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The new challenges in OTT

iWedia's Jérôme Vial takes a look at the OTT landscape

The world of OTT has been in a state of rapid evolution for the past couple of years, and the Covid-19 pandemic only accelerated this growth as consumers turned to streaming services in huge numbers for entertainment and news during lockdowns.

The first – some may say only – area that TV operators must address is their added value to customers. Operators do not necessarily have the brand recognition that Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other platforms do for video services; they are simply the ‘shop window’ for many streaming brands. Only a few provide their own content and even they are fighting an uphill battle, so they need to focus on improving and enriching the quality of the user experience (UX). 

First and foremost, quick and simple content aggregation from all platforms is key for the subscribers to an operator’s pack. Customers do not want to search for a film or TV show on several individual platforms, so the value for operators here is to enable customers to search across multiple platforms in one pass to find that piece of content. We have seen a few solutions that offer this feature being deployed and they clearly provide a very strong value for the end-users, but once again operators must make sure they spend time on the user interface.

Then, an efficient recommendation engine is also a big value service, if done properly. There has been some very good progress in this field, and a recommendation engine improves over time with growing data. Nonetheless, a user will still get the random and perhaps bizarre ‘recommendations’ made by a streaming service! Operators need to use content metadata, live content and customer profile data, and harness technologies such as AI to pinpoint viewing preferences in order to make more accurate recommendations that will be welcomed by the customer.

One of the big attention points for operators currently is that of targeted advertising. While undoubtedly a highly complex technical undertaking, it is a fantastic opportunity for operators to differentiate themselves from international streaming platforms and create new lucrative revenue streams. Again, user experience will be key to make it a solid value-add. 

In addition to specific service offerings such as those mentioned above, operators should also make sure they are providing a comfortable, painless user experience (UX) to their customers. Users do not necessarily realise that they are having a good experience, but they certainly know – and act accordingly – when it’s a bad one. A well-designed interface with easy commands and simple to use search functions will reward operators with engaged and loyal customers. 

With the growth in the market for voice assistance, this is an area of opportunity for the operator that pushes its own device into the household to provide a reliable and resilient voice command solution. Technologies are also available today to develop smart UIs that will adapt over time to the user’s profile and behaviour. 

Similarly, operators that can provide a fluid and seamless journey between platforms on different devices will win loyalty. If a customer pauses an episode of a Netflix show on their home television and later opens the Netflix app on a mobile device, the viewer wants to pick up the show at the scene where it was left – not go back to the start of season one, episode one. Operators need to be able to do this as elegantly as the streaming platforms do.

All these UX elements and value-added services require significant technical integration with the video back-end, which is where specialist integration companies like iWedia come in. The vast complexity of systems needed to deliver a quality OTT service should not be underestimated, so look for companies with global expertise that can help to demystify and simplify it.

What is the future of OTT? People have grown used to multiple platforms, so from that perspective on-demand content is likely to remain strong. Above all, operators should focus on improving and differentiating their customers’ experience in order to provide the best possible service.