Interview with Will Palmer, CEO, Movio
Can you walk us through the different aspects of how you work with data in this business?
We’ve got two sides to our focus when it comes to exhibition: the data exhibitors collect on moviegoers at every touch point (demographics, box office transactions, concessions, etc.) and the data generated by targeted campaigns (email open rates, clicks, etc.).
We support exhibitors in finding more sources of data they can use to analyze and build a more comprehensive profile of cinema customers. For example, we have released a social media module that a number of exhibitors are now using. Moviegoers link their social media accounts to their cinema’s loyalty accounts which allows us to track social actions and see if they lead to a box office transaction. For example, if a tweet was sent out from an exhibition chain or studio telling people about an upcoming release and is then retweeted, we can then track to see if the person who retweeted also purchased a ticket to see that movie. It paints a clearer picture on ROI when it comes to social media campaigns. There are few measurable social media tools that can link to sales in any industry. I think this can be a particularly powerful tool for exhibitors; we’ve released it for Twitter and Facebook and the next stage is to look at Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat.
At the other end of our data business spectrum is the communication channels used to communicate with cinema customers: email and SMS. Email has historically been the main vehicle to engage with loyalty members and is a very efficient tool when you manage a trusted and well targeted program. SMS has had a bit of a renaissance for a couple of reasons. One of them is that it’s now about 15 percent of the price it was two years ago, making it cost-effective. The second part is that the open rates on SMS are so high —when was the last time you didn’t open a SMS?— so you are getting north of 90 percent of engagement from the communication… that’s a very high penetration for a relatively low cost. This was able to become hugely popular because push notifications have effectively been abused, people can just turn them off but they can’t typically turn their SMS off. The advantage for the cinema chains using our SMS module is that they can now find and target a specific group of people through SMS and track to see if that communication led to a box office transaction. Campaigns using SMS often have a more immediate objective than email campaigns, and complement each other well.
What is your global reach with these services, are you seeing more growth in any particular region?
We’ve grown worldwide to have a major presence in North America and Australasia, as well as throughout Asia and more recently in EMEA. In Europe we have clients in Switzerland, Turkey, UK, Ireland, Norway, and several other countries that have really recognized the value of Movio over the past year. Around 51 percent of cinemas in the U.S. that have more than 20 screens now use Movio Cinema.
What is Movio Media and what does it address in this industry?
We entered into data-sharing agreements with exhibitors that are already Movio Cinema customers to help them commercialize their data. We aggregate and normalize anonymized data into the Movio Media research platform, which now has over 15 million avid filmgoers. The sampling is performed so that the age and gender distribution gives us a definitive sample of the U.S. moviegoer. Movio Media can therefore provide the audience profile for any film. Our data science team has built this really amazing algorithm called Similarity Rating that allows you to look at comparable audiences for comparable titles. So if I want to look up what sort of title matches with a similar audience to those who turned up to see Batman, Movio Media can come up with the audience that will overlap with that other film.
It has taken off in the U.S. and has created a revenue stream for cinemas to commercialize their data without losing control of it. Studios have wanted to interact directly with moviegoers, but that relationship has always primarily existed between the exhibitor and the moviegoer. Movio Media gives the studio a chance to see the campaign and notify an exhibitor with a specific message for that film without having to go with a specific message to each individual cinema, it’s all centralized. We’ve done marketing campaigns for 24 films for the major studios over the last nine months and paid part of the revenue back to the cinema chains. It’s still very much in the early days, but so far it’s been very exciting and successful.
What is your advice for exhibitors that haven’t yet devised a data strategy?
The first thing exhibitors have to do is get their data in order. Most major chains now collects information of some sort, however the most important is collecting qualitative data about individual customers. Regal, Cineplex and AMC have had successful loyalty programs for a long time. By now every cinema chain has realized that they have two key assets: one is brick and mortar (where they run their cinemas), and the other is digital (the data they have on their customer base). They’re both uniquely theirs and can be mutually beneficial: building more cinemas by growing their customer database. Once they’ve amassed a robust database they need to start working to commercialize it in a way that doesn’t negatively affect the consumer – that’s what Movio Media does. The key is to get the right message to the right person at the right time. Our concept with Movio Media is that all communications still run through a cinema’s program; so when a moviegoer receives a communication that’s coming from a film studio, that data always remains in the ownership and control of the cinema. As soon as exhibitors give it away, they lose control of it so it’s really important for them to retain ownership of that information. Movio has created a vehicle by which we can contract with a studio to run a targeted campaign, set up that campaign, get the right offer to the right people, and reward those people for taking actions, but it’s all executed through the individual cinema’s programs. I think those are the key elements of a sustainable data strategy for cinema exhibitors: building their own database, enriching it with transactional data which has ROI value, and then commercializing that data in a way that increases value.
What do you anticipate being the biggest change in the industry derived from big data?
The biggest change will be accelerating the ticket purchasing process by creating online ways for mobile transactions. Mobile will be key to the next stage of the cinema evolution. I was just in China and there’s been a huge step forward in mobile ticketing there, and that will continue to gain importance for a number of reasons. One: it’s convenient, customers can transact quicker. And two, it enables you to capture all the data information you need from a consumer’s purchase behavior —which is a lot harder to do from a point-of-sale. That’s why I think the way that cinemas approach their mobile strategy will be the biggest change we’re going to see. And once we see all this data coming in, a number of new things will come from it. It’s not just marketing that will change, it’s also the programming of films because you’ll be able to measure interest in different films ahead of their release, allowing exhibitors to come up with scheduling that matches their programming. Many of these operational tasks will be drawn from the data and information coming in. Automated mobile ticketing will be that big change we’re going to see in the next three years. If you look at China, it looks like they’re already paving the way for the rest of us in this regard.