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Disney is using machine learning to help tailor the content recommendations on its streaming services based on the time of day and what users are doing at a particular moment, two executives from Disney Streaming Services, which powers platforms like ESPN Plus and Disney Plus, told Business Insider.
Disney is learning what people like to watch at different points in the day from ESPN Plus, and plans to use other cues, like whether someone is streaming from a TV or smartphone, to make recommendations.
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As Disney jumps into the streaming war against Netflix, it won’t just rely on its iconic franchises to propel subscriber growth, but also on its technology. The company’s ESPN Plus streaming service is already providing data to help Disney build a next-generation recommendation engine to keep subscribers happy and outmaneuver the competition.

Disney is using machine learning to train the recommendation engines behind ESPN Plus to understand how viewers’ tastes change throughout the day, two executives at Disney Streaming Services, the media company’s streaming-technology arm formerly known as BAMTech, told Business Insider.

In the mornings, sports fans may prefer to watch game highlights, for example. In the evenings, they may be looking to unwind with sports documentaries or some of ESPN Plus’s other originals.

“We are working right now in the ESPN Plus world with understanding user behavior, as the larger group, to see when they are engaging and what types of content they engage with,” Laura Evans, who joined Disney last year from The New York Times as senior vice president of data, said. “To really adjust [the algorithms] so that experience becomes very much a part of your day.”

ESPN Plus launched last year and has more than 2 million paying subscribers. Disney is launching a family-focused streaming service, Disney Plus, in November. The company also controls Hulu.

Other streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video recommend TV shows and movies based on users’ tastes and the viewing habits of people with similar preferences, as well. But few have talked specifically about adjusting their algorithms to account for how viewing behavior changes throughout the day.

That could give Disney an advantage.

Recommendations for the moment

Disney Streaming Services — which powers ESPN Plus and the upcoming Disney Plus — is also tailoring its algorithms to make recommendations “based on where you are in the content,” Evans said.

On the home screen, users would expect to find a mix of personalized recommendations that touch on their various interests. After finishing a movie, users might receive recommendations that are related to whatever they just watched.

Read more: An ESPN exec explains how the network is embracing Amazon’s Twitch to fuel growth

Disney is also looking at other cues, like the devices or internet-service providers users are streaming through, to better serve programming that is relevant in the moment.

“When you’re on your Android phone and you’re on the subway and we see that you’re on AT&T’s network, we may not be recommending an anthology series for you at …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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Disney execs explain how ESPN Plus is helping build a weapon to fight Netflix, and what they’ve learned from Facebook (DIS)

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