Viewpoint: Time To Take A Fresh Look At The True Potential Of Multiscreen

To realize the full business potential of multiscreen content delivery, service providers, including Telco’s and premium broadcasters, need to come to grips with how to bring content ‘silos’ together. The key is getting the right data and then knowing what to do with it.

In today’s fragmented media landscape viewers are keen to access content from numerous sources. Furthermore in order to discover and enjoy their chosen content, they would like to have the capability to leisurely browse through whatever content portfolios are available, intuitively and seamlessly. Consumers are increasingly accessing content from pay-TV delivered by satellite or cable, library and OTT content as well as the vast and poorly catalogued expanse of the Internet - but they would like to be able to do so effortlessly.

The day when pain-free content browsing is a reality for most consumers is still some way off.

There are many causal factors at play, but one fundamental reason why giving subscribers a truly immersive and harmonious multiscreen, multisource, experience is so elusive - and why so many service providers are not realizing the full commercial potential of their high value content - is because the commercial and legal conditions and restrictions attached to content are either unclear or difficult for the service provider to swiftly access because of roadblocks imposed by the content providers so that a seamless ‘joined up’ experience is virtually impossible todeliver. There needs to be a way of tagging content with intuitively accessible commercial information, such as licence conditions or predicted ‘cost per viewer,’ that would enable marketeers to dynamically create cross-content cross-device offerings that are personalized, and would appeal to subscribers. The solution is ‘smart’ management of metadata through software. But getting ‘smart’ is easier said than done.

Lean back 2.0 – the new ‘personal TV’

It is all too easy to say that multiscreen is about viewing content in any place on any device – this is an over-simplification and has become a well-worn platitude. It is really about different navigation paradigms on multiple devices, real-world ergonomics as well as different use cases for each specific device for the content consumption at any given moment. Contractually available content needs to be matched with the features on today’s multiplicity of devices. And it is the multiscreen service provider’s goal that all of that valuable content is put to work, cross-promoting the brand, and enhancing the consumer’s overall experience.

Finding content on TV must be easy for the viewer. Multiscreen providers need to make the experience

Finding content on TV must be easy for the viewer. Multiscreen providers need to make the experience "fun".

Multiscreen offerings need to pay more than lip service to understanding the inherent and profound differences between lean-back “entertain me” TV watching and ‘lean forward’ laptop or tablet interaction, with all its clicking and typing. There is much talk in our industry about the differences that need to be made to content to make it appropriate for one device or another. But is there enough attention being paid to the person doing the interacting, and their motivations and goals at any given moment?

Searching for VOD on the TV set is simply too time consuming, and chore-like. Browsing a content library is supposed to be part of the fun, like shopping. If you don’t know what to watch, if you’re not sure what you are looking for, finding the right content can be a game of roulette, and possibly tiresome. What’s needed is a way for the viewer to seamlessly search multiple ‘content silos’ to find the right movie, program or preview to suit his or her desires, whether it is a Hollywood blockbuster, a 70s classic cop show, or a YouTube video. The customer should be elegantly presented with the choice, and making that choice shouldn’t be labor-intensive.

When delivering TV services, especially to connected TVs, a platform is created. As a result, further ‘silos’ come to life: a TV silo, VOD silo, EPG silo, as well as silos for recordings and potentially other services, such as YouTube, Netflix, etc.

Silos have been hard to avoid since they are created and driven by technology and promoted by the silos themselves. Netflix certainly does not relish the thought of its movies sitting beside the latest user generated home-made YouTube craze on the same virtual ‘shelf’. But the result of these non-intersecting silos is that the user experience is far less than it could be, or even downright poor.

The consumer today, and certainly of tomorrow, will demand something different.

The viewer will want his or her own personal linear TV experience, built from multiple reservoirs of attractive content, and assembled in a neat ‘myTV channel’. A tailored, assembled channel that satisfies the varied taste of any consumer needs to be made available – like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

We believe that content from all the different, sometimes incompatible, silos need to come together, and be offered as a shop window to the viewer.The appearance is a linear channel, personal and appealing, and which can be marketed - we call this paradigm ‘LeanBack 2.0’.

Revenues are falling between the silos

In most of today’s multiscreen scenarios, the user has to actively rummage around his or her familiar silos for something to watch. Google TV is trying to overcome this, however no one has really cracked the challenge of making all silos be equally searchable, in a smooth and seamless way.

As long as search is chore-like, the content delivery companies will miss out on the revenue that falls between the content silos.

As long as search is chore-like, the content delivery companies will miss out on the revenue that falls between the content silos.

But there is technology available that allows the viewer to browse in all these silos, seamlessly, so then when you search, you access all silos in one manoeuvre. Discovering content all kinds can be made possible on tablet or TV, and intuitively on both, in an all-included menu, with no typing or logging in and out.

With ‘cross-silo’ search capability, content owners can harness the full value of their offerings. Moreover the consumer gets a powerful entertainment experience.

We predict that service providers will soon become acutely aware of the need for a new way of thinking about how consumers engage with content. Broadcasters and pay-TV providers will dig deep into how to harvest and more powerfully leverage user data and analytics. There will be a greater understanding of how to engineer cross-silo search and discovery capability, leading to a harmonious user experience regardless of where the content comes from.

In parallel, as the consumer’s manipulation of multiple devices becomes routine for the majority of users, service providers will better understand the inherent and profound differences between lean-back ‘entertain me’ TV watching and ‘lean forward’ laptop or tablet interaction. With these parallel paradigm shifts evolving, whether slowly or rapidly, the real winner will be the consumer.

Ensuring that the right kind of content reaches the right screens, reliably and in the correct format, is no easy task, however, and is underpinned by much technical complexity, including multiple layers of software. Additionally, numerous business-critical back-end systems provided by multiple vendors need to be integrated and operate seamlessly for a multiscreen TV business to attract viewers and grow. A truly joined up cross-device and cross-content strategy is needed.

Building marketable offerings, business planning, and forecasting around metadata that is not reliable, nor integrated or incomplete is standing in the way of audiences finding the content they want. Substandard analytics results in inability to determine what device content is being consumed on. It also means unrealized revenue opportunities.

The right content needs to be delivered to the proper screen and in the correct format. Viewers will pay for a consistent high-quality experience. Image: Deloitte

The right content needs to be delivered to the proper screen and in the correct format. Viewers will pay for a consistent high-quality experience. Image: Deloitte

Fortunately, customised software solutions can deliver the meaningful analytics operators need.

Bespoke software development has often been perceived as the ‘diamond encrusted’ solution, requiring vast teams and big budgets. But in fact tailored software need not be scary or onerous, or even prohibitively expensive.

It’s all about bringing the benefit to the service provider. How many pay TV operators have invested vast sums into fixing or altering productised platforms and services, originally bought off the shelf, just to try to make them work? Usability over the long term is worth aiming for. But it may require the service provider to be brave enough to start with a ‘clean sheet’, with the starting point being understanding user needs and behavior.

With reliable, easy-to-access data on the content available on multiple screens and silos, how and when it is being consumed, as well as being able to speedily understand the licensing and contractual limitations on content, service providers can create high-impact customer offerings that are commercially successful over the long term.

Service providers need no longer have their hands tied by software that is not smart enough and an ocean of metadata they are unable to comprehend or navigate.

Good businesses can only be built around good data. Only with joined up cross-silo content information can the truth about where the money resides can be discovered. With the right software, there really is an answer to the challenge “show me the money!”

Kai-Christian Borchers, Managing Director, 3 Screen Solutions.

Kai-Christian Borchers, Managing Director, 3 Screen Solutions.

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