Viewpoint:  Content Overload: Ensuring Your Programmes Stand Out Amidst the Noise

Last year, more than 400 original series hit the small screen. With no signs of slowing; predictions suggest 2017 could beat records, with over 500 programmes launched. It’s now possible for companies to make video easily accessible online and with the widespread adoption of Video on Demand (VOD) the content floodgates have opened like never before.

While this may seem like an exciting prospect, the wealth of content now available can represent a double edged sword. As the saying goes, can you have too much of a good thing?

Recent audience behaviours research by ITV earlier this year revealed increasing frustration amongst viewers who are overwhelmed by the choices and want guidance in making decisions on what to watch. Further emphasising the challenge, the Ericsson ConsumerLab Media Report, released in October, revealed that consumers spend as much as 51 minutes a day searching for programmes to watch. With this in mind, to engage audiences, broadcasters must place content discovery and contextualisation at the very heart of the viewer experience.

Simplify decision making

Success in today’s ever- intensifying battle for viewers lies in understanding what content consumers find engaging, and displaying it in a way that appeals to them. Yet many VOD services struggle to replicate the simplicity of linear TV, presenting a confusing array of content that’s hard to access.

Discovering desired video content is increasingly difficult. Ericsson ConsumerLab more recent study shows a viewer may spend as much as 51 minutes per day just looking for something to watch. Image: Ericsson ConsumerLab, TV and Media, 2017.

Discovering desired video content is increasingly difficult. Ericsson ConsumerLab more recent study shows a viewer may spend as much as 51 minutes per day just looking for something to watch. Image: Ericsson ConsumerLab, TV and Media, 2017.

Understanding a viewer’s decision-making processes can help editorial teams guide users to programmes they will enjoy and then package that content in an attractive and personalised format. With broadcasters now having access to an unprecedented amount of data on viewer habits and preferences, they are well placed to personalise content across all channels, encouraging viewers to keep coming back to a service.

However, to drive maximum engagement, VOD platforms should take into account that different audiences have different values that trigger their engagement. These may also change, making it important that broadcasters be aware of wider fluctuations in the industry.

Audience research is an essential part of this, enabling content providers to develop an understanding of wider viewing habits and preferences. For example, the recent Ericsson report outlined that millennials spend 50% more time searching on VOD services than those 35 years and older. As a result, broadcasters will need to pay particular attention to the decision - making processes of younger audiences.

Content in context

It’s not common for audiences to watch a show or film that they have accidentally discovered. Most people aren’t always aware of the things that influence their decision making process. Topics they’ve had prior exposure to, whether it’s from reading the news, a friend’s recommendations or even seeing actors in the headlines, all help guide users subconsciously through a catalogue.

For instance, the recent US Presidential election led to a massive spike in searches for a particular Simpsons reference that foreshadowed the result. Tapping into trending moments like this, as well as leveraging upcoming events by building content that is specifically curated in response, will significantly help broadcasters to maximise their content catalogues – making older content fresh and relevant. 

Audiences use social media trends to select shows. A YouTube clip about a year 2000 episode of The Simpsons, which predicted a Donald Trump victory as President, generated 1.5 million views in nine months. Image: YouTube, The Simpsons.

Audiences use social media trends to select shows. A YouTube clip about a year 2000 episode of The Simpsons, which predicted a Donald Trump victory as President, generated 1.5 million views in nine months. Image: YouTube, The Simpsons.

There is also the opportunity to make the most of content that would otherwise be unutilised by promoting ‘the making’ of shows or specific interviews with cast and crew. Many content providers, including HBO, AMC and BBC, have created their own after-shows with a varying degree of success. Netflix, for example, recently announced it is preparing to capitalise on the success of its hit series Stranger Things with the launch of a new ‘after-show’ that will offer behind-the-scenes content, rehashes and answer ‘burning questions’ from the series.

Design a flexible solution

All of this boils down to the need for having a flexible back-end system that taps into the decision making processes of its users, enables content to be creatively curated, and reacts to live events. Each of these aspects is crucial to retaining today’s attention and time-poor viewers. A system that delivers all of these factors will allow for a combination of automation and input from editorial teams. Automation is useful to leverage retrospective insight from analytics to deliver features like “most watched” and “other users are searching for.  However, while analytics and metadata can contribute to curating a rich and organised journey by bringing catalogue content to the surface, they don’t necessarily provide the nuanced experience that curated content management can achieve.

Editorial teams therefore need to be set up with the right workflows to put together collections that move the user beyond their first motivation and keep them interested. This can mean the need to contextualise the synopsis, or change the accompanying text or images but only as long as it is relevant. A single flexible content management system should be able to provide different front-ends of a product to meet the demands of a wider demographic if needed.

With the breadth and depth of content available today, broadcasters are competing for viewer engagement and loyalty. VOD has given consumers unprecedented freedom to choose what they want to watch, when and how, but this has also left them conflicted in how they spend their viewing time.

In today’s fiercely competitive market, how traditional players handle content discovery will govern their success and putting user experience at the forefront will be a deciding factor for this. Having a strong content catalogue is only the tip of the iceberg. Broadcasters need to have the technical systems in place to ensure they can carefully curate and contextualise programmes to remain relevant in the future.

Tom Williams, CEO, Ostmodern

Tom Williams, CEO, Ostmodern

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