Years from now, when we think back on the moments that changed television, HBO Now will stand out from the crowd
Between its partnership with iOS and success in managing the recent premiere of “Game of Thrones,” HBO has proven that the digital transition of network content to streaming services is the path of the future.
OTT services like Now and Sling TV are undeniably evolving to handle the growing shift of consumer behavior to consume content wherever and whenever they want. In many ways, the connected TV/OTT device market is evolving in parallel.
However, there are still significant challenges ahead as we transition from the traditional lean-back linear TV experience to the lean-forward, app and search-driven connected TV market. Manufacturers and developers should focus on a few key areas to take the streaming/OTT experience to the next level.
Nail search and discovery
Current search and discovery functionality does not facilitate organic content discovery – this is a place where we could take a pointer from traditional television. Remember channel surfing? It was an easy yet deceptively effective way to capture the attention of viewers who may otherwise not even know that a show existed. Device makers should recreate that lean-back experience, and allow viewers to scroll through content across apps within their device’s ecosystem.
Features like auto-play and custom watch lists are equally important. Whether it’s automatically teeing up the next episode of “The Walking Dead,” or adding “Zombieland” to the queue for my zombie marathon weekend, these small features will not only create an engaging experience for the viewer, but also build brand love for your product.
Get smart about content recommendation
Sure, some may argue that content recommendation should be part of search and discovery, but I think it warrants its own discussion. While apps like Netflix already do a good job of providing its users with suggested films and shows, it’s time we take that functionality out of an individual app and bring it to the device platform level.
Devices should intelligently monitor what users like, and recommend content based on what they’ve watched. Ultimately this will evolve into personalized channels/suggestions tailored to suit viewers’ content and viewing preferences across all available apps on the platform. Imagine: after watching “Warm Bodies” through Netflix, my device suggests “World War Z” from Amazon Prime.
We all know the device landscape is app-driven, with content living in silos, but now is the time to tear down those walls and develop a broad, cohesive interface within which viewers can easily and intuitively navigate.
Know your viewer, know your platform
It’s 10 p.m. - do you know where your viewers are? Well, you should. You have human viewers with intricate routines and patterns who are no longer bound to traditional TV schedules. With so many types of content and so many different vehicles of delivery, these nuances matter more than ever. This requires having a long think about exactly how, when and where your viewers are consuming your content.
As an easy example: gaming consoles are obviously a great place for millennial males -- so sports and gaming content will resonate. They also tend to be connected to the biggest and best television in the house, usually in a family room, making them ideal for film and long-form programming. So, as you’re looking to build up your content war chest, look to motion picture powerhouses to give your library an edge.
Second-screen behaviors shouldn’t play second fiddle in your strategic orchestra, either. Users, especially millennials, no longer identify specific screens for different viewing activities. The latest mobile phones, for example, have gotten larger and often feature resolutions rivaling most TVs. Video service providers and device makers need to cater to the new era of cross-screen viewing from simple Airplay or Chromecast features to more in depth second-screen scenarios like Walking Dead’s Storysync.
Above all, prioritize mobile and desktop integrations for your connected device, because the second-screen doesn’t look like it’ll be second for much longer. As a device maker, you have access to a wealth of user viewing data, so squeeze out every last insight that you can.
So, what now?
Changing user behavior is hard, and there are some big changes that need to made before the real transition begins. From Apple TV and HBO Now’s exclusive deal, to CBS’ All Access and Sling TV, there is room for improvement and plenty of pie to go around. This is a critical time in the OTT device land grab. Innovative steps will be necessary to stay in the race.