The Data Strategist Is In: Jesse Redniss Plots Turner’s Future

At Turner, Jesse Redniss is the data oracle.

As newly appointed EVP of data strategy and product innovation, Redniss leads a team armed with 35 data scientists. Their job is to collect the increasing amount of data generated by viewers of Turner content and to translate it into insights as the broadcaster works to navigate through the age of TV everywhere.

Redniss first joined Turner at the end of 2016 as chief innovation officer for TBS and TNT. He’d been advising the networks through the strategic consulting company he co-founded, BRaVe, when Turner decided they wanted him on board full-time and he got acqui-hired.

His current mandate: Turner wants to understand the consumer journey better through data. With that data, Turner is creating products to match changing viewing patterns, although the burning question of how these efforts will apply to a merged AT&T and Time Warner is a question Redniss cannot publicly answer just yet.

More precisely understanding what people watch also lays the groundwork for creating and marketing direct-to-consumer content. With B/R Live, a sports streaming service launched earlier this year, Turner is starting to experiment with direct-to-consumer subscriptions.

Since Redniss joined two years ago, Turner did work to “instrument” its video apps similarly. If someone watches CNN at work in the morning, then takes a break and watches “Conan” during a lunch break and finishes her day by chilling out with Animal Planet, Turner knows, Redniss said. With a single view of the consumer, Turner can better understand how people watch TV.

Beyond getting a better grip on viewing habits across linear and digital, Turner also wants to build personalization and recommendation engines underneath its products. More successful matchmaking with shows will boost viewership and allow Turner to compete with Netflix, whose personalization engine underpins its direct-to-consumer business.

Matching content to the right viewers drives results. Animated comedy “Final Space” was made for TBS, but the “psychographic insights were very similar to the traits of Adult Swim viewers,” Redniss said. So, Turner put “Final Space” episodes on Adult Swim, both for live TV and across its apps. The viewers were completely different and remained so throughout the season.

“If you became a ‘Final Space’ fan, you went to your platform of choice if you missed it in the linear window,” Redniss said.

That experiment tells Redniss that if Turner can personalize content even more, it can bring shows from other networks to viewers, rather than forcing them to seek out different platforms to watch their favorite programs. If Turner can successfully develop audience segments by viewing behavior, someone watching one comedy will have additional comedies recommended to them, Redniss said.

On the ad products side, Redniss’ team is thinking about how to create less interruptive ads using that same viewing data.

A year ago, Turner experimented with removing all pre-roll ads from TV everywhere apps. “We had a theory it would increase the engagement and time spent because it was a better consumer experience,” Redniss said.

That hypothesis proved true. Time spent and mid-roll delivery increased 40% post-switch. Turner is now playing around with previewing ads that unlock uninterrupted content for a set period of time, like what Fox-owned video ad platform True[x] does, and then monitoring how the ads affect viewing patterns.

The upshot is that data, not a gut feeling, will underpin product decisions.

“We are looking at the product experience and how that drives and enhances the revenue experience,” Redniss said.

 

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