Priya Khullar, Head of Customer Experience and Insight at Sky Spain, tells me about personalisation in a data-driven world.
Recently I recommended a show to a friend. Enthusiastically I told her about the strong female lead, the witty script, the authenticity of the characters. Her response: “ooh that sounds good – but is it on Netflix?”
Our relationship with television has drastically changed. “Modern” viewers prioritise accessibility to content. No longer do we watch something because “that’s what’s on”; we are presented with a vast choice and with that comes total autonomy. For Priya Khullar, Head of CX and Insights at Sky Spain, this holds great potential for customer experience. I went to meet her to learn more about how Sky remains competitive on shifting sands.
IF WE CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, JOIN ‘EM
Accelerating popularity of streaming platforms like Netflix, NowTV and Amazon Prime demonstrate what consumers value most: choice and convenience. For companies providing the content, such change has meant a renewed strategy. At the end last year, CEO of Ofcom Sharon White urged UK broadcasters to ‘pull together to increase their collective strength…[as] collaboration is vital to success of our industry’.1 Only a couple months previously had Sky and Netflix announced their plans to launch a combined service.2
Priya explained to me how a partnership based around content-sharing works symbiotically.
‘When we didn’t have the partnership with Netflix, we’d have users who wanted the Netflix content but they were in the Sky box. If they wanted to watch Netflix, they’d have to exit Sky. Now there’s a partnership, Sky and Netflix don’t need to be just competitors. We have integrated their content into the Sky search so even within our own platform you can search for Netflix content. You don’t have to exit Sky.’
‘It increases the breadth of the content you have to offer which really helps us stand out. That’s how we’re innovating: not by isolating ourselves in but by actually looking at how we can embrace those trends and bring these innovative companies to our customers.’
With choice of content taken care of, the other part of creating a competitive platform is the convenience. Now elements like UX and special features may have played a greater role than previously thought.
It’s even become political. In a recent letter to the Secretary of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), MPs called for action to protect the impartiality of public service broadcasters in this age of digital misinformation. Their letter noted that ‘TV fits around the viewer now, not the other way around.’3 In the US, Domino’s Pizza was taken to court for failing to build an adequate provision for blind users into their online interface.4
Moving from Sky PLC to Sky Spain in 2018, Priya has experience to share on launching in a new market. Central to that was examining customer habits using data.
‘You need to consider the local flavour, right?’ she said. ‘It’s about understanding that Spanish customers have their own tastes and preferences of how they like to consume content. We create this balancing act to make sure that whatever is created and distributed to the market is fit for purpose for those markets. Not everything is going to be an exact replica of what we do in the UK.’
Customer experience in media must be delicately tailored to each viewer. Someone who regularly watches Antiques Roadshow may not be that inclined to watch Deadpool 2 – but they might.
As Priya explained to me, there is a lot of complex correlation between variables; age and gender demographic isn’t enough information. I wanted to know how all this data was processed: how were back-end processes being enhanced?
‘It’s a pretty complex architecture in the back end,’ Priya agreed. ‘We have a strategic analytics platform where you can imagine it like a data lake. All the data from different systems flows into this data lake and we can do amazing things with it because you can have a full 360 view of the customer.’
‘Part of that is the machine learning aspect of it. I’ve seen algorithms where they use seven or eight different variables. It’s based on what you watch, what your peers are watching. Your ratings, what you search for. It’s based a little bit on geography and demographic too but it’s more advanced than just that. And the more the different content gets clicked on by a particular customer, that helps the machine to learn and it gets more accurate over time.
For Sky and its platform counterparts alike, the capricious viewer holds more power than they realise. Their habits, albeit caused by the instant availability of huge amounts of content, dictate the industry. Remaining competitive for Sky is as much about true understanding of each individual viewer, as it is about innovation.
Priya Khullar will be at Chief Disruptor LIVE, 18-19 March in London, to talk about personalising and customer data. Come and ask her about the big data qualms you face – she’s got the answers.
White, S. ‘Riding the waves of change: how British TV can be stronger together’. Ofcom [online] Available: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/media/speeches/2018/british-tv-stronger-together [accessed 23.01.2019]
‘Sky and Netflix announce plans to create “ultimate” TV package’. Sky News [online]. Available: https://news.sky.com/story/sky-and-netflix-announce-plans-to-create-ultimate-tv-package-11502300 [accessed 23.01.2019]
‘Letter concerning PSB prominence’. Guardian [online]. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/nov/02/public-service-broadcasters-shows-need-protection-say-mps-and-peers [accessed 23.01.2019]
Brown, K. (2019) ‘Court Says Domino’s Pizza Website Must Be Accessible to the Blind’. Courthouse News [online]. Available: https://www.courthousenews.com/court-says-dominos-pizza-website-must-be-accessible-to-the-blind/ [accessed 23.01.2019]