This article first appeared in M&E Journal.
Does this sound familiar?
It's 6:30 PM on a Friday, and movie night with the family. You agree on where to order food, wait for it to show up and then the dreaded question arrives – who’s picking the movie?
With five different over-the-top (OTT) apps and tons of content to choose from, the process seems to last longer than an episode of Game of Thrones. Inevitably, everyone gives up and takes out their personal devices instead. And you're left watching Rambo: First Blood – for the tenth time.
Shouldn't the self-proclaimed new golden age of television, filled with endless choices, lend itself to a better experience? Yet the reality is that even as service providers continue to roll out new direct-to-consumer offerings, together with more options to personalize the viewing experience, the potential complexities are set only to increase.
To solve this, we must enable tools that allow consumers to simplify their digital lives, as well as their unique – and family-inclusive – interests within a single ecosystem.
Subscription frustration is real
It's becoming clear that our digital and physical lives are increasingly merging, with almost everything revolving around our connected devices. And as we see an increasing focus on entertainment subscription services or one-off payments through apps like Uber or Seamless, it's becoming more and more difficult for consumers to manage it all.
Research commissioned by Amdocs found that 70% of US consumers would be ready to pay a premium for a unified, personalized service bundle that combines everything in one location. Moreover, 69% of them would shift service providers and, in some cases, longstanding brand alliances for such an experience. This is a clear opportunity that is yet to be seized by any market player.
The key to a single ecosystem approach
The most critical aspect of a “single ecosystem” is that it be tuned to the consumers' lifecycle. This is no longer restricted to supporting just one device, location, subscription service or payment mechanism. It also extends to ensuring the single ecosystem and consumer lifecycle remain in synch. This requires us to provide the ability for consumers to safely and easily explore, evaluate and subscribe to OTT apps, while enabling full visibility and control over their spend. It also requires us to provide a user experience that allows consumers to perform searches across every subscription – not only one. When it comes to actual content, rather than an endless stream of app options, what consumers really want is a selection of choices tailored specifically to them. To do this, we can build taste profiles that leverage machine learning on metadata and consumption behavior. Such models must go beyond merely providing recommendations based on what consumers previously watched, to also consider factors from their everyday lives such as, for example, when they are most likely to engage and why, or whether specific content should be avoided on a particular day.
Be prepared for new monetization models
While the market continuously evolves with the introduction of new offerings, so too does the way customers pay to access them. According to research from The Harris Poll, there's an almost even split between consumers who prefer to pay a subscription fee for zero advertisements and those who prefer to watch ads to reduce (or eliminate) subscription fees. Whatever solutions come to market must support the yet-to-be-offered business models of OTT providers. Who's to say a subscription-only provider today doesn't become an ad-supported player tomorrow or a bit of both?
Consumers won't be fooled twice
When it comes to subscriptions, it's not just about managing those to which consumers are already subscribed, but also those which they’re trying out. For example, cord-cutters may have to purchase access to live TV events from time to time. But before they know it, one-off sign-ups start to automatically renew without them realizing it, causing a poor experience all around.
Without user-friendly ways to manage these trial subscriptions, consumers are likely to try a service once – and only once.
Simplification is key
Subscription services and OTT content were designed to make things easier for consumers, we need to ensure they’re not making things more complex. Digital lifecycle management, coupled with flexible access, revenue sharing opportunities and partnerships, will therefore become increasingly vital to make sense of it all. In this very competitive landscape, it’s those players who realize this and act now, who will win.
And then, maybe movie night will be a little easier.