Editor’s note: Mike Bartels is the senior director of enterprise research at Tobii in North America. 

The question, “What should we watch tonight?” was easy to answer when I was a kid. There were only five channels to choose from! But in the past few decades, the way we consume content has been transformed, first by cable television and, more recently, by streaming services. In the battle of Netflix vs. Blockbuster, the winner is clear, and dozens of others have entered the market in the aftermath. Today there are over 50 streaming services in North America alone, with projected revenues of over 30 billion dollars in 2022. It’s hard to think of another industry that has seen such incredible growth, both in terms of the number of subscribers and the preponderance of available services.

And yet, a constraining factor has squeezed the streaming market in recent years: Attention. There are only so many eyeballs in the world and so many hours in the day to watch television. This highly impacts streaming services. Quibi and CNN+ are dead, Netflix is losing subscribers, Disney+ is operating at a loss. Fiscal factors and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions also add pressure, but the major reason this market has become so competitive is the simple economics of human attention. 

So how does a new streaming service convince a consumer to sign up? And once they have signed up, how does that service convince them to stay forever? There are many different strategies for success in gaining new subscribers and retaining existing ones, but they all boil down to convincing the audience of a few key things:

Nailing all three is the primary challenge of any streaming service in today’s crowded market. The platform needs continual optimization for visibility, engagement and ease of use. Difficult, but not impossible. Based on user experience (UX) research using eye-tracking research over the past decade, here are...