to get their take on the current state of the world.  

Note: Want to check out our first installment in this series where we talk mobile gaming with InMobi’s Jobie Tan? Click here to check it out

For our second interview, I sat down with Robyn Meyers, InMobi North America’s  Vice President of West Coast Brand Partnerships, to discuss the current state of entertainment and streaming during the COVID-19 pandemic. In our 18-minute conversation, we talked about the current state of the streaming wars, which kinds of titles are especially popular right now and what media and entertainment companies need to do to see success today during these unprecedented times. Tune in today to hear the full conversation!  

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Q&A Transcript 

MATT: 

Hi everyone. Welcome to another edition of Mobile Insights with InMobi. This is Matt Kaplan from InMobi’s marketing team here, and today. I'm very excited to be joined by the one and only Robyn Meyers. Robyn, can you give everyone listening in a quick intro?  

ROBYN: 

Sure. Thanks, Matt. Thanks for having me. So I'm Robyn Meyers. I've been at InMobi for about the past seven years now. I recently relocated from New York to Los Angeles about a year ago, and so I'm super excited to sort of be in the throes of Hollywood now that we can talk about entertainment today.  

MATT: 

Fantastic. Fantastic. Yeah, you know not a bad time, I guess, to be in a warm place considering one of the few things we could do outside of the house is go for walks, right? 

ROBYN: 

That's right. I know. We've been super lucky to be able to get outside and the sun's usually shiny out here in LA, so it's been quite fortunate for us.  

MATT: 

So obviously all of us are very much off our routines working from home, dealing with being stuck inside. What are you and your family doing to stay sane and to make sure you have everything that you need during the pandemic? 

ROBYN: 

Yeah, that's a great question. So we've been consuming a lot of content. We've been cooking, we've been trying to get outside and stay active. I would say that a lot of our life has now sort of centered around apps, which is quite funny given that that's, you know, the industry that we're in. 

We're probably one of the latest, newest members of Disney Plus, which has been awesome for my boys who are five and three. We've been renting Trolls on Amazon Prime Video, which is awesome because it was the first movie that was not in the theater but just out for rental. 

And then, of course Hello Fresh has been lifesaving, so I don't have to meal plan for two meals a day. And then of course, you know, getting outside and tracking our walks and all that kind of good stuff on our fitness apps has been super fun. So that's what we've been up to. And then of course, Zooming with friends and family has been lifesaving for all of our sanity. 

MATT: 

Nice. Yeah, it's funny, I would never think of Zoom beforehand as a social app, but it's definitely been filling that role for many of us, myself included. 

ROBYN: 

Totally. Yeah, I would say that and House Party have been two of probably the most used apps on my phone and my husband's phone lately. We've been reconnecting with lots of friends from around the world, and on House Party it's pretty cool that you can actually play some games in the app as well while you're talking to your friends, which is super fun.  

MATT: 

Nice. It’s on my, my list of apps I think I need to get at some point very soon, lest I'd be out of the house party as it were. 

Awesome, so today I definitely wanted to dive into what's happening in the media and entertainment space. We recently conducted a survey, and of course, no surprise we saw that people are streaming a lot more content. People are using entertainment apps. They're watching more live TV. They're streaming more on their TV. They're using their mobile phones more frequently.  

None of this is hardly surprising. It definitely makes sense. People are stuck at home. They want something to do, something to entertain themselves.  

I'm curious as well. One thing that I saw, that as far as some of the specific titles, as opposed to new titles like Trolls, I saw that it was a lot of comedies and classic titles seem to be really trending with people. Does that surprise you at all?  

ROBYN: 

No, I mean, not at all. I feel like everyone's sort of getting back to feeling those feel-good movies and movies that they know and are comforting. So I feel like, yeah, that comedies being popular is not surprising at all. For me, I feel like I've been wanting to watch old movies that I've always loved, that I haven't seen in a while, sort of for that nostalgic sake. And I feel like that's also been sort of a nice, comforting way to feel better during these Corona times.  

MATT: 

Absolutely, and it's interesting that you mentioned trolls. I know there was a few movies that were slated for a premiere in movie theaters that, as a result instead have now gone straight to streaming services. Do you think this is something that will be a long-term trend? Can we expect more of this to happen in the future or will things go back to the way they were once the threat is over?  

ROBYN: 

Yeah, you know that's a good question. And we've been talking with a lot of our studio clients around what that looks for them.  

I think some of them will continue to do it. Obviously, partnerships and relationships with the actual movie theaters and cinemas are quite important, so they'll obviously want to keep those relationships intact. And I wouldn't be surprised if there was probably a little bit of a mixture of both, in theater and then also online for streaming. 

But, another part of me also hopes that we get back to the drive-in. I feel like when I was growing up, I remember going with my family and I feel like that would actually be a really fun thing to bring back and everyone can sort of stay in their cars and not be worried about getting the virus, being outside of their car, that you can also sort of be around other people. So I'm gunning for the drive-in as the next big comeback.  

MATT: 

Well, certainly if nostalgia is in with viewing, maybe it'll be in with how we're viewing as well. 

ROBYN: 

Yeah, fingers crossed.  

MATT: 

And it definitely makes a lot of sense. You're socially distant, but you still get the big screen experience that you don't always get with home viewing.  

ROBYN: 

That’s right.  

MATT: 

So I want to switch gears a little bit and talk to the formats that people are using for watching, the apps specifically. So as we saw, installs of the big apps like Netflix and Hulu are up in March as opposed to January. What are the big trends that you're seeing in the streaming app space right now?  

ROBYN 

Yeah, that's a great question. We've been pretty fortunate to be working with a lot of the players in the streaming entertainment space and video on demand. 

And I would say that, you know, what we've been seeing is a lot more not only retargeting of existing users to get them to dive deeper into the content, but also more paid support behind acquiring new users. I think especially during times like these brands can't expect that people will just go to the app store and download organically. So I think having that paid support to get users, over the initial hurdle of using the service, especially now that free trials are starting to become longer in terms of length.  

I think Quibi was offering a 90 day free trial, so that makes user acquisition now a bit more manageable from a cost perspective. Hopefully we'll be seeing more of that, as people continue to stay home and consume more short-form content as well.  

MATT: 

I would imagine that user acquisition is more difficult now with so many new services that are coming online. Is that what you're seeing as well?  

ROBYN: 

Yeah, we have been seeing a lot of competition. 

Obviously, the number of people in the world is staying pretty stagnant, but the number of users that are now up for grabs, I think, by all of these new services is getting much more heated.  

So what we've seen just recently in the past, I would say, week or two, is that costs are actually increasing to acquire new users as the proliferation of these services continues and as more brands heat up the market in terms of user acquisition. So I'm really interested to keep our pulse on that, to see where that trend goes and if it ends up leveling out in terms of efficiency.  

MAT 

Yeah. You know, you already mentioned Quibi, which launched very recently. Both HBO MAX and Peacock are expected to launch very soon. I think Peacock is going to be launching later this year, HBO MAX in May.  

Are we reaching a point where maybe there are too many apps for consumers to choose from, or do you think some of these new entries still have, have space to play in in the market?  

ROBYN: 

Yeah. You know, I think that there's always going to be room for lots of players. I mean, let's not forget that we came from a very consolidated world of a few cable players with hundreds, even thousands of channels. So I think that we're just seeing that decentralization.  

And honestly, I find that my five-year-old remembers which shows are on which platform way more readily than I do. So I do think that it's almost becoming second nature for consumers to, exactly where they want to find all of their content. 

And I do think that this decentralization is just one of the phases in the cycle that we're in right now. I wouldn't be surprised if we ended up seeing some larger aggregator apps or even having smart TVs play a more centralized role in how we end up finding content. 

So I think it's to be seen where this will take us, but I think that it's certainly not surprising given the thousands of channels that we were used to looking through on our cable back in the day. 

MATT:  

Yeah, that's a good point. I haven't been a television subscriber in a while, so I forget what that ecosystem is like. That's definitely a good reminder that there's definitely a precedent for this.  

ROBYN: 

Totally, yeah. I think when we moved out to LA a year ago, we cut the cord. So it was just a year ago that everything was in one place, and I kind of miss it. I must say it's been super challenging to remember what is where and where we can find all the content that we want. While I didn't love the cable pricing, I think there was certainly a lot of value in the organization and the logistics of finding what you wanted a bit easier.  

MATT: 

Well at least you have a child with a good memory to help you out, right?  

ROBYN: 

I'll just keep relying on my five-year-old  

MATT: 

There’s worse systems to use, I guess. 

ROBYN:  

That's right.  

MATT: 

But it's interesting that still, amidst all of this, there has been some consolidation in the industry. 

ROBYN: 

Yeah. I think consolidation was sort of inevitable, when we've seen obviously the huge acquisition of Fox by Disney. And now we're seeing all of these new platforms get acquired by some of these larger entertainment brands, so obviously NBCU acquiring Vudu from Walmart and Tubi going to Fox, and I think that this is going to continue.  

The proliferation of all these apps can't keep going on for so long without them being supported by sort of a larger platform and pocket. So I think we can probably expect to see a lot of this continue to happen in the coming year. 

MATT: 

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, one thing I think is interesting, what I've seen is that some of the ad-supported streaming apps like Pluto have been seeing an increase in usage and in installs, because it's free, it's ad supported, so you don't have to pay a fee in the same way you have to with Netflix or HBO.  

I'm curious, do you see those ad-supported services becoming potentially more popular as more services come online, or do you think that the paid options like what HBO is doing are going to be the default for at least the most popular options? 

ROBYN: 

You know, I think there's always going to be a market for free and always a market for premium. I think that there are many people out there who just want their content for free and they think that there should be no barrier to accessing it. So I think that those apps that are free will continue to be supported by ads. And, you know, I think that that's good for the industry. 

And of course, there's some people that just prefer to hang on their Disney Plus or Netflix and are not interested in being disrupted by ads. So I think that those two audiences will always sort of co-exist nicely. And I think that that's also good for the industry as well. 

MATT: 

Yeah, there's never going to be a one size fits all that works for every person and every video streaming service.  

ROBYN: 

That’s right. 

MATT: 

So in this environment, what can media and entertainment companies do to gain mind share?  

ROBYN: 

Yeah, so I think we've been seeing a lot of that. Obviously if you take a scroll through any of your social media platforms, you're probably seeing ads for these platforms like Quibi and starting a new 90-day trial. 

I think that many brands are really starting to dive deeper into the data, around some new audience demographics. And InMobi’s specifically been helping brands sort of better understand not only who the brand's audience profile is but also what competitors are doing around specific audiences for, I think more informed and insightful targeting. So I think that we're seeing data.  

I think we're seeing a lot more creatively when it comes to using a variety of formats, including vertical video, including full screen rich media interstitials, native units, sort of a good mix to drive both high impact awareness but also really efficient engagement and conversion.  

So I would say across the board we've been seeing some really strong performance creatively from many of these entertainment brands. And I think that that'll just keep getting stronger since obviously the content is so good and their eyes are so good. So I think for InMobi and for brands, it's been an exciting time to be in this space. 

And then not only to be able to drive users down that funnel, but then also to then retarget them to keep them in the app and let them explore new content experiences, as they further engage with these entertainment brands.  

MATT: 

Great. Yeah, I think that makes sense. This is such a, an unprecedented period. I think if you're one of these brands, you have to make sure you have a quality, thoughtful data-informed strategy to make sure that you are there for your audience.  

ROBYN: 

Yeah, that's right. I think many brands, especially now in the entertainment space, are really sympathizing with consumers, right? Like we're all human and everyone is sort of in this together. So I think that entertainment brands are uniquely positioned to really deeply connect with consumers on this level and be sympathetic to what consumers want right now, which is I think a huge thing for the industry. 

MATT: 

Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think if you're not having that human connection, it's so easy for someone to tune you out and to not listen to what you have to say or use your service or watch your programming, whatever it may be.  

ROBYN: 

Yeah, that's right.  

MATT: 

To end this, I'd love to hear, I know you have a chance to speak with the advertisers and marketers at many of these media and entertainment brands. What has been your main advice to them? 

ROBYN:  

Yeah, I mean, I think our main advice has been around, to talk to consumers the way they want to listen and where they are spending the most time. And I think apps have been a huge place where consumers are continuing to spend even more incremental time. 

And, of course not just to rely on organic growth. I think, of course, during this time we can expect a lot of organic increases in the market. But I do think that paid support will always be necessary, to continue to fuel and increment user bases moving forward.  

So especially during this competitive time, getting in front of consumers is critical when they're looking for new content and new shows. So I think that it's been a super important time to really step up from a brand perspective and really get the right creative out in front of users when they're looking for new content. 

MATT: 

 Fantastic. Yeah, that makes total sense to me. I'm convinced. Well, Robyn, thank you again for joining us today. Any final word for the listening public?  

ROBYN: 

Oh, that's great. Thanks, Matt. It's been super fun to get to do this with you today. I would just encourage everyone to keep staying home, staying safe and keep watching more and keep downloading those apps.  

MATT: 

Fantastic. Well, Robyn, it's been a pleasure as always to chat with you. And everyone, thanks again for tuning in. We'll see you next time. 

 

 

About the Author/Interviewer 

Matthew Kaplan has over a decade of digital marketing experience, working to support the content goals of the world’s biggest B2B and B2C brands. He is a passionate app user and evangelist, working to support diverse marketing campaigns across devices. 

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