CHANNEL SURFING IS DEAD. LONG LIVE CHANNEL SURFING By Hillary Henderson, senior director of product strategy and management at IBM Watson Media and IBM Cloud Video
e all have that one show we can’t wait to get home and watch — personally, I’m all about The right now. But months before the Crown season three premiere, I’m at a loss for fresh programming. With so much content across so many platforms, finding the right show feels just like scrolling through a channel guide did a few years ago. As viewers like me continue to adopt new ways to watch TV, content providers must change how they get their shows in front of audiences, and personalisation is key. HELP VIEWERS DISCOVER THE NEXT BINGE-WORTHY HIT With thousands of shows and movies at your fingertips, so many options is paralysing. Although streaming providers have tried to lift the burden of choice from viewers, nearly half of all TV-watchers rarely or never watch recommended programming. Despite tech advances, viewers still rely predominantly on word-of-mouth. Industry leaders have taken notice and are making improvements. For example, Netflix recently introduced a new feature where relevant trailers automatically begin after current programming wraps. The trailers are promoted using an algorithm that better analyses consumers’ viewing habits to acutely understand why they enjoy a particular show, whether it’s a love of rom-coms, strong female lead, or preference for NYC-based shows. Now, streaming providers can leverage viewer data and a deep understanding of what’s inside a video to automatically recommend content that better resonates with each viewer. Personalised recommendations, presented in a way that
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compelling the experience, ads included, the longer users stay on the content owner’s app, which beats the alternative of ceding audiences, data, and ad revenue to larger content services and aggregators.
alleviate the burden of too many choices, are truly within arms reach. REVAMP THE ADVERTISING EXPERIENCE Though streaming services have generally done away with appointment viewing, it’s not as easy today to simply switch between channels to avoid commercials: data shows that almost 60 per cent of viewers believe ads take away from the viewer experience. Given that advertising drives revenue for both content owners and brands though, ad-supported business models aren’t going away anytime soon. Video publishers instead need to use AI technology to understand viewers’ preferences and surface products or services that will benefit their lives. Similarly, better understanding video content and pairing that with relevant brand messaging is another way content owners can create an uninterrupted and more engaging experience. This is particularly true for short-form content (think sports highlights) where videos are often auto-played in a continuous personalised stream. The more
IMPROVE ACCESS TO CONTENT In the past five years the number of cord cutters has tripled, and because not all streaming packages are created equal, many households have lost access to live news programming, especially at the local level. While some US media companies like NewsOn offer free local news, it’s not available on all streaming platforms and we aren’t quite at the point where switching between Tim Riggins’ big game on Friday Night Lights to checking the scores of a hometown rivalry is a breeze. Due to international licensing rights, viewers also struggle with accessing content while abroad, even when they already pay for it back home. With universal logins however, viewers would be able to access their favourite shows from wherever they are, whether on the couch at home, or the beach in Australia. While we may no longer be surfing TV channels like before, jumping from apps in search of our next binge-worthy indulgence is reminiscent of those pre-streaming days. As more video content is produced each day, content owners must keep viewers engaged by providing the best possible experience, whether watching episodes on a big screen or binging on comedy sketch clips. Addressing gaps in search and discovery, the ad experience and fragmentation will further transform the TV experience for viewers and content owners alike. n