Now is the Time to Start Delivering Personalized OTT Experiences
I hear it everyday, “the future of television is here”, but I just don’t believe that to be true. While the “where” and “how” of TV has moved from a cable box in the living room to mobile phones and streaming devices, the “what” is pretty much exactly the same thing. Video is still delivered to users either in a VOD fashion or a traditional linear playout scenario. That shift from a hardline into a house to streaming to some device anywhere, anytime isn’t the future. Instead, the future is much more personal and curated for each viewer. Unfortunately, we have seen very little innovation, experimentation or offerings that meet this need for personalization to actually help shift audiences to the future of TV.
Let’s break it down a little. Broadcasters have mastered the art of incorporating advertisements seamlessly into linear programming when delivering over-the-top (OTT) streams. So why aren’t they taking advantage of that same technology to accomplish basic requirements, such as ad stitching and content replacement, to create more compelling OTT channels and services that redefine the TV-watching experience for users? With the same tools and technologies currently deployed, broadcasters can create tomorrow’s intelligent, personalized OTT viewing experiences — today.
But imagine a world where all television offerings were completely personal. Where television channels were created specifically for you, based on what you like to watch. What if that world would lead to more television watching and greater revenue for broadcasters? Let’s dive deeper into a few scenarios.
The avid sports fan
Let’s say I’m a sports fan, and I regularly access content, stats and news on a mega sports network’s website. I like to keep up with the New York Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tottenham Hotspur, so I’ve set up alerts for these teams and my favorite players. And, let’s throw in that I also play fantasy sports year-round through the same service. I’m on the network’s website daily, in fact multiple times each day. My engagement with the website, combined with the fluctuating fortunes of my favorite teams (real and fantasy), yields a lot of information that this sports network could use to provide a highly personalized, linear viewing experience.
How amazing would it be, if the content owner could take all that data and serve me up a sports highlight show of my very own everytime I log in? This content owner could easily use currently available stitching capabilities to create on-the-fly linear channels for me and every other user. This linear experience would comprise hosted clips and packages already created by the content owner each day, but stitched together to feel like a linear broadcast playout, and not like a playlist. Not only will the content be personalized, but the ads will continue to be dynamically served and highly targeted as well, truly making this a viewing experience unlike anything that exists today.
This type of experience is the future of TV, and it can be delivered today. As importantly, this experience would not only reduce buffering and waiting for load times of each video, but it would also increase viewership by offering a much more leanback experience. In this world of the personalized viewing experience, I’m happy as a viewer because I like what I’m seeing, and it’s always fresh to me, and the network is happy because it can offer more and better, targeted advertising. In other words, it’s a win-win (and I’ll take every win I can get)!
Sports is not the only use case; delivering personalized viewing experiences can be a win for networks and businesses in the financial sector, too. Consider the person who trades stocks on a daily basis and uses the website of a financial services company or business network every day to get news and alerts, to stay on top of the latest market trends.
Using the data they already collect along with content they already own, these companies could easily spin up a dynamic, personalized OTT channel that delivers information, insights and advice related to the user’s current and prospective investments. An experience like this not only offers the ability to serve up relevant targeted ads, but financial services companies can also foster both loyalty and commerce — further stock trades and purchases — through their websites. Existing technology makes this opportunity an easy, low-risk proposition; there’s almost no excuse for content owners not to offer this up to consumers right now.
Wiping off the cobwebs
But what if a content owner doesn’t benefit from that personalized, linear experience? What if he or she owns a library of content and just has yet to figure out how to present it in a way that generates revenue? I’m talking about the traditional broadcaster or content holder — such as the channel that has for decades presented the after-school special, the heartwarming holiday program and other family-friendly content, or the network with an immense library of cooking shows. Fortunately, there are still ways to reinvent the linear experience using current technology to put a fresh spin on content libraries.
Using today’s OTT services and tools, such media companies could very easily create virtual linear channels that not only showcase their content, but also provide a convenient opportunity to monetize this content. Depending on the time of year, a temporary channel could offer all of the best holiday programming — the best Halloween shows or the most popular Fourth of July programming.
Of course there is a “cost” in programming channels. But using software to automate the selection and playout of content, this model requires little to no manual intervention, and it has the potential to draw viewers, monetize older content and ultimately add to the bottom line. Because this model is scalable, there is nothing stopping the content provider from doing one or 100 such channels with very little risk and tons of upside.
The holy grail
What is the endgame — the Holy Grail, if you will? The future will bring a truly personalized, 1 to 1 experience for each and every user. An experience that not only has dynamic targeted content and relevant ads, but one where the ads are so relevant that advertisers can confidently purchase spots that are almost guaranteed to come with a buying action from the consumer.
When you consider the many ways that personalized OTT services can engage consumers and retain their interest, it may be surprising that more broadcasters and content owners aren’t moving more quickly to redefine the future OTT experience. They’re entering the nontraditional world of OTT, but keep trying to make money in a traditional way. Once the true power of these personalized experiences are realized — sooner rather than later — we’ll begin to see a turning point in how broadcasters and other content owners engage with their OTT audiences. We just need someone to take the first step off the ledge and lead the way to the future.
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