How HBO Max launched personalized reengagement campaigns

With mParticle, HBO Max's marketing team is able to create audiences without engineering support and engage with their users more strategically.

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HBO needs no introduction. Since its launch in 1972, the premium television network has consistently released groundbreaking films, documentaries, and television shows, many of which have developed dedicated followings, such as The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and The Wire.

The innovation within the HBO organization extends far beyond the writers room, however. As the first television service to be transmitted directly to individual cable television systems, HBO laid the blueprint for the premium television network model. More recently, the network, now under the WarnerMedia umbrella, has adapted to changing media consumption habits by expanding their offering to include OTT and web-based streaming experiences.

In May, 2020, HBO launched the HBO Max streaming platform, a direct-to-consumer product that provides film and television content from across WarnerMedia’s brands. The direct-to-consumer model has been valuable to the HBO team because it’s allowed them to track individual users’ interests and engagement levels, a much deeper level of insight than what traditional television ratings could deliver.

HBO Max’s marketing team recognized that they could use these insights to deliver more relevant experiences to each individual subscriber. With 43.5 million subscribers in the US alone (as of June, 2021), however, doing so would require the ability to easily build and activate user segments for personalization.

Challenge

As the HBO Max team was developing products for iOS, Android, Roku, and web platforms, they implemented event tracking to load customer data into an Amazon S3 bucket for storage. This method allowed the development team to collect data with minimal impact on app stability. The marketing team, however, was unable to access the data in S3 without engineering assistance.

Marketing aimed to use the data collected to segment their subscriber base and deliver more relevant campaigns. But as long as data resided in S3, building segments meant asking data engineering to write complex SQL queries and send over static files. This process was slow, and often led to different engineers using different logic to create segments, resulting in inconsistencies downstream. Furthermore, the marketing team had no way to syndicate an audience out to multiple downstream systems and keep it up-to-date in real time. Audiences had to be manually uploaded to each tool, and the process had to be repeated periodically to keep segments up-to-date.

Solution

The HBO Max team implemented mParticle as their Customer Data Platform to make high-quality customer data more accessible to their marketing team, save their data engineering time, and accelerate the speed at which data could be translated into customer value.

mParticle ingests iOS, Android, and website engagement data from HBO’s server-side database in real time via mParticle’s Events API, as well as marketing campaign performance data from HBO’s email tool using an mParticle Feed integration. As this data is ingested, mParticle’s IDSync ties data from across touchpoints to unified customer profiles, allowing the marketing team to view all engagements on a single profile.

HBO Max’s marketing team is then able to define customer segments from that data set without any data engineering support using mParticle’s Audience Builder. Not only does this workflow allow marketing to access the data they need instantly, but it also relieves data engineering from ad hoc querying responsibilities, allowing them to remain focused on building data pipelines critical to the business.

Once Audiences are defined, the marketing team is able to connect them to engagement systems downstream via mParticle’s library of 75+ audience integrations. mParticle Audience memberships are continuously updated as data is collected into mParticle, and these updates are automatically federated to any connected systems in real time. Furthermore, a single Audience built in mParticle can be connected to multiple downstream systems, saving the team time and allowing them to keep segments consistent across multiple tools. 

Empowered with better access to data, the marketing team’s first focus was to improve reengagement. To reengage lapsed users, the team defined audiences of lapsed users by segmenting users with no engagement beyond 12 weeks or that had canceled subscriptions. To power tailored recommendations and personalization, they built audiences based on the content interests of trialists and lapsed users, segmenting based on previous viewership data such as watched previous seasons, watched early episodes, and watched a similar show. Once defined, the audiences were connected to Facebook, Google Ads, Snap, Twitter, Xandr, and LiveRamp via mParticle’s server-side Audience integrations. Additionally, Audiences are exported to Google Cloud Storage so that the team can analyze how users move in and out of audience segments over time.

  • 7+
  • Tools
  • Being forwarded Audiences from mParticle without any development work
  • 1000s
  • Hours
  • Saved for the data engineering team
  • 5+
  • New regions
  • In which HBO Max could launch more quickly
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Expanding into new markets

With proven success in the US, HBO was ready to launch HBO Max in international markets. In June, 2021, just over a year after their US launch, HBO Max launched in LATAM. Expansion continued in October, 2021, as Max became available in Andorra, Spain and the Nordics (excluding Iceland), with rollout to additional regions in Europe slated for 2022.

Having mParticle in place has supported the team’s international expansion by allowing global teams to act holistically while operating independently. Marketing teams across regions can build Audiences without developer support and can share Audiences across regional accounts. This helps the organization facilitate knowledge sharing once best practices are identified and speak a common language around how they market to their users globally.

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