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The Ever-Evolving OTT User Experience

Sofia Mueller-Lundberg

Head of Marketing

November 27, 2020


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The way in which video is consumed has evolved dramatically over recent years. This has in turn had an impact on the experience users expect from an OTT service. How can video content providers make sure to meet consumer demands while rolling out services quickly and cost-efficiently?This was the topic for a session during the recent OTT Executive Summit, hosted virtually last week. Accedo’s UX Strategist, Richard Z’Graggen, was on the panel to give our view of where the industry is headed. Here are some of the biggest factors he and the other panelists identified as impacting OTT user experiences.

The Covid impact

As with most things, the global pandemic has had a significant impact on the video market. It is not just about changes in volumes of consumption, but also the way in which video is consumed. Bernarda Duarte of Vevo commented that Covid has motivated some viewers to make the move back to TV. In the US, viewership via Connected TV experiences is up by as much as 50%, likely driven by the fact that people are spending more time at home. Whereas video would ordinarily be consumed on mobile phones on the way to work or in-between meetings, viewers are currently migrating back to their living room sofas.The home viewing environment is naturally very different from watching videos on a mobile device and, as a result, most consumers demand a more lean-back experience. Stephen Hodge from Toon Googles and OTTera commented that his company has found success by reintroducing a more relaxed experience to their applications, enabling easy content discovery through curated scheduling. At the same time, it is important to not simply revert back to what was traditionally done by linear TV providers. Instead, savvy companies know how to marry the potential of OTT for content and UX personalization with lean-back interaction features. As Bernarda put it, it is ultimately about “providing the best content possible in a way that folks can consume it the easiest way possible.”

Fragmentation remains an issue

When asked what the biggest challenges are from an OTT UX perspective, Accedo’s Richard Z’Graggen cited fragmentation as a key consideration. This is certainly not a new problem but one that keeps coming to the fore because of the plethora of devices on the market. Answering an audience question on whether it is best to build native apps or leverage an app platform, Richard emphasized that developing applications for a plethora of platforms can quickly become expensive. While building natively is always best from a performance perspective, it will ultimately come down to budget and how quickly the service needs to be available in the market. He also highlighted that it is not just about the initial cost, but also the ongoing investment required to continue and support each platform. According to Richard, many companies will opt to build native apps for iPhone and Android once they have reached a certain level of maturity. The same follows across connected TV devices, generally starting with the bigger ones being a priority. The decision may also be driven by which devices are most commonly used by a company’s subscriber base.At the same time, failing to be present across all connected devices definitely can have a negative impact on revenue. Stephen Hodge commented that Connected TV is often overlooked in favor of mobile devices, but in actual fact around 65% of online video consumption is happening on the former. If video service providers are not on those devices, they are missing out on a significant revenue opportunity.

Keeping customers engaged

Getting the user experience right is also a crucial element in reducing churn. Richard highlighted that providers should be proactively looking for problems in order to address them before they have too much of a negative impact. This could be through in-app messaging systems soliciting direct feedback from users. It could also involve monitoring the system and contacting customers directly when they are experiencing a problem. Using data-driven analytics, video providers can determine preferences for different users and tailor content and the UX accordingly.A good UX should make it quick and simple for users to discover the content they want to watch. Savvy video content providers have started to realize that they can add another dimension to their services, leveraging a more intelligent UI and better data collection to serve personalized content recommendations. Stephen Hodge said that he would like to see more ability to tailor the overall UI of applications based on individual entertainment preferences, such as changing the thumbnail of a video based on past user behavior.

This is something Accedo worked with Channel 4 to implement a couple of years back, using AI technology to automatically generate targeted cover artwork.Good engagement might also come in the form of personalized pop-up channels. Bernada Duarte highlighted that grouping similar content together makes it even easier for viewers to discover the content that is most likely to appeal to them.Ned Lerner from Hearo.Live added that the future of video UX should be more akin to that of games consoles experiences, with a focus on nice clean lists and recommendations based on friends’ consumption habits.

The future of the OTT UX

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the importance of adapting to changing market dynamics. Video consumption has been evolving fast and the global pandemic has impacted the industry in ways we could never have predicted. Being able to quickly deliver engaging user experiences across multiple platforms is key to navigating this ever-changing environment.

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