How to market a streaming app

In 2018, digital subscriptions surpassed cable for the first time and the gap continues to grow. With COVID-19 keeping people in their homes and looking for new entertainment options, the adoption of streaming services has sped up even further, with 23% of US consumers adding a streaming service since COVID began. A recent Nielsen survey revealed 96% of US respondents - yes, that’s 96% - 18-34 years old subscribed to a paid streaming video service in 2020. 

These users are engaged, too, with the average time they spent watching an OTT streaming service in 2020 increasing 23% YoY to 62 minutes per day. The rise of OTT isn’t happening; it already happened - now that these services are an established part of how people consume entertainment, the question becomes how can you attract users to try your service and download your app. Apart from original or exclusive content, a key way to do this is to stand out with your messaging and creative, so we’ve compiled some best practices and tips to stand out and attract downloads with your user acquisition strategy.  

Make sure to talk about how the price is right

Business models are an important part of any user acquisition strategy. Some service providers - like Netflix - use a flat-fee subscription model. Others, like Crackle and PlutoTV, are free but monetize with ads. Each business model offers certain value to the user - an ad-free experience, access to more channels, a budget option, etc. - so it’s important to call out what makes your streaming app worth it to a user. In the same Nielsen survey just mentioned, 42% of US consumers said they canceled because they weren’t using a streaming service enough to make the cost worth it, while 22% said they had switched to a free subscription video streaming service. 

One way to build value is with a free trial. Hulu, for example, offers a full month free trial and makes this a focus of their user acquisition campaigns:

Hulu offers the user flexibility when choosing a plan at the right price - they can pay more to watch without ads or bundle additional platforms like Disney+, or can pay $5.99 to watch with some ads. In this ad, they call out their lower price point, which is under $10. A recent KPMG study revealed that most consumers (38% of 18-24 and 44% of 25-60) are willing to spend $1-$10 on a new streaming service, so if your streaming app is on a subscription model for $10 or less, consider calling out the price directly in your creatives. And if your app costs more than $10/month, you could always A/B test different ways to talk about pricing or signing up with language like “more affordable than a cable subscription” or “for the cost of your coffee each day”. 

It’s also worth testing a price callout vs. just a free trial callout. CBS All Access, for example, also costs less than $10/month (it clocks in at $6), but its ads only reference the 1-week free trial:

If you offer your streaming service for free, take a tip from Crackle and check out how they advertise their free service:

Not only is the callout of “Free Movies” clear and boldly placed, but they also include additional details that add value, like the ability to stream on multiple devices and the fan-favorite films in their library like The Matrix. 

Distribute your app across OEMs, carriers, and devices

Getting your streaming app onto devices through partnerships is an effective way to attract subscribers. If your app is among the first downloaded to a device, you get a head start on your competition by being first to the user and that user is often more loyal because they’ll be using your app from the beginning.  

Don’t shy away from advertising the deals you have with different carriers, devices, etc, just like Netflix does with their T-Mobile partnership:

Establishing relationships directly with OEMs and carriers - especially when competing with big brand names - poses three major challenges, in particular. First, these partnerships require you to make large financial commitments upfront. Second, a deal with an OEM or carrier often lacks performance metrics and isn’t data-based - so, you could lose money if your app isn’t a success out of the box. Lastly, both establishing and seeing results for these partnerships can be a time-consuming process due to obstacles involving legal, tracking, etc. If you don’t have the resources, time, or desire to deal with OEMs and carriers yourself, you could work with a service like Aura that handles the partnership for you. 

Aura partners directly with OEMs and carriers to get your streaming app front and center to users from the moment they turn on their mobile device with their out of the box experience (OOBE). As users go through onboarding and select the apps they want to download to their device, they’ll see your streaming app alongside household names, encouraging downloads. 

In a recent case study, a streaming app in the US partnered with Aura to attract quality users and scale up while reducing Cost Per New Subscriber. Using the OOBE placement and with help from the growth experts within Aura, they were able to consistently hit below their Day 30 CPA goal for 1.5 years and Aura is now their best-performing user acquisition channel.

Aura also has placements in the OOBE like full-screen ads and in-life notifications that provide additional opportunities to drive users to your streaming app in moments when their intent to download and use it is at its highest.

Test the biggest hit in your content library

For many users, the content that’s available on a streaming service is what draws them to the platform - and what encourages them to subscribe to more than one. In fact, 45% of subscribers are drawn to a service for content they can’t get anywhere else - this includes both originals and old favorites.

In order to see what draws people to your app, you can test ads that call out different content from your library. Whether it’s highlighting one piece of hit content or calling out a few that you think would resonate, highlighting specific content is a way to attract subscribers and determine what drives downloads. 

For some streaming services, just one piece of hit content can be a major growth driver. HBO NOW attracted 500,000 new users to their app for the Season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones and even more for Season 8, for example: 

Hulu, which has 30.4 million subscribers, builds its value as an aggregator of hits from major TV networks. They show this off in their ads, including the one below that highlights their network partners’ hit shows King of the Hill and Archer:


If you’re building a streaming app that’s based on original content, Quibi is an example of how to promote that:

This streaming service, which has acquired 5.6 million downloads since its full launch in April 2020, only offers original content - often from recognizable names in the industry. Their ad calls out the celebrity producer, features compelling creative, and makes sure to highlight the fact that it’s available only on Quibi. 

Show off the breadth of your content library

It’s not just hit shows that draw people to streaming apps - it’s the variety of content available, too: 51% of subscribers are drawn to streaming video services with a broad range of shows and movies. As you try to attract subscribers, consider showing off the different genres and types of content - TV shows, movies, sports - you offer. If you have a large content library, you can follow Tubi’s lead and say that in a short and sweet way:

You don’t need an extensive content library of thousands of titles to reel people in, though. You just need to highlight the niche you specialize in.

FuboTV is a great example of this. Though they only have about 100 channels in their basic plan, 40 of these focus on sports-only (compare that to just 6 sports channels on Sling TV Blue). Since their breadth of sports channels is their main value proposition, they showcase this in their ads:

Xumo, too, carved out their niche - in this case as a go-to platform for streaming news. With over 14 news channels, they offer more than many other apps - Philo, for example, only offers four news channels. Xumo is an appealing streaming app for news junkies, so their ads call this out in order to attract subscribers:

Driving downloads and standing out

Cable-cutting is the new normal and now is the time to take advantage of the widespread popularity of OTT services by driving users to your app. By promoting your streaming service in the right way - how you advertise price, show off hit content, get on devices, etc. - you can attract downloads and create your niche in the streaming app market. 

Check out our other popular blogs on Aura including Our Guide to App Distribution, Mobile Marketing & Advertising Trends, 16 Best Marketing Podcasts in 2020, and more.

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