Last week’s event in Las Vegas was my second time attending the Streaming Summit at NAB, having first attended its New York counterpart last fall. While I thought the content at the New York event was good, this second round in Las Vegas was even better — and more chock full of insights.
We heard from key players at companies like Amazon Prime, CBS, Nexstar, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tubi and more on topics covering everything from how to build a successful streaming business on a local level to what tools can help you compete effectively in a very competitive and ever evolving market. Here are some important and recurring themes that stood out throughout the two days of sessions.
Delivering a friction-free user experience is crucial to the success of any OTT service. This is not news. We all know this both as business leaders in the space and as consumers of streaming video. People have zero patience for start-up buffering, poor quality streaming, and other issues that impact users ability to watch video. And now, especially on mobile devices and with so many more choices, it’s just too easy to give up on the stream — or in many cases even the service provider altogether — and do something else. (Check out our recent U.S. Survey to see stats on viewer frustration.)
But the big takeaway from the Streaming Summit is that user experience is now just as important as having great content — if not more so. Investing in great content is useless if people can’t truly watch it anytime and anywhere without interruption.
Content discovery has become a real challenge. Consumers are literally overwhelmed with choice. Many services are working to address this, and there are many different solutions. Unfortunately the current AI is still not sophisticated enough to address this issue effectively. Many times what is being recommended is content you’ve already discovered and/or watched.
Because of this challenge, there is more focus being placed on content discovery tools. Improving recommendation engines and adding things like universal search and voice controls are key. Other new user experience features are also being considered and added by top OTTs: the ability to subscribe to specific content, promos/trailers with recommended or new content pushed to users’ devices with screen notifications to let them know it’s available, and more. There’s clearly a lot more work to be done here.
With so many BIG services now launching — Apple, AT&T, Disney, and Discovery, as well as more niche providers such as AcornTV, BritBox, College Humor, Crunchyroll, Fubo, WWE — there’s no doubt that the SVOD space is more crowded and competitive than ever. And keep in mind research shows brand loyalty is lacking when it comes to OTT since it’s so easy to switch services.
More and more services are thinking about and experimenting with new business models and hybrid SVOD/AVOD models. More AVOD-focused services, such as Pluto and Tubi, are continuing to pick up steam as well. At NAB, there were lots of discussions around monetization, best practices for advertising, and sponsorships. It’s clear that ad-supported video will be essential to the success of many services as the business evolves.
There is a blistering pace of change in the OTT space. Consumer habits continue to shift and evolve quickly as technology improves, services are launched, and expectations accelerate. The three key highlights from the NAB Streaming Summit above all need to be part of your 2019 strategy and beyond — 1) A seamless friction-free user experience 2) Effective and easy content discovery and 3) Multiple monetization models. All three are keys to a successful OTT service in an ever more competitive market.