Fandor: Case Study (2013 - 2016)

Fandor hosted a substantial number of independent and international films. Originally conceived as a platform to stream award winning films and festival favorites from contemporary screenings at TIFF, Berlinale, Sundance, Cannes and more, Fandor's film collection grew to encapsulate cutting edge, avant garde directors, New Wave darlings, and many lo-fi, yet wildly popular, 'B' horror films. Our platform hosted rare films like Jean Genet's Un chant d'amour, critical selections by directors Derek Jarman and Werner Herzog, and special releases launched in time with seasonal events like pride month (we rolled out Wakefield Pool's erotic art film 'Bijou') or Kelly Reichardt's 1994 film 'River of Grass' to coincide with her new premiere at Sundance Film Festival.

The bulk of my work was spread across many areas: grow our streaming subscription pool, improve touchpoints to retain users, manage digital activity across major advertising channels (including activation of new ones like mobile advertising and Roku display), guide overall promotion strategy and ensure data integrity with our data warehouse managers.

Success metrics were numerous and navigable through continuous development of monitoring tools and close communication with all stakeholders at Fandor from merchandising staff and managers to the executive team. Sadly, Fandor shut her doors in December 2018-- a few years after I left. To preserve this exciting journey I had read on as I sift through archives and recollect a sampling of projects I worked on during my time at Fandor.

Project Management & Analytics:

Recurly, Google Analytics, SQL, Fandor's Internal Data Warehouse (called "Igloo"), Rails A/B testing, Pivotal Tracker, Optimizely, App Annie

Advertising Platforms:

Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, Outbrain, AdRoll, Roku, partnerships and sponsors (Fangoria, Village Voice, The Stranger, NPR), Pandora, iAd (discontinued), Silverpop/Mailchimp

Growth Techniques:

User touchpoint optimization, content development (film bundles, video essays, news writing), feed syndication (twitter, tumblr, outbrain), registration flow optimization, email marketing, price testing, and winback.

An early project I was responsible for was to determine how we could enhance onsite touchpoints and reduce drop offs. Film pages represent the largest class of pages on the platform, with the greatest potential for engagement.

Each page offered a trailer to preview a particular film to help steer users towards a trial start. Though, the call to action was embedded inside a trailer and disappeared when the footage began. As a quick fix we presented a persistent CTA below the trailer frame so it was clear and within view what the next step was when the trailer completed.

After implementation we saw an increase of page view through rates from film pages to reg flow. From the baseline for comparison we saw an improvement of 200% more traffic to the registration flow. Implementation of the call out was cascaded across over +5,000 film title pages.

When Fandor was ready to overhaul the site's design, look and feel, we wanted to make sure all the testing concepts I managed on marketing's side (increasing touchpoints to reg flow, messaging to increase form completions, improved navigation bar elements) stayed in tact. At this stage, we had built a large traffic stream to all film pages and it was critical to make sure site performance remained consistent.

As time came to refresh our film pages for a more modern look and appeal, direct collaboration with product was essential to further enhance our common goals of increasing retention and engagement with our films.

A key component in renewing the film page experience was to acertain the path to registration continued to be clear and persistent for new users.

We implemented a sticky header which ended up being a more elegant solution than previous and saw no detriment in new visitor pathway from landing to registration.

Rummaging through Fandor's LGBT genre page one notices the breadth and depth of titles punctuating the catalog.

It was natural to think of ways we could tie a month long celebration of Pride in the US to our titles ranging from: Derek Jarmans' Caravaggio to the unsung pioneers featured in Marlon Rigg's Tongues Untied, the evocative Portrait of Jason, Taxi Zum Klo, or the ever-bending Laurence Anyways.

Working with the design team I concepted and excecuted an immersive experience throughout the month working with the marketing team on creating curated spotlights around gender-fluidity, designing a timeline of queer underground cinema and distributing an Alternative Guide describing iconic titles, down to working with vendors to edit sizzle reels to be distributed through youtube and vimeo.

From time to time I would check on the customer feedback surveys to understand user sentiment and reasons for exit. Most times, we found that users could not find the right film to watch, pricing, buffering or simply wanted to view one film in the trial period.

Despite the usual feedback, we saw a patterns of users who also thought we had the best selection of international films. Peppered within the sentiments was a recurring theme. Among the spotlights, I worked with the team and merchandising to brew up a dedicated, evergreen campaign around international films. We had one point of differentiation that most streaming companies don’t and that is having acquired one of the largest collections of international/foreign films.

The concept was simple: "Subtitles are your friend." The strategy was to ease the onboarding of users who may be averse to watching text while viewing a video. We created content around this idea that was realized through a sizzle reel: a quest to find a longlost friend across multiple languages and translations. We promoted this concept through trailers, banner ads and immersive imagery of specific films through Facebook ads, Twitter, newsletters and Roku display ads. In addition, we designated a month of spotlights to highlight a guide users can follow to discover a bingeworthy list of titles to acclimate the reading eyes.

Optimizing a registration flow is always a tricky endeavor. Many stakeholders have differing opinions about what should be presented and offered in our value proposition. On a technical level, our goal was to clean up a two step process while modernizing the checkout to fall in line with similar services. In addition, we tested pricing and benchmarked competitive thresholds through an extensive promo system I conceptualized and developed in partnership with Product. Price tests were based on feedback of exit surveys from users who deactivated after their trial starts or canceled their subscription.

To improve click through rates on Fandor's registration flow we used Optimizely and Rails for iterative testing. We tested price messaging to differentiate savings between an annual and a monthly sub (a $30 discount when users subscribe to the annual plan vs. a month to month basis). Headlines were rotated to make sure we had the most compelling call to action. Imagery was rotated based on a series of conditions: immersive, cinematic and/or provocative.

At some point, there was also a desire to improve genre pages' abilities to convert users. Would a more cinematic, all-encapsulating hero perform better than a list of recommended films? The landing pages we built allowed us to test various conditions. Would a user pay more or less just to view neo-noir films than mindlessly browsing through the catalog? Our landing pages rotated different discounts to new and unique users. The discount would then be redeemed as a promo on recurly's backend. We segmented users based on genre preferences (and typical churn rate by genre) through search traffic and landing page URLs. A session id per new visit allowed us to remarket onsite the offer to the same user whenever they returned until a checkout completed.

While the test to improve checkout was a constant evolution, we were able to implement findings across the broader spectrum of pages on Fandor. As a byproduct of these tests we built the capability to rotate distinct messaging and promos to users based on traffic source and landing pages.

Results of testing led to redesign of general registration page with enhanced background imagery and simplified call to actions (CTA) (as seen in the drop down accordion above). Conversion rates were seen to improve up to 150% with the right combination of imagery, pricing and targeted traffic segments. Some wanted to come to the service just to binge Herzog or Italian Giallo, some are enchanted by our overwhelming collection of documentary films.

⚲ Churn Rates decreased between 2013 to 2016 due to a number of actions:

1. Refocus of subscription plans: initally we offered weekly, monthly and yearly plans that later were prioritized plans with recurring plans and a longer subscriptions. We tested through Rails and Optimizely: sub plan selection panels, background images, price matching by traffic cohorts, and continuously honing the value prop messaging.

2. Refinement of media plan:
  • SEM channels were reorganized and expanded beyond head terms for better thematic groupings and keyword coverage of 5000+ longtail titles and genres.
  • Activation of Remarketing: we targeted users at various stages in the user journey to persuade them with promos, new film acquisitions, content and giveaways for students and fans of film
  • App Installs for streaming devices (Roku, iOS, Android and Chrome): we saw higher engagement with Fandors' channel and more film starts that correlated to better retention when users installed our channel on the various streaming devices we offered our service. A major push was to showcase viewing options by device through newsfeed posts, newsletters, product marketing and deep-linked advertising
  • Increased promotion and marketing of longtail titles: We shifted from a more general messaging to a highly granular targeting of genre preferences and psychographics. With marketing budget we promoted tentpole films including the Werner Herzog Collection, Critierion, and trending directors according to film festival lineups. The addition of Criterion Collection and Werner Herzog titles helped boost visibility of our selection