Digital Innovation Digital Publishing
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Predictive AI helps Foxtel drive double-digit growth: Insights for publishers

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How can publishers convince audiences to pay for content that is available elsewhere for free? They can look at what Australian pay-TV brand Foxtel did to wrestle eyeballs from its free-to-air competitor Channel 7, while broadcasting the same content. 

Foxtel developed a creative solution using artificial intelligence which has helped its channel Fox Cricket double its brand recall and become the #1 channel on its network in terms of share. 

Predictive AI for driving engagement

Foxtel paid $670M last year to secure cricket broadcasting rights in Australia. But the broadcaster had a big problem, several key matches of the popular national sports would also be available on Channel 7. 

Now, cricket is a game that can go on for up to 5 days. Many fans do not have the time to follow the whole game and may miss out on key moments. Falling of wickets is one such moment which can change the tide of the game. 

To convince fans to pay for content that they could watch for free, Foxtel developed a predictive AI chatbot called Monty. The tool can predict the fall of wickets in a game up to 5 minutes in advance and alert fans, so that they would not miss it live. Monty’s insights are communicated to cricket fans via billboards, push notifications and Google Assistant.

Source: Mediaweek

According to Foxtel, Monty drove a double-digit increase in weekly sales growth. Further, the free-to-air broadcaster Channel 7’s share dropped from 20.8% from 49.9%.

“Perfect demonstration of how creativity and data can combine”

Christopher Pocock, Senior Marketing Manager at Foxtel said, “Monty’s exceeded all expectations and earned his spot on the team by delivering results every match.” 

This media innovation is a perfect demonstration of how creativity and data can combine to create a totally new experience for fans.

Christopher Pocock, Senior Marketing Manager at Foxtel

Monty is a custom machine learning model. It has been designed to spot when and how wickets would fall in live games, in real-time. The machine learning model works by recognizing patterns in player behavior based on past form, and live conditions of the pitch. 

It was trained by observing every single ball bowled by the Australian National Men’s team over a period of 18 months. The tool has already predicted close to 498 wickets across international cricket games.

Here’s how Monty works:

Opportunity to get closer to consumers

The tool got Foxtel and agency Mindshare WARC’s Gold and Channel Innovation Award for Effective Innovation, 2019. Federica Bowman, Managing Director, Digital at FirmDecisions, and one of the judges, notes in her commentary for WARC’s Effective Innovation Report, “There certainly seems to be an opportunity for AI to help marketers get closer to their consumers, tailoring messaging in a more dynamic way, to be more relevant and real-time.”

Many publishers are already using artificial intelligence to automate content production, personalization of content and dealing with paywall resistance. An AI tool called James the butler helped The Times UK increase engagement and reduce churn by 50%

“Secure the future of journalism”

According to Reuters’ Digital News Report 2019, 78% of the 200 media leaders surveyed “think it is important to invest more in Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help secure the future of journalism.” Further, the report states, “most see increased personalization as a critical pathway to the future (73%).”

AI and machine learning can spot patterns we’ve never noticed before. There are software like PredPol (short for predictive policing), that try to predict where and when specific crimes will occur over the next 12 hours. This is something that may be of interest to news publishers.

PredPol co-founder Jeff Brantingham told the BBC, “Machine learning provides a suite of approaches to identifying statistical patterns in data that are not easily described by standard mathematical models, or are beyond the natural perceptual abilities of the human expert.”

The time may have come for publishers to include the predictive capabilities of AI in their arsenal. What if they could use such technologies to build bots for say, breaking news situations? Something like Monty could be effectively deployed to warn people in advance during natural calamities, or provide predictive updates during important events like elections. 

It can keep people hooked for updates and fuel engagement. It could also help them gain a competitive edge over competitors and drive subscriptions, just like it did for Foxtel.  

Download WNIP’s comprehensive report—50 Ways to Make Media Pay—an essential read for publishers looking at the multiple revenue opportunities available, whether it’s to reach new audiences or double down on existing super-users. The report is free and can be downloaded here.