Beginner’s Guide to Subscriber Management Systems for OTT

Kirstin White | Thu Dec 14 2023 | Product guidance


Managing subscribers effectively is crucial for businesses looking to establish and maintain strong customer relationships, enhance customer experiences, and drive growth.

To do this, SVOD companies need a subscriber management system.

In this comprehensive guide, we cover:


What is a Subscriber Management System (SMS)?

Simply put, a subscriber management system is a piece of software designed to handle the lifecycle of subscribers efficiently.

An SMS helps automate subscription processes and streamline customer interactions. The more advanced solutions on the market even make it possible to gather valuable insights about subscriber behavior and preferences.



What are the real game-changing benefits of using an advanced Subscriber Management System?

Let’s put it this way: SMS are to OTT what customer relationship management (CRM) systems have been for sales and marketing; an absolute game changer to create the best possible subscriber experience.

Streamlined subscription management process

These systems (should) simplify necessary but time-consuming tasks such as billing and invoicing, subscription renewals, and cancellations, and, therefore, unlock time for OTT teams to focus on essential tasks with more value, such as optimizing campaigns for retaining customers.

Get insights to enhance customer experience and satisfaction

The best OTT teams are proactive.

Growth and proactivity don’t come from luck and gut feelings. They come from data and advanced insights.

The best subscriber management systems will collect and analyze subscriber data for you. They should give you access to valuable insights to create tailored acquisition or retention strategies, upsell opportunities, or push personalized recommendations.

Increase revenue and business growth opportunities

Time is money.

If you and your team can spend less time aggregating data and more time acting on it, you’ll create more value for the business and potentially gain a serious advantage over the competition.

coupon automation

Efficient subscriber management systems optimize revenue streams through targeted promotions, proactive renewal reminders, and churn reduction strategies.


The 4 types of subscriber management systems

There are various types of subscriber management platforms to cover different needs. If each system is unique, we can group them into four categories.

1) End-to-end subscriber management systems

These are comprehensive systems designed for growing OTT companies.

They cover the entire subscriber's lifecycle, from acquisition to retention. They typically integrate well with other solutions and provide extensive features like customer support, analytics, and billing services.

2) Modular subscriber management systems

Modular SMS are platforms that offer the most personalization options and flexibility to OTT teams. Modularity means that you can mod the software so that it meets your every needs and specificities.

Now, with flexibility also comes complexity.

On the one hand, they get more flexibility and a chance to tailor their solution to their unique use case.

On the other, it means much heavier implementation process. It also means that a slight update or change in your workflows will likely require the intervention of tech teams so that what’s newly implemented doesn’t break or clash with the existing.

3) Partial subscriber management systems

What we call “partial SMS” are solutions solely focusing on crucial aspects of subscriber management.

They typically don’t include a customer retention dashboard, key features to identify and reach out to at-risk subscribers, or anything related to customer support.

4) Proprietary subscriber management systems

Of course, businesses can also opt for proprietary systems for more flexibility, customization opportunities, and advanced functionalities.

However, it’s worth noting that a proprietary subscriber management system, though tailored to your specific needs at a moment in time, will quickly turn into a cost center due to maintenance and security updates.


What to consider when comparing subscriber management solutions

One simply doesn’t change SMS every other year as they tend to be sticky products due to the time it takes to implement and how heavily integrated they are in your tech stack.

Implementing a subscriber management solution is not a task D2C companies have the luxury to take lightly, as it will impact their business performance, for better or worse, for many years.

In other words, you need to pick a solution that will meet your current and future needs from the get-go.

Here’s what you need to know beforehand when comparing the options laid in front of you.

Scalability and flexibility to meet future needs

How well can the platform support your growth? Ensure the system can handle growth and adapt to changing business requirements.

Integration with other business applications and systems

How can the solution align with your current tech stack and internal processes? Look for seamless integration capabilities with CRM, billing, and analytics tools to create a cohesive infrastructure.

Otherwise, you may create new layers of complexity that will become new cost centers.

Ease of use and user interface

You’ll spend a lot of time in and around your SMS solution, so ensure you’re at ease with it.

Whatever the features, a SaaS is only as good as your ability to use it. If you and your team can’t be autonomous with an SMS, it’s not a good option.

Consider solutions with a user-friendly interface that will significantly simplify adoption from employees and reduce training time.

Churn management features

Because churn and subscriber volatility are currently plummeting in the SVOD industry, you want your subscription management platform to help with subscriber retention.

The best platforms should even give you a chance to understand why subscribers churn and provide you with access to a set of tools to run targeted retention campaigns.

Security and data privacy measures

Since subscriber management platforms deal with sensitive customer data and information, you need to ensure your system adheres to necessary security protocols and data protection regulations.

To explore the topic in more depth, check our comprehensive post on how to pick a subscriber management solution for your OTT business, where we answer a couple more questions, such as whether you should invest in a system or build it yourself or if the platform you’re considering is cost-effective.


Challenges you may face while implementing subscriber management software

Behind every successful streaming company is a subscription management system. In many ways, one could consider the SMS as their backbone.

Of course, switching or implementing a new backbone for your organization is heavy work and may prove challenging. Here are a couple of challenges you’ll likely face in this journey.

Resistance to change from employees

Even though you see the benefits of it, your team may need some help to be as excited as you are to implement a new subscription management system.

Implementing new systems may face some resistance from employees. Communicate the benefits and involve employees in the decision-making process.

Data migration and system integration issues

Not all systems integrate well with each other and speak the same language. As you plan to implement a new SMS, you must ensure smooth data migration from existing systems and seamless integration to prevent data inconsistencies and disruptions.

It’s important to note that not all SMS on the market are equal regarding implementation. For instance, the implementation of Cleeng for the National Football League (NFL) only took 11 weeks!

At this point in the guide, you’ve covered all the basics and pretty much know everything to know about subscriber management systems.

I’ll now show you why Cleeng may be the right platform to support your organization’s growth.

Using Data Effectively for Next-Level Subscriber Retention


How Cleeng covers all aspects of subscriber management for OTT companies

Yes, we are biased and firmly believe Cleeng is the ideal solution for all OTT companies.

Let me explain why.

What is Cleeng?

As a subscriber management system designed for media and entertainment companies, Cleeng’s all-in-one solution makes all OTT business operational activities more manageable than ever.

It covers:

  • Customer identity
  • Payments & Billing
  • Entitlements & Apps
  • Analytics & Insights

What makes Cleeng different from other solutions?

The short answer? Retention. We even invented Subscriber Retention Management™ (SRM).

Cleeng’s unique value proposition is a powerful combination of operational and analytical tools that enable you to deliver your content to market in minutes and improve subscriber retention and lifetime value.

Meet Subscriber Retention Management™

Subscriber retention is the first step to helping media and entertainment companies grow.

So, we designed a subscriber management system that covers the entire customer journey, focusing on identifying and fighting churn.

A great range of connectors

Cleeng will integrate with any existing tech stack. And if it’s not yet a reality, we’ll make it happen.


Cleeng can collect and import the necessary data from other suppliers through our data lake.



A suite of unparalleled tools

We’ve provided viable and actionable customer retention strategies to established broadcasters worldwide, including The Weather Channel, CBC, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Optus Sport, and many sports brands like NFL, CHL, Tennis Channel, Big Ten Network and more.

“Cleeng allows Flow Sports to identify which cable customers are using the app, and which mobile customers are using the app to best optimize the marketing. If not enough cable customers are using it, it's best to change strategy to target them, and Cleeng offers some great insights onto those customers".

Brandon Carvalho, Digital Media Strategist at Flow Sports


Fast implementation

Cleeng is quick and easy (in the realm of SMS) to implement.

"It was incredibly refreshing to me that I had to do almost nothing... It was a very easy process to launch in all of those platforms."

Christy King, CTO at BKFC


“We had a really tight timeline; it was done in two and a half weeks, so it was pretty amazing.”

Levan Gvaramia, Chief Product Officer of Setanta Sports Eurasia


As stated above, only 11 weeks passed between the NFL placing their trust in Cleeng and the team being up and running.

In comparison, other solutions will often require a minimum of 6 months for implementation.


A game-changing toolbox for OTT teams

Our comprehensive subscriber retention management system consists of 4 foundational products: Core, Merchant, ChurnIQ, and Hi5.

Core: Your comprehensive subscriber management system


Cleeng Core is the Subscriber Management System (SMS) through which you can manage your entire subscription service.

Powering everything from localized offer creation and management, user entitlement and access, to recurring billing and promotional coupon campaigns.

Empowering OTT teams

Core makes attracting and converting users into subscribers with customizable offers almost effortless.

It allows broadcasters to experiment with different content monetization models to meet and exceed customer expectations. By testing various offers by structure, location, and pricing, broadcasters can deliver their audience the most attractive and effective offers.

Whether you want to sell one-time passes to mega-events or monthly recurring subscriptions, you’ll always be able to do more with Core, thanks to:

  • Complete set of Application Programming Interface (API) and Software Development Kits (SDK).
  • Enterprise Class General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), compliance and security
  • Compatibility with all major Online-Video-Platforms (OVP) and Apps frameworks.
  • Extensive offer management function with models, campaigns, and promotions.
  • 35 easily-integrated connectors

Easy customer authentication

Moreover, Core makes customer authentication as easy as flipping a switch.

Each time subscribers log in to your platform, you will have total visibility of their consumption habits and preferences as recorded and displayed through our dashboard.

Empowering subscribers

Through Core, broadcasters have access to what we call MyAccount.

MyAccount is a control center for subscribers to manage their subscriptions. That includes updating their account and payment details and upgrading or downgrading their subscriptions.

This empowers subscribers to have greater control over their accounts and reduces the likeliness of accidental cancellations due to outdated payment details. Empowering subscribers is central to offering a great experience. It contributes to improving customer satisfaction and, therefore, increasing customer retention.

Merchant: Subscriber billing and tax management for OTT teams


Merchant covers everything related to payment, billing, checkout, and tax management.

Merchant was purpose-built for purchase management and checkout optimization.

Merchant allows you to collect revenues globally with optimized payment conversion and tax management.


The dynamic checkout engine adapts to the customer’s local tax codes, ensuring the correct collection of taxes at the point of purchase. With complete GDPR compliance and Avalara integration, you can take time to focus on the big picture, not on checking small boxes.

With Cleeng as the Merchant of record, you can eliminate annoying fees and penalties, minimizing operational costs.

“Payment processing is extremely valuable to us. With the introduction of the handling of tax, it is even more valuable. The improvements in the reporting are welcome. The interface is much easier to understand and download data in an expedited manner.”

Samantha Amaral, Manager of Broadcast and OTT Operations at OUTtv

Furthermore, deep integration with leading providers like Adyen and PayPal means that over 160 international markets are accessible right out of the box, with 18 languages and popular currencies also supported.

Additionally, Merchant can:

  • Help improve customer retention by flagging reasons why payments fail for your subscribers
  • Predict the payment methods connected to subscriber churn
  • See the whole picture at every touch point from trial to consumption

With these highly valuable payment analytics, you can continue to optimize your checkout for maximum conversions.

ChurnIQ: Smart and predictive churn analytics


Customer acquisition costs on average 4 to 5 times more than retaining existing customers.

ChurnIQ is an actionable data platform that serves on-point predictive analytics that helps hundreds of OTT teams improve their retention rates by helping them understand their subscribers’ behavior.  

ChurnIQ helps you anticipate at-risk users by

  • Analyzing customer data
  • Highlighting churn patterns on your platform by tracking customer engagement.
  • Forecasting seasonal dynamics and getting instantaneous feedback on campaign results.
  • Isolating instances of poor payment performance.
  • Identifying localities, methods, or dunning schedules with high failure rates
  • Easily integrating with other marketing tools such as Mailchimp, Zapier, etc.

It will then segment your customers into different, applicable groups, such as:

  • Long-term users that have never converted to paying subscribers.
  • Inactive users that have not engaged for at least two months.
  • Infrequent users whose visits to your platform are noticeably declining.

“As you know your customer, you're able to actually produce and deliver better content to your customer. This way, you can retain them and increase revenue".

Ari Brock, Executive Director, Digital Media & Products at Tennis Channel

Easy to use

ChurnIQ also has an easy-to-read dashboard that displays essential subscriber data.

Cleeng churn metrics dashboard

Make more informed decisions

Churn IQ turns key analytics into actionable numbers such as your monthly recurring revenue, total number of subscribers, and their lifetime value and churn rate.

These insights can fuel your decision-making and lead to more impactful and successful campaigns. After all, coupons and codes are only as good as the algorithm that created them.  

With ChurnIQ in your toolbox, you’ll get effective, pre-configured campaigns that are automatically generated so you can export target lists, thereby elevating your marketing efforts and enhancing the visibility of your content to your customers.

Hi5: 24/7 support experience for your subscribers


Hi5 is your friendly and flexible customer service expert.

It will attend to customer concerns 24/7 to help you deliver the best customer experience.

The average time it takes to launch Hi5 is just 2 weeks.

This means you can be up and running and assist your subscribers with exceptional customer care in no time.

Attempting to construct and implement costly infrastructure adds long, unpredictable months to a launch. That’s why we provide a prefabricated FAQ help center, embedded AI-drive chatbot, integrated support workflows, and efficient chargeback management. Hi5’s carefully refined processes deliver success across all your critical support KPIs.

Outfit your customer support with these amenities and give your viewers the assistance and attention they deserve with:

  • Viewer-focused support: tailored for the Media & Entertainment sector, Hi5 anticipates and addresses a broad spectrum of subscriber needs, from streaming challenges to payment issues and geo-restrictions.
  • Branded Help Center: A user-centric hub featuring FAQs and video tutorials, promoting a high self-service resolution rate of 78%.
  • Global Reach with Multilingual Support: Offering assistance in up to 29 languages, Hi5 ensures 24/7 availability, catering to a diverse global audience.
  • Expert OTT Team: Achieving an impressive 80% one-touch resolution rate, our team showcases excellence in ticket handling, backed by years of industry experience.
  • Advanced Chatbot Capabilities: Equipped to handle a range of inquiries instantly, from password resets to content access
  • Real-time Analytics: Provides businesses with a 360° view of customer interactions, enabling informed decision-making.
  • Efficient Refund and Chargeback Management: Works seamlessly with payment providers to minimize chargebacks, ensuring smooth financial operations.

In other words, Hi5 is what you need to make your customers feel heard and cared for.


Enter the world of subscriber management and take your OTT company to the next level

A subscriber management system is no longer an option but necessary for businesses looking to provide exceptional customer experiences, streamline operations, and grow sustainably.

By leveraging the benefits of an SMS, OTT teams can effectively manage subscribers, gain valuable insights, and build long-term relationships, thus improving the average lifetime value.

If this sounds like something you’re after, Cleeng may very well be the partner you’re after.

We value our partnerships and aim to provide transparency and integrity through every level of engagement. Our knowledge and expertise have been utilized by some of the most recognizable brands (Sinclair Broadcasting Group, NFL, Optus Sport, Big Ten Network, CHL) to help them strengthen their business models, customer success and retention strategy, and achieve satisfied and loyal customers.

You can get in touch with our experts here to take the conversation further.

Cleeng SRM Product