Video Streaming Service with a Variety of Content
Disclaimer: I work for Virgin Media, who is a competitor of Sky.
NOW TV is an online video streaming service, which provides access to Live and On Demand content to subscribers. It has large catalogue of content making it, a very appealing service highlighted by the fact it reportedly has around 977,000 customers, as of last year.
- Smart Content Curation & Discover Functionality; The curated categories provided are highly varied and cover a wide range of tastes. They are constantly refreshed showing that a lot of thought is put into the platform. Examples of the current curated sections include: Bank Holiday Box Sets, Great Docs, US Box Sets, etc. On top of that, the division of content into four distinct packages: Movies, TV Shows, Kids shows and Sports; allows customers to view content relevant to them. There is also a separation of Live and OnDemand for each package with Live having a separate section within the application.
- Intuitive User Experience; Opening the application, customers are introduced an image heavy catalogue of curated content (As seen on the left). It is fairly straightforward to navigate through the content by, swiping left and right to view other curated section or up and down to view more content in the same section. Navigation is very fluid in the application, which is important as delay increases the likelihood of customer to not using the application. The slick ability to move between seasons in two ways: 1) Scrolling Vertically or 2) Selecting the season from the navigation bar at the top is also very useful.
- Available on a Wide Variety of Devices; Access content on any device instead of a select few is something is becoming more of a demand for customers and something NOW TV understands. It is available on platforms like Chromecast, Games Consoles, etc. Device Limits aside, it comes to reflect what is available on other video streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Continuing this platform flexibility should ensure that availability will not be the primary reason that customers leave or not register for this service.
- Poor Content User Flow; When coming towards the end of an episode, the application only shows the “up next” content for phones and tablets however, using a Chromecast does not provide this feature. This results in the customer having to navigate back from the Chromecast remote to the Series Menu so that they can manually select the next episode. Auto Play is a piece of functionality which Now TV should “borrow” from Netflix, as it ensures that customers will still continue watching unless they want to stop themselves, this is especially important on lean-back devices such as Games Consoles, TVs and Chromecasts. Finally surfacing the next episode to watch would reduce the amount of time a customer spends navigating through the series, which can be handy when there are more than 20 episodes in a season with 3+ seasons.
- Poor In-App Player with Limited Functionality; In an area of poor connectivity or switching between Mobile and Wi-Fi, the player can be quite unreliable in how it responds to the change. The expected action is a period of buffering and then continuing the content from where it left off, however the player can instead either: A) Give up buffering and then go back to the series menu or B) Restart the content at the beginning. Similar to Scenario B, after finishing an episode sometimes the progress is not tracked and displayed in the series guide, which can make it harder to come back to it after an extended break. There is missing player functionality such as the ability to quickly seek forwards or backwards by 30 seconds using a button, which can be helpful when trying to quickly recall what just happened. Scenario B also happens when you leave the application mid-playback and then switch back to it.
- Introduce User Profiles and Personalised Recommendations; Although there is a limit on the number of devices to view content on, in most cases the application would be available for more than one person to use. In this situation, most people have different tastes or might be at different points in a series, so introducing user profiles would allow everyone to watch content at their own pace without having to remember where they left off previously. It would ensure that children would be able to the access correct content, meaning that parents would be less worried about leaving kids unattended with the application. The tracking of viewing habits for each person would allow for more personalised recommendation on top of the already curated content; helping customers discover new shows or rediscover older ones that they haven’t seen in years. These recommendations could also be displayed towards the end of the episode.
- Lack of In App Support; There is currently a lack of support from within the application. Thus being able to talk to an agent within the application to ask for help on issues regarding billing or reporting issues viewing content would be better, than waiting on the phone for ages or, in the company’s perspective, just getting frustrated and unsubscribing from the service. It might be helpful to include an overview to explain how to use the application and the various functions, making it straightforward to customers, who might be unfamiliar with these applications. Also some diagnostics or acknowledgement that something goes wrong when the player fails would be nice, but not absolutely required.
- Improve the Player; Switching to a player that would allow customers to easily and quickly seek through content as well as being more reliable in how it handles the following situations: 1) Change in Connectivity, 2) Loss of Connectivity, 3) Sudden change in Application activity (E.g. Device Screen Switches off or App Switch) would go a long way to improve the customer’s video playback experience.