• User Experience is the New Battleground for Video Providers

    If you’re like me, you may have noticed that recently you’ve become a little less patient when you to try to watch a video and things don’t go exactly right. Whether it’s difficulty finding the desired video, momentary buffering, an intrusive/irrelevant ad or some kind of device issue - these sources of friction are increasingly noticeable and in turn disappointing.

    I don’t find this surprising. We live in a world where instant gratification and seamless user experiences are becoming the new normal. Those that don’t measure up stand out more readily as sore thumbs. Among other things, we can now do a super-convenient voice search using a smart speaker, request a personal driver though Uber or Lyft with just a few taps on our smartphones, get a refund on an Amazon return the moment the package is scanned at UPS and lots more. Simply put, for many of us, the Internet and apps are making life easier all the time.

    Our video viewing doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The above experiences and countless others create the context and drive our expectations for all aspects of our lives. As such, it’s no wonder that watching scheduled TV programming is declining while on-demand viewing soars. Or that binge-viewing multiple episodes, on our schedules has gone mainstream. Or that having a TV connected to the Internet is now nearly ubiquitous.

    We are bringing the same expectations derived from our online and app experiences to video. To fulfill these expectations we are buying devices and subscribing to services that meet our ever-higher quality bar.

    For video providers, all of this means that user experience is the new battleground.

    Pay-TV operators, whose customer service and set-top boxes have long been scorned, are scrambling to reinvent themselves (once again I’ll give a shoutout to Comcast’s X1 and the ability to access Netflix as real positives, though many video services are yet to be added). TV networks have been on a mission to reduce or even eliminate ads (see Turner, Viacom and recently AMC Premiere). Other video providers are determining how to distribute via social platforms to gain exposure and enable viewing where viewers already are, rather than trying to entice them to new, central locations.

    These days every video provider needs to be thoroughly auditing their services to identify friction in the viewer experience. Once identified, there must be candor about what actions to take. Does a legacy business model need to be revamped? Do additional investments need to be made? Is fresh talent required? And so on. None of this is easy, but it is required. Companies like Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and others continue to raise the bar for all.

    The only thing that is absolutely certain is that online and app experiences are going to continue getting better and better. And so viewers’ expectations will continue to rise. This means that any video provider that is not keeping up will look increasingly out of step and be on a long-term road to oblivion.