New Media Tech Features

Consumer experience is the new king of OTT: Ron Downey of Massive

Ron Downey, CEO, Massive Interactive.

Ron Downey, CEO at Massive, identifies the stand-out OTT trends in the market and urges operators to deliver a tailored experience to the end user.

The dust may have settled on NAB, but the OTT sector is whipping up a storm. From VR to next-gen personalisation, and from Android TV to previously unseen revenue streams, this year’s show in Vegas puts four trends on the radar of content rights holders and broadcasters, trends that will soon become the cornerstones of enhanced OTT offerings in 2018 and beyond.

What’s particularly interesting is that each trend has its hooks set firmly in the consumer experience. The reality is that TV has become an increasingly individual affair, creating an extra hurdle for content providers to overcome. After all, if viewers aren’t watching TV with others, why should they be offered the same viewing experience, content and promotions as everyone else?

For broadcasters too, it’s becoming increasingly clear that taking personalisation up a level will help to ensure the success of their OTT service in the future. Content has become ubiquitous and viewers now expect something more than simply a fully stocked asset library to warrant signing up for a subscription, which presents a challenge but now also an opportunity. Although the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to content delivery may have worked in 2017, it’s not going to fly any longer, and the next level of personalisation is set to be a multi-faceted affair. So, for OTT players looking to bolster their bottom lines and tap into the latest market developments at a time when it can help them to stand out from the crowd, here are the four big trends from NAB that should be in focus – and the reasons why.

“To stand out from an incredibly crowded and volatile marketplace, TV operators … are increasingly focused on moving away from templated, static applications” Ron Downey, CEO, Massive

Pushing the VR envelope

VR and AR continue to dominate many conversations concerning the future of television, even though examples of mass implementation remain relatively thin on the ground. Although there have been a few examples of TV operators pushing the envelope since last year, VR is still very much experimental territory for the majority of players.

But that’s not to say consumer appetite isn’t growing. New research indicates revenue generated by the virtual reality industry will top $20 billion by 2020, while the augmented reality market is pegged to hit $61 billion by 2023.

The key to all this is the way viewers can engage with virtual or augmented content, which means it should come as no surprise that many players are now investing heavily in future design and development of the UX for these next-generation technologies.

Although it still may be some time before VR and AR hit the mainstream, the broadcasters and rights holders that come out on top will be the ones who begin future-proofing themselves today – particularly for sports, an area that’s become arguably the most viable use case for VR outside gaming and holds a multitude of opportunities for augmented or virtualised content presentation. Just think how much stickier a brand experience would become by getting creative with the delivery of real-time game data, multiple camera angles and communal viewing, all housed in a 360-degree experience.

New revenue opportunities on the horizon

Although the subscription model is a tried and tested revenue driver for thousands of OTT services around the world, it does have a few flaws – increasing customer acquisition costs, limited market headroom, low initial price points. This year, NAB offered a breath of fresh air to those operating in this space with the introduction of new trusted, complementary, nonintrusive ways to increase revenue.

The biggest is what’s called a sponsored UI, allowing brands to have ownership over a section of the OTT interface in exchange for an advertisement fee. It could be just one or two rails of content, or an entire reskin for a limited time across all devices.

“Sponsored UI [allows] brands to have ownership over a section of the OTT interface in exchange for an advertisement fee”  Ron Downey, CEO, Massive

Next-gen user experience

This is a big one. The majority of streaming services out there currently offer the same experience and design across their suite of apps. This happens regardless of who the viewer is, what their individual preferences are or how they’ve interacted with the platform before, which brings us back to the issue with taking a one-size-fits-all approach.

No two viewers are the same. Sure, they may share certain characteristics that allow an OTT player to introduce demographicbased segmentation, but a level of differentiation still needs to be there. Take a new streaming service, for example. Some will be first-time visitors who expect to see a curated snapshot of what’s available in the content library. Others will be die-hard thriller fans who want a personalised homepage tailored to their genre of choice.

Again, drawing parallels with the future of VR, this is a concept particularly applicable to live sports. This is an area where some of the most exciting personalisation options currently lie, thanks largely to the plethora of different sports fans out there. Each type of fan has different needs and expectations when it comes to service functionality and design, offering a tremendous opportunity to deliver a highly personalised experience that will help drive ARPU and reduce churn as a result.

The rise of Android TV

Operator interest in Android TV is at an all-time high following high-profile triple- and quad-play providers deploying these solutions in the latter half of 2017, so it comes as no surprise that Android TV picked up even more steam at NAB, particularly now that Google has rolled out its Android TV Operator Tier OS, positioning itself much more favourably to customers who want to build their own UX on top of the open source Android framework.

The benefits are obvious – faster time-to-market, quicker service and platform updates, and attractive out-of-the-box features like pre-integration with third-party apps and support for Google Assistant, among many others.

Sure, the presence of rival third-party apps which cannot be excluded from the platform could be considered a threat, but for many clients that we speak to, this threat is outweighed by the benefits of being seen as an aggregator that offers its customers a slew of popular video apps combined with the traditional pay-TV offering.

The future of OTT delivery

It seems clear that content is no longer king – the consumer experience has taken the throne. In order to stand out in an incredibly crowded and volatile marketplace, TV operators around the world are increasingly focused on moving away from templated, static applications and delivering an experience tailored to the end user’s personal interests, platform availability and payment choice.

Given the complexities associated with delivering what’s needed to cater to the modern viewing experience, this often boils down to broadcasters introducing a centralised front-end management system that can be operated by non-technical internal staff, without needing the involvement of engineering. This makes it possible to take advantage of all of the opportunities presented by live sports, personalisation and emerging platforms.

However it’s tackled, it’s clear that the video businesses that come out on top will be those that learn the lesson of this year’s NAB and deliver all of the above in real time, without incurring significant engineering spend or contributing to the already significant cost of ownership associated with running an OTT service.