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Mapping the Future of OTT Viewer Engagement

Rory Renwick

Business Development Director - Sports

August 16, 2023


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The way in which consumers engage with video is set to change dramatically over the coming years. And it stands to reason when you look at the plethora of technology on the horizon. AI will open up the opportunity to truly ultra-personalize experiences, shifting possibilities for viewer engagement. Add to that the potential use of XR to create a more immersive experience, and I think we will see a whole new level of engagement, and different expectations around that from viewers.

For video content providers and device manufacturers alike, the challenge as we move into a new realm of entertainment will be how to enable a generative experience, keep control of it and still make an impact with their brand as the key differentiator.

Ultra-personalized viewer engagement

For some time, the video industry has recognized that personalized experiences equate to engaged viewers. The problem is that personalization today can only go so far. It is partly limited by the technology, but mainly limited by device manufacturers and broadcasters wishing to keep some level of control over the user experience. 

What if we could remove all the barriers to transition from the highly-dynamic solution we have today to a generative, AI driven, ultra-personalized experience for each and every viewer? Surely then viewers would be more engaged than ever, with personalized navigation, content proposition, covers, graphics, playlists, interactive patterns and more - all truly designed for them. 

The two technologies that will make this possible are spatial computing, which breaks the limitations of the screen and enables a greater creative video experience, and AI, which is already able to analyze data to a significant degree, but is missing an engine to build the user experience that fits the AI input. 

The fragmentation of experiences

Even today, the key to engaging viewers lies, at least partially, in defining a multi-channel strategy. Of course, this causes fragmentation, with content providers navigating multiple devices and channels. In the future, the fragmentation of devices and channels will be less of a problem. There are already ways to solve this to some extent. In the near future, this challenge will disappear as we will be able to control all experiences from the cloud, even the most bespoke ones.

What will become more pronounced as we move toward an ultra-personalized future, however, is the fragmentation of experiences. Every customer will have their own unique experience, with a unique business model, content choices, and UX, all tailored to theirindividual preferences in a mixed reality context. We are already seeing the start of the potential, especially within the sports arena with in-stadium experiences. In the future, virtual add-ons will become the norm, where fans in the stadium may pay additional fees to enjoy digital experiences on-site. These experiences can be highly personalized to showcase specific statistics, provide additional camera angles, offer gamification, and allow fans to browse and purchase merchandising. 

While this will particularly resonate for sports, we will likely see similar models for various types of in-person events in the future. Ultimately, each person will have a different augmented experience within that social setting. For some it will involve surfacing specific songs or lyrics, while for others, it might prompt them to share something with a remote friend. All of this will happen without requiring proactive selection of a specific package, as the system will already understand what will keep you engaged. 

This all-encompassing experience will also extend to in-home family experiences, adjusting according to the individuals present in the room at that time, or even those connected remotely. 

This transition, of course, implies that there will be an infinite number of configurations beyond what we can currently imagine. And that will pose a challenge for device manufacturers and broadcasters who are accustomed to having control over the viewer experience. How can they continue to own that experience in a fragmented world while maximizing the opportunities it presents to increase engagement? We envision a complete new world of AI-powered curation services in which brands will have the capability to define the values they wish to uphold.

Re-inventing Content Formats

This new future, where each viewer has their own unique experience, opens the gate to potentially personalized content formats. This is an area where media and entertainment can learn a lot from sports, which has continually innovated to address never-ending shifts in consumer behaviors. New sports have emerged seemingly out of nowhere - some of them entirely novel, such as drone racing and padel tennis, while others are examples of traditional sports that have been repackaged to experiment with new formats for new audiences. These include IPL cricket and LIV Golf. In the coming years, we will increasingly see data leveraged to either launch new content formats or to reformat what is already there.

Sports has also increasingly leveraged gamification to experiment with innovative propositions - new rules, new content, new interactive channels. Imagine just how much additional data e-sports and fantasy leagues receive about the user, their preferences, favorite teams, etc. And imagine the potential of feeding that data into OTT video services, helping to create an even more comprehensive profile ofeach user. Other types of video content could also adopt this approach, creating more gamification models and utilizing the data from those interactions to enhance their OTT video services.

The future of engagement is immersive

You cannot talk about the future of user engagement without addressing immersive technologies. The viewing experienceten years from now will most likely be enjoyed through the lens of AR (or possibly VR) glasses. XR will become what the mobile phone has been over the past 25 years.

A recent report from Deloitte reaffirmed what we have been hearing for a while. The younger generation is looking for interaction, gamification, and second screen experiences. That said, it will be important not to overlook the older demographics, especially as they tend to have higher disposable income. While we will certainly see a rise in immersive experiences, these need to be easily accessible for every generation and highly personalized so that everyone can choose the amount of interaction that works for them.

With increasing competition from other in-home entertainment experiences such as esports and gaming, content providers will be pouring investment to make live event experiences even better. This will be partly achieved through add-ons, but also the enabling of virtual experiences in a social environment. If a band is touring on the other side of the world, fans could gather in a venue closer to home and use XR to feel as if they are actually there. For the next FIFA World Cup in North America, will we see Wembley stadium filling up with fans who can experience the thrill thanks to XR? Both of these examples would deliver that in-person feeling and interaction from the crowds, while saving fans the time and money required for traveling halfway around the world, as well as helping to reduce their carbon footprint, contributing to a more sustainable way of life.

Enabling the future of engagement

A data-driven, generative and immersive future for video experiences will require the right set of tools and partners. Many businesses claim to be data-driven, but few can actually help you extract data’s true value to inform personalization and optimization efforts. For many years, Accedo has been delivering data-driven and personalized experiences to the world’s most successful media businesses.

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