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TV Gets Social Again with Third Generation OTT

The growth in online video consumption has been associated with a decline in traditional family viewing around the big screen but is now bringing about a new form of social TV where people congregate remotely via second screens. This is happening as OTT enters its third generation, according to Francesco Moretti, Deputy CEO at Fincons Group, an IT consultancy and systems design group headquartered in Bern, Switzerland.

“Watching television has become a social event,” said Moretti. “Consumers, particularly millennials, are now using their smartphones to chat with friends while watching programs with 74% of 14 to 17-year-olds using a combination of TV and smartphones during viewing (according to Accenture’s report Digital Video and the Connected Consumer). “In addition, consumers are looking up information during viewing, or engaging with followers on social media. Globally, one in five engages in social spider-webbing while watching live TV.”

Moretti identifies this growing remote socialization of TV through second screens as one of various developments coming in with what he calls third generation OTT. The first two generations of OTT were much clearer to define. Generation one was TV Everywhere, where legacy broadcasters and pay TV operators made their channels and content available over the Internet on mostly fixed connected devices. “In the first generation, traditional broadcasters looked to fend off OTT players offering flexible pricing and service packages by tailoring their own offering and pricing, thereby meeting modern demands and increasing customer loyalty,” said Moretti. “This new model meant customers could pick specific series, episodes or events to add to their basket, in effect customizing their service to their own viewing interests, and limiting the need for them to look elsewhere.”

The second generation was simply the extension of TV Everywhere to stand alone live OTT services, either from dedicated providers or pay TV operators offering a stripped-down package for online access only. “The second generation was more concerned with adding to the broadcasters’ customer base, by extending offerings to new geographies, for instance,” said Moretti.

The third generation of OTT is then more nebulous since it embraces various technologies associated with immersive TV in general, including Ultra HD, as well as second screen integration. “The third generation of OTT TV is the phase we’re currently experiencing, where both traditional broadcasters and sole OTT providers continue to face the challenge of keeping up with ever faster technological developments,” Moretti added. “The third generation is characterized by multi-screening. Viewers now use multiple devices to watch programs, whether a smartphone, laptop or tablet computer. This has inevitably led to new ways of watching and engaging with TV.”

Watching television has become a social event again, with millennials leading the way according to Francesco Moretti, Deputy CEO at Fincons Group.

Watching television has become a social event again, with millennials leading the way according to Francesco Moretti, Deputy CEO at Fincons Group.

But the critical factor is the social dimension, Moretti indicated. “This creates greater awareness about TV content, with viewers telling their friends and an audience of social media followers about interesting programs as they watch. With so much content available, this type of recommendation is more likely to increase momentum, since nobody wants to be left out of the conversation.”

Moretti cited the case of HBO’s Game of Thrones finale, which attracted a record 16.5 million viewers in August 2017. “Many of these were feverishly tweeting in anticipation, during and after the main event. This type of engagement presents exciting opportunities for pay TV operators.”

To exploit these opportunities, it is essential as a first step that operators harmonize their experience and deploy “pause and resume” across all the connected platforms they support. “Technologies that make the user experience more organic are therefore indispensable,” said Moretti. “With users active across multiple devices, changes in interface and navigation are likely to irritate, so a homogenous appearance across different device screens - mobile, web or TV - should be a key objective for broadcasters.”

Operators must then harness data from all these platforms to drive intelligent recommendations and other aspects of the experience including advertising across all screens. “Proper analysis of this data enables detailed and accurate customer profiling, which can be used to generate tailored content recommendations, as well as personalized advertising,” said Moretti. “In the third generation, AI and machine learning will increasingly play an important role in data analytics, helping to sift through vast and complex data sets containing intelligence on customer behavior.”

Such intelligence is not confined to specific TV content choice, but can also extend to other aspects of digital life including e-commerce, which in turn generates additional data. “Smartphones travel everywhere with customers and are used to make diverse purchases, which can help to make more precise inferences and as a result, more sophisticated recommendations. Operators who are able to make efficient use of data in this way can retain customers by offering the right product at the right time.” 

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