It seems like every week we read headlines like these. Time and time again we are reminded that VOD platforms are gaining strength as key players in the entertainment industry.
To stay competitive and secure their position in the trenches of the streaming wars, online services (and all those competing with them) are intensifying their efforts with content production. Over the last few years, subscribers/viewers have been flooded with programming from all over the world on numerous platforms. And yet, even with this enormous amount of content to choose from, how many times have you caught yourself navigating from one streaming platform to the other, and (rather paradoxically), breathily murmuring to yourself: “I can’t find anything to watch”?
A New Era, A New Model
According to data from Nielsen, viewers in the United States can spend up to 10 minutes looking for something to watch in search menus before they give up. Most of them end up tuning in to their trusted, favourite TV channels, while the viewers that do know what they want to watch face another problem: Is the show I want to binge tonight available on one of the subscriptions that I have, and on which platform?
Many think that one day an entity will come and devour the competition, and put all the content under the same roof. Although that’s highly unlikely (and wishful thinking), TV providers have the opportunity to fulfill this role in a different way, but with a similar outcome. Similar to the cable television boom of the 1980s and 1990s when TV providers were competing for our subscriptions with bundled channels on their platforms, they now have the opportunity to put all or most streaming services under their umbrella.
Making content available from different streaming platforms accessible through their UI is something that we already see in Europe. Prior to its broad launch in March 2020, Disney Plus signed exclusive deals with Movistar in Spain and with Canal+ Group in France. These deals were similar to the ones achieved with Netflix back in the day. Despite any potential discounts, promotions, or small savings in their subscription, the key value that these TV providers need to ensure for their client is content integration.
Solving for (U)X
Adding a button on your platform to access a particular streaming service adds little extra value to viewers. In order to keep offering a service that their clients will continue paying for month after month, TV providers should focus their efforts on integrating the content from all these streaming services to make it feel like a natural extension of their platform, and a seamless, natural extension of the viewer’s user experience. Additionally, the exponential increase of content available on their platforms should be paired with an investment in the current search and recommendation capabilities to guarantee viewers can spend more time watching content and less time surfing through irrelevant recommendations, or worse: Coming across the dreaded “Zero Search Results” prompt.
Integrate, Then Maneuver
Discounts, promotions, and whatever micro-savings TV providers have previously used to lure in customers is simply not enough to compete in the battle for relevance in the age of streaming wars. The key value that TV providers need to ensure for their customers is content integration that enables a seamless user experience. Whether you’re searching for an old, nostalgic movie from the provider’s own catalog, or you want to binge the latest docuseries from Netflix, or peruse the news highlights from yesterday, the experience you get when you search, find, and play this content should be the same, regardless of its origin.
This combination of content integration paired with search recommendation improvements will be vital in ensuring the prolonged relevance of TV providers. It is also a large victory in a time when TV as we know it is facing the largest battle of its life.