Execs from broadcasters, content owners and tech companies recently joined 100,000 of their peers at the NABShow 2017 convention in Las Vegas. A key focus for many at the show was how to drive breakthrough multiscreen experiences, get consumers to engage more and fully monetize the many opportunities that are emerging.
During the Online Video Conference's “Breaking Through With New TV Experiences” session I moderated, attendees heard about the latest efforts underway by industry leaders to bring more personalization, discoverability and innovation to content delivery. Consumers have an incredible range of choices of multiscreen services that now span beyond VOD and linear to include fast-evolving OTT offerings. Representatives from Comcast Technology Solutions, Amazon, Gracenote and TiVo joined the discussion to shed insight into ongoing work, challenges ahead and what it takes to deliver industry-leading multi-screen experiences. Panelists also pulled back the curtain on the back-end capabilities that will be required to support these increasingly complex services.
IBB Consulting works closely with operators and content owners to help design and execute multiscreen distribution strategies. Many of the efforts and activities that we heard about from the panelists are being undertaken or considered by a range of stakeholders today.
Innovative approaches to content and innovation
As the session title suggests, the industry is on the hunt for breakthrough TV and video user experiences, which are a must to successfully differentiate. This includes the importance of achieving “world-class” when it comes to building and scaling offerings, such as paid OTT services. Innovation, whether in developing ways to help users discover content, improving backend workflows, exploring business model flexibility or pursuing customer retention, are all important when it comes to achieving world-class.
Comcast Technology Solutions VP Barry Tishgart emphasized early in the discussion that companies must bring the right expertise and technology across marketing, content and monetization to deliver the best experiences for users.
Michael Hawkey, SVP and GM of user experiences at TiVo stressed the importance of great, easily discoverable content in this regard, noting that “the companies that are successful on this front have unique content and unique ways of finding content.”
Amazon Channels’ head of content acquisition Rich Au concurred, adding that “from our perspective, what’s been important is making it really easy for customers to find content they want to watch, including programs they might not have known about. We want to make this experience friction free across all of the devices and screens they have.”
He continued, “If you understand who is sitting in front of that screen, you can create a package that’s based on their viewing interest for an optimized cold start experience - this is important for subscriber acquisition models. In this regard, you’re seeing traditional e-commerce and direct marketing models that really revolve around engagement become more important for the video experience. That optimization is key.”
Tishgart pointed to both the importance of discovery that can work across platforms and screens as playing a key role in helping deliver better discoverability experiences. He referenced Comcast’s Xfinity X1 platform as an example of this functionality in action.
“On X1, search works across multiple screens, driven by intelligence in the cloud. So you can continue watching content that you started on one screen on another,” he said.
Great user experiences require industry best backend solutions
Done right, the impact of discoverability on customer acquisition, user experiences and monetization could lead to a successful service offering. Much of this innovation happens behind the scenes, out of view of the customer. This includes supporting consistent user experiences across devices by ensuring that the IP and broadcast worlds are aligned when it comes to quality.
Tishgart emphasized the importance of quality bridging of broadcast and IP workflows. “There is so much that has to happen to achieve similar scale in broadcast environments. From data and metadata, to scheduling mechanisms and rights management techniques, so much needs to happen to achieve this consistency.” One area that Comcast Technology Solutions has been active in support of this need is its linear rights management solution. “We are making it easier for content managers to publish to these platforms,” he said.
During NAB, Nielsen, which owns Gracenote, announced that it is adopting Gracenote IDs to help tie together Nielsen’s measurement products, making it easier for agencies to do cross-platform buying and planning, as well as enabling more advanced search and intuitive user interfaces.
“Gracenote ID will be the organizing principle for both rights and ecosystems,” Gracenote’s chief product officer Rich Cusick said.
As the discussion turned to needing to also solve for the proliferation of user generated content, Tishgart pointed out how this content is creating workflow needs for distributors. “We see a lot of opportunity here and have spent years working to streamline distribution of content on linear and digital platforms,” he said. “Now, the challenge is bringing that live TV experience and taking it to offline platforms.”
Video providers also face challenges when it comes to contextual awareness. If a couple is watching TV together, each may have their own personalized profiles. Ultimately, we need to get to a world where the service understands what each likes to watch and can offer a recommendation based on a smart blend of their profiles.
Gracenote’s Cusick said that it comes down to understanding who is present at the moment and what their tastes are. Then, content needs to be categorized intelligently to be served up across any device, whether it be a TV or a screen in a connected car.
On the road to monetization
Content owner and video service providers all face a range of options when it comes to business models. Whether advertising, subscription or transactional-based, stakeholders will need to closely consider the benefits of each in designing offerings that can earn both revenue and share of eyeballs.
Au mentioned seeing multiple trends taking shape, sharing that early models that relied on licensing of content are starting to change. “Amazon is investing significantly in our own programming for Prime Video and we feel pretty good about the progress we’ve made on that front.” Au referenced HBO and its direct to consumer model as another way that service providers are successfully differentiating when it comes to business models. He pointed to the need for differentiated experiences and content, with so many different apps competing for consumer attention.
Hawkey reminded the audience how much consumers like “free.” “Cloud DVR apps open up lots of new possibilities because the content is more monetizeable. These platforms aren’t yet measured so there’s a definite growth opportunity there. ”
With Cloud DVR, fast-forwarding can be disabled, and ads can be targeted in the moment and kept fresh. As Hawkey shared with the audience, there is also the possibility to incorporate micro-transactions to solve for some issues related to transactional content.
Visions of success as focus on experiences intensifies
While there will not be a one-size-fits-all approach to designing great TV experiences for all content owners and service providers, all players should be focused on offerings that drive engagement, profitable growth and provide consumers with the best experiences available. Even with significant traction gained so far, we are still quite early in this market. Consumers are still forming viewing habits and that’s a good thing. It means that they are ripe for new experiences. Now, video providers need to seize the opportunity they have before them.