How TV service operators can stay competitive in an increasingly crowded market that has pronounced pain points when it comes to choosing OTT services. [updated Dec 2021]
The problem with success is that a good idea can very quickly lead to a crowded market. The pandemic has led to a pronounced uptick in SVOD subscriptions and, while there may be headwinds coming up in 2022 as the pandemic boost to subs numbers eventually dissipates, growth is still the order of the day. It is estimated that there will be 1.7bn SVOD subscriptions by 2026.
However, while it’s an expanding market it is also a finite one when it comes to costs. It has been estimated that the average US viewer is paying $47 per month for on-demand services, and while service stacking is increasingly a part of modern media consumption, there are limits to consumer budgets. This is especially pertinent as the SVOD makes is one that has also given consumers more freedom than ever before. Increasingly app-based and with no minimum contract terms, signing up and cancellation have both become tasks that can be accomplished in a couple of mouse clicks. And, as a recent survey from IBM has concluded, that is a power they are not afraid to use.
Choosing OTT services: what annoys consumers
IBM’s influential 2017 report, The State of Streaming, remains one of the touchstones on analysing consumer behaviour, especially given the interruptions in what we can describe as normative behaviour caused by the pandemic. Subtitled ‘You could be a contender: how streaming services can maintain a competitive edge’ it performed a deep dive on some of the emergent consumer behaviour the SVOD industry is witnessing. And while some of the data points regarding, for instance, the degree of buffering that was being experienced by consumers in individual markets is perhaps outdated, the light it shines on consumer attitudes to the problem is still relevant.
Technical pain points
We know that buffering is one of the key technical pain points that puts off consumers. While the CDNs that dominate the US are generally more reliable than those found elsewhere, no CDN has 100% availability across all regions. Performance varies as a result, especially in the number one technical pain point for consumers: buffering.
IBM's figures showed it being experienced by anything between 58% of customers in one region up to 78% in another. The overall figure was 63%, but as the following table shows it was by no means the only technical problem faced.
Almost half of the consumers polled said they would give up on the video they’re trying to stream due to these problems.
This is a particular issue, of course, when it comes to streaming live content. And with live OTT becoming a significant competitive hotspot in the US market, in particular, it’s even more of a pressing issue.
But globally the figures were even more alarming. While the number of respondents to a global survey experiencing buffering problems was similar at 65%, the figures for delayed video start and video quality problems were much worse, at 62% and 57% respectively.
Content pain points
One of the surprises of the IBM report, especially given the sheer amount that is being spent on original programming by the leading SVOD players, is that consumers still want more content. Almost two-thirds of consumers said that the top change they’d make to their streaming service would be offering more content.
This is despite a counter-finding that recommendation engines are not performing to the best of their abilities yet — which is a problem more of implementation rather than underlying technology. Getting the right content to the right viewer at the right time is one of the pre-requisites of ensuring a content library works at peak efficiency, but 44% of consumers state that recommendations are rarely or never what they want to watch.
The good news there is that more people, 55% are satisfied, but there is still definitely room for improvement. Now is perhaps a good time to read how a properly optimized recommendation engine can help you.
Easing the pain of choosing OTT services
In an increasingly competitive marketplace smoothing out these pain points is a crucial part of any strategy. And this is a task that is getting progressively harder as well.
Streaming devices and services are setting the bar for user experience comparisons. More OTT companies lead to more consumer exposure to a range of services, and the assumption is that if Service X can do something, then Service Y should be able to do so too. Expectations are dramatically higher as a result. And with even completely different industries also starting to inform consumer choice — for example, the effectiveness of a recommendation engine being bench-marked in consumer perception up against one used by Amazon — the landscape is changing markedly.
Broadcasters, typically national broadcasters, used to set the bar. Now it’s the software and entertainment giants of the FAANG group.
Luckily there is a 4-point action plan that can help with the pain points in choosing OTT services.
- Adopt a multi-CDN strategy that uses the best CDN in each territory
- Use bullet-proof cloud services that can spin up swiftly to handle demand and processing spikes
- Deploy business analytics to truly understand the effectiveness of the content library and its associated programming strategy
- Use contextual recommendations to mine as many data points as possible and improve recommendation results
SVOD as an industry is in a fairly unique position. A mere decade old, its penetration into the consumer space has been rapid and impressive. However, it now finds itself both a maturing market and one still undergoing high rates of technological change and evolving consumer behavior. The market is by no means yet saturated on a global scale, but it is becoming increasingly competitive. Meeting the expectations of consumers that are exhibiting levels of brand loyalty that can best be described as pragmatic as they are choosing OTT services is a challenge that needs careful thought. But, with the careful use of best-of-breed technologies, the current pain points can be alleviated and any future ones anticipated.
Original article: Ludo Rubin