Interactive OTT — Are you ready for the next stage in the evolution of TV?

Claire McHugh
Nov 18, 2016 · 5 min read

As a TV network, even if the majority of your eggs are in the linear TV basket today, it’s important to remember that eventually even the living room TV will catch up and become an interactive device.

As a brand joining the OTT fray, it’s important to realise that, while it’s easy to get your video content into an app, nailing an experience that’s actually worth coming back to is very hard.

Putting in the effort to design and build a fully thought-through interactive OTT offering that takes user experience to the next level will pay dividends as the tide turns and all video consumption — including on the venerable living room TV — becomes interactive. Just a few years from now, we’ll look back on TV with non-touchable baked-in graphics with a wry smile and wonder how we lived with such a broken experience for so long. Just as we did with the arrival of sound and color, we will hold on to the craft of the old while embracing the capabilities of the new to deliver better-than-ever storytelling to audiences — more immersive, more engaging, more personal, more social, more connected.

Interactive video platforms take advantage of internet connectivity and touch screens to deliver a whole new level of engagement to in-app video. On-screen tweets can be favorited and retweeted right from inside the video, news tickers can be swiped backwards, products can be purchased — the list is only limited by imagination.

So, whether you’re a Netflix-killer or a new brand with global ambitions, here are 6 top tips to keep in mind while developing an interactive video experience.

1. Leverage The Power Of Interactivity, But Don’t Overdo It

Interactive OTT opens up opportunities to go direct-to-consumer with everything from general entertainment to super-niche special interest offerings. It enables new revenue streams, such as shoppable video, individually targeted advertising, and clever non-intrusive sponsorships.

There is no better time to activate a viewer than when they are in the moment, enjoying well crafted storytelling. Whether it’s a shoppable show, the ability to donate to an indie filmmaker, or purchase merchandise from a favourite artist, any video commerce functionality should be frictionless, subtle and easy to use. Most importantly, it should never get in the way of the content, but enhance it.

2. Create A Community

Make your offering feel like a destination where each user feels an ownership of the experience and a sense of pride in belonging. Allow users to set up customized profiles and to share their favorite content recommendations. Teasers and trailers come in handy for powering social posts of gated content.

By encouraging power users to emerge and perhaps occasionally allowing them an opportunity to drive the agenda, you create incentives for participation that bring value to the whole community.

3. Embrace Live

Even pure-play on-demand services can embrace the live streaming phenomenon. Having a face — either homegrown talent or an Internet influencer — reinforces the human nature of the brand and creates a reason to keep users coming back.

For example, a weekly live show to announce new content being added to the catalog creates an opportunity to take feedback from users and let them influence programming decisions. A scheduled weekly co-viewing of a select VOD asset at a regular time, such as a movie of the week could create opportunities for users to connect by watching together.

4. Be Consistent — And Disciplined

It’s important to remember that user experience is as much a part of a brand as the logo, ad campaigns or any other customer-facing assets. Because of this, it’s essential to ensure that your digital product is consistent across all devices so that the brand is recognizable. At the same time be mindful of the ecosystem so that an Apple TV app feels like an Apple TV app, while an Android phone app feels an Android phone app, etc.

Key to this is the kind of discipline that’s required for a software product, where features are ruthlessly interrogated to ensure they deserve the effort of implementation and maintenance across a number of platforms and for the lifetime of the product. It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying “yes” to a shiny new feature idea, just because it’s possible to implement it. It’s harder to say “no” and be able to present a watertight argument as to why “no” is the right answer.

Be consistent. Be disciplined. Be empowered to say “no”.

5. TV Apps Should Still Feel Like TV

Part of the enduring appeal of TV is that it’s incredibly simple to use. Just because digital products can do pretty much anything, doesn’t mean they should.

Beautiful design and the proper application of clever technology can certainly lift your user experience above that of your competitors. It can help retain your users, turn them into better customers and even add to the likelihood of them spreading the word if you’ve done things really well. But it must be kept simple, subtle and not get in the way of the content.

6. Be Authentic–Respect The Content

So you’ve launched an awesome interactive video experience with clever yet subtle interactions, and the most beautiful UI on the block and users are downloading it in droves. Ultimately what makes people come back to the app after the first launch is a combination of the content and how it’s treated in the app. This is so important and many publishers get this wrong. The quality of the content can be great, but if the overall experience doesn’t live up to it — or if it feels like the publisher is just pushing content into an app to check a box of “yeah we’re on Roku now”, then there’s a good chance of the app failing. When a user returns to an app over and over again, they are effectively investing their time into it and they expect to get a return for that investment.
Make sure the content is front and center — the star of the show. Showing your users that you value and understand your own content enough to create a wonderful, authentic user experience around it will engender a deeper connection. Too many digital products don’t this.


The future being heralded by OTT is bright, but it’s also democratized and open to all, so the winners will need to deliver exceptional user experiences that not only deliver the right content at the right time, but also present it in the most engaging and optimal way for the screen being viewed.

The possibilities for interactive storytelling experiences are endless. Let’s set the bar high!

Talk to us about how Ediflo has already helped global brands increase engagement and revenue by making their existing video content interactive on OTT devices.

Originally published on TV[R]EV

Claire McHugh

Written by

CEO at @Axonista. Helping storytellers deliver interactive video experiences.

Axonista HQ

Stories from the people designing the future of interactive video.

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