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OTT 2.0: understanding the importance of interactivity and engagement

Ian Sharpe, CEO of Promethean TV, writes that broadcasters can take action to make the most out of the changing landscape to engage customers, and build loyalty

With the growth of worldwide internet users, changes in consumer viewing habits and improvements in technology, broadcasters are being forced to evolve in an effort to stay competitive. And it’s no secret that the future of television and entertainment is OTT. This cord cutting phenomenon has been a major disruptor in the broadcast industry, leading to drastic shifts in the market and new business models. In fact, it has been reported that online streaming service subscriptions have grown from 150 million in 2014 to over 600 million in 2019, with an expected increase to 1.1 billion by 2021.

Locking in with OTT content

With social distancing measures and strict government restrictions, most of us are spending substantial time indoors, making good use of our OTT subscriptions. A recent report released by Nielsen suggests that Stay at Home policies will lead to an almost 60% increase in the amount of content watched by audiences. Online streaming is more essential than ever and global viewing increased by nearly 21% during the first three weeks of March. 

The global pandemic has had the biggest disruption on the sports market. Broadcasters were blindsided by the hiatus of almost all televised sporting activities, ranging from the Tokyo Olympics and UEFA Euro 2020, to the annual competitions at Wimbledon. Despite the absence of live sports, the audience’s appetite for sporting spectacle remains stronger than ever. As a result, the industry has started to adapt it’s strategies in the short term by broadcasting archived and modified content across OTT platforms and streaming channels. 

Clearly, the broadcast industry recognises the shift consumers are making to OTT content, now and prior to the coronavirus crisis. But what does this mean for broadcasters in the long term? 

Interactive OTT strategies

The broadcast industry is maturing as audience viewing preferences continue to evolve, combined with technology advances. This new OTT 2.0 era is all about interactivity and engagement across digital platforms. A stream no longer has to be a one-way flow of information – with a simple touch of a screen, the audience should be able to engage with content and make watching active. With broadcasters experimenting with digitising their content, this can be complemented with audiences having the opportunity to vote in a poll, sign up for a service or provide commentaries. Not only does this encourage longer viewing times, but it also boosts engagement and drives interactivity.

With many people spending more time indoors, there has never been a better time for streaming services to start harvesting audience data, understanding both what they want to watch, and how it can lead to better engagement. Using data to personalise viewing experiences means broadcasters can push relevant and contextual information to help audiences get the best out of their video, tailoring the viewing experience, and keeping consumers coming back for more.

Kicking off sports OTT streaming

Looking at the sports industry specifically, it will be up to broadcasters to create an atmosphere and drive engagement for adrenaline-starved fans, who are watching stadium sports recommence on OTT platforms. We’ve seen Japanese firm Yamaha create a new smartphone app that will allow fans watching at home to encourage players, with their voices reverberating around the stadium in real time via loudspeakers. The English Premier League has also recently restarted, and Sky Sports is working with EA Sports’ FIFA division to create simulated, reactionary crowd noises and chanting, tailored to each specific team.

It is easy to dismiss this kind of experimentation as a gimmick, choosing simulation over common sense. But these new innovations all have something in common; they are focused around harnessing familiar patterns and behaviour to keep spectators coming back for more online content. It’s all about human interaction and engagement. Interactivity is at the center of how we move forward with OTT and create the feeling of being up close and personal with the content that audiences love. 

The future of OTT 

In fact, we are all video streamers now. We are all embracing YouTube and TikTok, Zoom calls and Tweeted news videos. Strategies that deliver User Generated content are the ones most likely to create a buzz, to strike a chord and to go viral. Delivering authentic voices and new talent has always been a staple for TV moguls, and in a world where every bedroom is broadcasting centre it is vital to be able to offer the tools and technology for people to utilise your platform – and not a rival’s. 

With this in mind, there are huge opportunities to capitalise on the demand for digital platforms and boost engagement with viewers. The boom of video streaming and OTT services means broadcasters can get up close and personal with their audiences to create interactive experiences. Not only will this help to fill the gap left from the absence of live sports, but also allows companies in this space to super-serve consumers. 

The OTT 2.0 era is imminent, and the current crisis has only escalated this development. Broadcasters can take action and make the most out of the changing landscape to engage consumers and keep them coming back for more.