Category : Media & Entertainment

Media & Entertainment UX/UI

Building cross-platform OTT apps: best practices in design & development

cross platform OTT apps best practices in design and development

We live in a connected world. Users switch between three devices on average to view content. They prefer to watch content anywhere, anytime, without any interruption. For example, they could start watching a movie on their mobile phone while traveling home and then continue watching it on a bigger TV screen in their living room.

OTT brands that understand the value of the connected experience will agree that building cross-platform apps are essential. Brands that recognize the potential of cross-platform OTT apps early on will likely benefit in the long run.

There are two aspects to creating a cross-platform OTT platform – developing and designing: the former involves building a uniform, consistent, homogenous UI that promises optimum user experience to your viewers irrespective of the platform used to access it. Development, however, is not that straightforward and could involve more than one ‘best’ approach – depending on the time, scale, and budget of building your application.

Native implementation for platforms is the most optimal approach. However, with the advent of technologies such as Flutter and React-Native, cross-platform could be as effective. It is a more cost-effective approach as it uses a shared codebase and a hybrid framework that works well on all devices like Android, iOS, TV, Web, and set-top box (STB). It eliminates the need to maintain separate code bases built in a native approach. You can choose the native route (relatively more expensive) or choose a carefully designed development strategy that leverages the tools that enable you to build a native or almost-native app with just a single code base for most platforms.

In this article, we will focus on cross-platform design and development, why they are essential for an OTT app’s success, and what should be the key focus areas while building such an experience.

Advantages of building cross-platform OTT Apps

The following could be the key benefits of building cross-platform experiences:

Broader user reach: Cross-platform development allows one to build apps for different devices and operating systems. OTT brands can reach out to more users and give them access to view content on whichever device they prefer.

Inter-usability: Cross-platform app lets brands build apps with uniform UX and UI. So, even if the user switches the device with a different screen size or operating system, the interface and the experience will remain the same – the user would hardly be able to tell the difference.

Cost-effective: OTT players can save significant costs on hiring different teams for developing and maintaining apps. A single team can take care of everything in case of a hybrid approach.

Faster development: Cross-platform apps built on a hybrid approach are developed on the principle of ‘code once and deploy everywhere’. Enterprises can save time on developing, maintaining, and upgrading different apps. The updates are synced automatically for all platforms and devices.

Focus areas while building an OTT app irrespective of the development approach

#1 Playback experience

The playback experience is a critical factor in an OTT app. It may seem like an obvious thing, but unfortunately, it is ignored by many.

  • The focus should be on achieving good quality (resolution) of the video with minimal video size to cater even to mediocre network speed. Latest video encoding software & codecs (like AV1) can be used to achieve this. As users have devices that support 4K, HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos, the team must ensure that the content supports these options and delivers a fantastic content-watching experience.
  • Users hate buffering while watching their favorite content. Choose a good capacity CDN/Server for better speed to prevent delays.
  • Use services like Video Analytics to monitor the errors and fix them as soon as possible
  • Don’t focus all your efforts on UI. A fancy UI will be useless if the video-watching experience is poor. For example, Amazon Prime offers a great video-watching experience, but some may find the UI ‘basic’ – just enough to browse the content. Yet it is one of the most popular OTT apps the world over.
  • Netflix, Prime, and Discovery are all great believers in the practice of great playback experience.

#2 Content discovery

A great content library is of no use if users cannot find relevant content easily without any friction. Enable users to find their favorite content with minimal effort. Build robust recommendation engines based on a viewer’s previous watch history using technologies such as AI/ML. Netflix, Prime, and Discovery do this well across devices and platforms.

#3 Framework

It’s always wise to choose a native development approach for OTT apps. Native apps have better performance with memory & CPU optimizations, which is essential for OTT apps. Even though the initial cost of native app development is high, it will be worth it in the end.

Recommended frameworks:

  • Android Mobile & TV: A native common app could be built for both TV & mobile. It can have the same business logic but a different UI layer to adapt to the TV experience with minimal effort—for example, Kotlin with MVVM architecture and ExoPlayer for playback.
  • iOS & Apple TV: Same as in Android, same business logic layer with different UI layer for TV. For example, Swift programming language with AVPlayer for playback.
  • Web, LG TV, Samsung TV, and other web OS-based TV & STBs: A web application for all these devices.

Key features to give viewers a delightful experience

Live streaming: Live streaming gives users the joy of watching major events in real-time. It can hold user’s attention 10x-20x longer than pre-recorded videos. Live streaming accounted for 24% of global OTT viewing in the first quarter of 2021. Crafting a live-streaming experience calls for a unique approach with several recommended best practices. The live streaming of the famous cricket event, Indian Premier League (IPL), helped Disney + Hotstar add 7 million subscribers to their subscription base. Consider adding a feature to broadcast live content on your OTT app. It will boost engagement on your app and get more subscribers.

Build a library of localized content: Multi-lingual subtitles and audio descriptions have made it easy for users to consume more localized content. 95% of the users who watched Squid Games on Netflix were from outside Korea. Users love to watch good content irrespective of the language. So, consider including more localized content on the platform. Experiment with different genres, themes, and creative styles. Add subtitles and audio descriptions in multiple languages to eliminate the language barriers and facilitate a joyful viewing experience.

Build for connected TV: With 44% of households expected to disconnect the traditional cable network by 2023 and 82% adopting connected TV, it’s time to consider building apps compatible with connected TV. Consider creating 4K videos that can be streamed on Roku devices and pay attention to the screen size and other functionalities while building the app. You must consider the leading devices like Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Android TV, and some web-based smart TV platforms such as Samsung’s Tizen and WebOS.

Cross-platform OTT apps

Read more about how we developed a seamless multi-platform experience for Magnolia Network, USA.

Provide multi-device access: Continuity is crucial in developing OTT apps. The content should automatically be synchronized across different platforms and devices to prevent friction in the viewing experience. Allow multi-channel access on different devices. This enables the user to switch devices and access content with a single sign-in.

Experiment with subscription models: OTT brands use different revenue models like Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD), Advertising Video On Demand (AVOD), and Transactional Video On Demand or pay-per-view (TVOD).

  • SVOD gives users access to the entire content library for a subscription fee.
  • AVOD allows users to access free content in exchange for viewing ads.
  • TVOD works well for live streaming of special events such as sports or worldwide premier of popular movies.
  • Experiment with different revenue strategies to find out what works. For example, use a combination of AVOD and SVOD to serve free content and upgrade the user to premium, gated content. You can also include exclusive live stream content and charge on a per-view-basis. The flexibility in revenue models will give users the choice to view the content as they desire.

Features like Chromecast (casting content from mobile to TV), offline download for mobile apps, mini-player, Picture in Picture (PIP), DRM, playback features like audio track selection, quality selection, playback speed control, and subtitle customization can also be a differentiator for your brand.

Retention is the new growth mantra

Typically, OTT players like Netflix lose less than 1% monthly subscribers. While this might be a minuscule number, the reality is that the streaming giant lost over 200,000 subscribers within the first quarter of 2022. Customer retention is as essential as acquisition. Losing subscribers could be detrimental to the app’s growth. It’s hard to get back the users again once you lose them.

Apart from the best practices discussed above, apply data-driven design thinking principles to retain users. This could include:

  • Adding features that offer convenience and ease of use to users
  • Creating a seamless experience across all devices and platforms
  • Instilling a sense of pride within users in using the platform
  • Testing new and innovative designs to meet the changing needs of the users
  • Providing a positive reinforcement or reward to the user for using the app
  • Building a friction-free onboarding process
  • Personalizing recommendations based on users’ behavior patterns and preferences
  • Listening to the user to make them feel valued

Remember to keep the user at the center of your app development and engagement strategies and focus on reducing the churn. That’s the only way to retain users and earn from recurring subscriptions.

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Media & Entertainment

OTT Live Streaming: 10 All-round Best Practices while Designing Personas

Television brought entertainment to our homes for almost a century, but it was no match for OTT’s sheer range of diverse content, non-linear menus, flexible business models, and range of distribution options. Across the world, OTT adoption increased exponentially during the Covid-19 pandemic, as people stayed home, satisfied with a supersaturated range of content to choose from. The pandemic also saw live events move online, including classes, employee town halls, customer seminars, conferences, fitness sessions, music concerts, and major sports events like the Olympics and the Indian Premier League, a hugely popular cricket tournament in India. Although people who attended online events missed the social bonding and excitement of attending in-person, the world was introduced to new possibilities of interacting online, from shopping to studying or gaming. Whether for the excitement of sports events and music concerts, or the purposefulness of learning, live streaming has become a new way to engage global and niche audiences alike.

OTT Live streaming is the new kid on the block

Even prior to the pandemic, China had already begun live streaming shopping events, with Alibaba’s Taobao Live shopping channel, launched in May 2016. Singles Day, a major shopping event in China, relies heavily on interactive live streaming. In fact, as per a survey in 2020, two-thirds of Chinese consumers said they had bought products via livestream in the previous year. The market for live streaming is definitely here to stay.

While adoption of live streaming is lower in Western countries, there is potential. Foresight Research projects that live stream shopping could reach $11 billion in the United States. This is substantiated by consumer behavior – according to Gartner, U.S. viewers between the ages of 18 and 43 spent 63 percent of their overall TV viewing time watching on average on streaming versus cable, broadcast or satellite. In fact, predictions are that by 2026, the number of users for OTT video will grow to over 3.9 billion.

Live streaming via OTT has immense possibilities, but companies would be unwise to approach creating apps or content delivery using the same set of principles as watching a series. The experience of an event is different from that of watching television, so the user experience must be reimagined from the start.

The next challenge is loyalty – despite the growing number of viewers, with innumerable choices and varied experiences available online, retaining customers is critical to keeping the business of OTT profitable. OTT platforms need to move from offering a static viewership to an immersive experience where the audiences are fully engaged. Live streaming offers this possibility – connecting users among themselves in real time and with the content like never before!

Interactive live streaming – a new set of user expectations

Interactive live streaming is the next revolution of OTT, where audiences can engage with the content and with each other during live streaming. Infusing content with interactive elements like predicting the show’s outcome, chat, polls, sharing on social media, or giving alternative viewing paths keep audiences engaged, and create a sense of community and subscriber stickiness.

NFL Live streaming OTT

When it comes to interactive live streaming, the user’s expectations are very different from what they want out of leisurely drama or family sitcom shows. Designing interactive elements for a live streaming event needs insight into what users really want – which is context-specific. For example while attending a sports match, users want the excitement of the crowd, but while consulting a doctor, they want the privacy of a calm office. In this way, they expect a high-fidelity experience; one that is as close as it gets to real life.

Best practices in designing for OTT live streaming personas

#1 Simplified sign-in – While viewers may not mind taking the time to sign in or subscribe when they want to watch a movie, they don’t want to be asked too many questions when it comes to live shows. The login process must be simplified and customized to the event. Much like in real life, if you were attending a live match at the stadium, you just want to get to your seat as soon as possible, so a quick OTP (short for One-Time Password sent via SMS, valid for a few minutes) login works. But while attending an art auction, for example, you may want to browse around before the auction begins, and like to be offered selections as per your personal aesthetic.

#2 Content discovery and personalization – There are differences in how users discover content on video-on-demand (VOD) versus live streaming. While OTT VOD providers use algorithms to suggest content based on viewing preferences, live streaming discovery is heavily influenced by social media and peer recommendation. Since time is ticking and no one wants to miss any of the highlights during any live streaming event, the content should be discoverable with a ‘Zero-click’ discovery i.e., the moment a user opens an app, the live content should be just right there, beaming!

#3 Interaction with the content – Audiences want to be able to have the power to influence the direction of the event or show. They want to participate. For example, reality shows may build in options for audiences to choose an answer or rate a contestant, while sitting at home instead of needing to be part of the studio audience to do so. For other events such as town hall meetings, polls and chat windows can source opinions and shape the dialogue. Live sports events offer fans the ability to predict the player’s performance or score.

#4 Going social – Wanting to share an experience with others is an innate social need; all formats of live streaming build on this to create a longer-term relationship with participants online and expand their reach. Watch parties may be over-rated for movies and team bonding, but they work well for sports fans who are crazy about watching games with their teams of supporters. Creating seamless transitions to and from social media to live streaming events will not only add to the viewer’s experience but also promote the channel and its content. Can viewers watch a match directly from their social media feed? Or can they share screenshots or sections of video online with their friends, with their own commentary? Similarly while shopping online, being able to discuss and share purchases with friends, or while studying together, being able to have a private chat is much like passing a note in class.

#5 Targeted advertising and merchandising – Keeping the context in mind, OTT live streaming has the ability to partner with advertisers to create relevant and personalized approaches. Sports merchandisers could for example advertise your team’s jersey to you, and allow you to directly order it in time for the match. A shopping live stream could advertise physical stores near the user in case they want to see the product if it is a high value purchase, or tie up with dealers offering test rides for vehicles.

#6 Nurturing loyalty through engagement and gamification – Bringing interactive elements to live streaming keeps audiences engaged, and lays the foundation of a longer-term relationship. But after a while, audiences are still looking at what’s in it for them. Predicting which player may hit a six in cricket or score a goal maybe fun for a while, but after that how does it help? Or for students in an online class, being interactive helps keep them engaged, but how do educators motivate them to stay engaged? This is where gamification comes in.

Brands and OTT channels have an opportunity to build loyalty using interactive elements, which again is context-specific. Overlaying a system of reward points, or tokens that can be awarded to the participant every time they interact can not only take the level of excitement up, but also keep them coming back.

The Rugby Football League, a new US-based rugby seven series plans to create a strong live betting proposition, working alongside leading technology companies to incorporate new innovations and gamification aspects. In India, MX Player introduced pure-play gaming through MX Coins. Users can win MX Coins that unlock premium content, earn discounts and avail offers on popular eCommerce platforms such as Paytm, Myntra and others.

Gamification can help build loyalty to brands and channels. In a clever campaign, Under Armour launched a surprise trivia game at the NBA playoffs. Whenever Steph Curry shot a three-pointer, the game Steph IQ would launch. There were prizes for those who could answer eight multiple-choice questions within the time window. A prize pool and the chance to enter a raffle to win the “Curry 5” signature shoe, playoff tickets, or Under Armour gear kept fans hooked, a win-win for the NBA’s viewership and Under Armour’s sales.

There are several possibilities to design and build a gamified approach, irrespective of the format of live streaming. What spells success is the depth of user insights and context relevance that goes into designing these loyalty programs. If an Edtech channel is trying to create an online community of students, badges that help peers identify the champions, quizzes, trivia contests, or competition leagues that are interesting for students. For an online shopping channel, calling out influencers with a unique sense of fashion or reward points for discounts may be more motivating.

Live Streaming OTT influencer

Technology considerations to keep in mind, before going live

#7 DRM (Digital Rights Management): An obvious aspect of live streaming is to secure the content rights to broadcast the event. These can be expensive and complicated, varying from region to region. Digital rights management (DRM) is a must to assure the OTT platforms and the content owners that their valuable content is distributed and consumed appropriately.

#8 Live streaming technology stack: Unlike a physical venue, a live event is watched on a multitude of devices available to viewers. How the event gets covered from the location and streamed to individual devices must be worked out in detail. Besides planning video production, and streaming bandwidth, you also need to support the universe of devices and platforms – from iPhones and iPads to Android devices using Chrome or Edge.

#9 Near real-time experience: In any event, latency is a critical factor in the live streaming experience – viewers expect minimum or zero buffering (imagine watching an F1 race but you hear about the outcome from a friend or on social media). If you are gaming online, low latency could cause the user to lose the game or actual money. These situations cause OTT players to lose customer loyalty. Low latency must be built into the streaming experience. A strong Content Distribution Network (CDN) dispersed across regions will help deliver the event to viewers at the same time, despite being in different parts of the world. Designing the video player with adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR) can reduce or eliminate rebuffering if the viewer’s internet is slow or fluctuating by reducing the video resolution, keeping the stream live, and resulting in a seamless viewer experience.

#10 Livestream analytics: Interactivity is the main differentiator in live streaming – An important aspect is to consider how analytics can be designed for such events. Metrics on audience engagement and video playback experience are critical in understanding and continuously improving the live streaming experience. Tracking concurrent users, likes, and chat messages shared during a live interaction give an insight into audience engagement. Other metrics like rebuffering count/ratio, bit rate, EBVS (Exit Before Video Start), etc. offer insight into the quality of the video playback experience

Interactive live streaming on OTT is re-shaping digital interactions

Moving beyond TV shows, OTT is bringing the world into living rooms (and pockets) through interactive live streaming. Almost any industry can explore the possibilities that the medium offers – shopping experiences, sporting events and concerts, or entertainment. Besides the understanding of the technology involved, they need to also understand the digital journey of the user, and design an experience that resonates with the brand, which is as close to real life as possible. OTT is here to stay, and digital natives are hooked. Brands would be smart to explore the potential for loyalty and new revenue that it has to offer.

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Media & Entertainment Opinion Technology

What has 5G in store for OTT services

Effect of 5G on OTT

It is an understatement that streaming services are dependent on broadband cellular networks.

The late 2000s saw the introduction of Web2.0 along with the first iPhone and analog TVs switching over to digital, and 3G on the rise. The combination of these phenomena pushed a sense of omnipresence for streaming media as people could watch whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and wherever they wanted. Then came 4G/LTE which made a big impact on consumers’ ability to reliably stream their favorite programs from almost anywhere. However, it too had its limitations with patchy reception, signal degradation, and loss of uplink capability in some unfavorable conditions.

5G brings a promise of bringing the cloud computing infrastructure vital to delivering stable, high-quality OTT services closer to end-users. It will achieve this with real-time processing and minimal latency. This could prove to be a huge boost for real-time data delivery and live streaming via OTT networks.

Active 5G-powered experiences: Live streaming to immersive virtual reality

The introduction of 5G does make it easier for network providers and streaming platforms to be able to handle a large amount of streaming demand efficiently. Almost 80% of US households are now CTV-plugged, while the OTT consumers are spending about 4 billion hours combined per week to watch content. The volume of video content consumption has drastically skyrocketed in the past few years and 5G is designed to support and maintain such an upward trend.

But the future of streaming is not only about handling streaming demands. It is about the new digital experiences that 5G makes possible. OTT providers and broadcasters now have the chance to offer their viewers a wide range of services from live sports in 4K and beyond to 360° videos, headcam footage, virtual reality, and other immersive experiences.

future of ott streaming services

CTV/OTT entertainment and advertising are the principal beneficiaries of 5G implementation.

5 ways how the advent of 5G technology will boost OTT adoption rate

Bridging OTT and broadcasting gaps: The 5G network made by local “macro” towers implanted at strategic locations will bring processing closer to the users. This will overcome the constraints of distant servers or the individual device’s computing power to deliver a perfect user experience.

The combination of cloud computing and the 5G network could prove to be the ideal setup for the delivery of real-time data and live streaming via OTT networks. In fact, Amazon Web Services and Verizon have already started exploring the possibility of live streaming NFL games using 5G, which is now installed in 25 NFL stadiums. This will only encourage current OTT platforms such as Amazon Prime – broadcasting NFL games and Premier League soccer matches, to move towards a seamless, real-time delivery of data. Thus consumers now have a choice to watch live events either on broadcasting TV or OTT platforms.

Decline of satellite broadcasting media demand: Any new variation of the network comes with a promise of enhanced performance, stability, and reliability; 5G is no different in this regard. Thus the arrival of 5G will encourage users to access content in a plethora of varying formats, genres, and types at their convenience. The 5G network allows users to enjoy HD and 4K video streaming seamlessly without disruptions. Therefore, there is a likelihood of OTT services rising in demand and satellite broadcasting media witnessing a decline.

Switchover to connected TV: One of the first things the new-age generation looks for while setting up their new home is connectivity across their devices. Smart TV or Connected TV proves to be the perfect device to have seamless connectivity and functionality for all their media needs. The fact that it has in-built internet and other integrated web features are why it proves to be the perfect conduit to stream digital content using the 5G network. Thus, the introduction of 5G will only increase the OTT platform subscriptions as more and more users switch over to smart TV.

Enhanced real-time advertising: The introduction of 5G brings good news to the advertisers as well. They can ensure real-time data movement with the help of 5G networks. This would enable the advertisers to serve targeted ads instantly and directly to the consumers by leveraging the popularity of OTT platforms. This would also enable advertisers to serve highly localized ads without incurring any extra charges for data storage or transmission. As a causality, this would benefit users as AVOD content on the OTT platforms would increase.

Collaborations and partnerships: OTT providers are already collaborating with telecom partners to ensure content streaming increases and retain customers. However, the customers often complain of quality issues over the 4G network whenever there is a content demand surge. The introduction of 5G would enable OTT services to collaborate with 5G providers and easily meet these demand surges.

Technology triggers to enhance customer’s OTT experience with the introduction of 5G

Content Delivery Network (CDN) Growth

The unprecedented growth in OTT was driven not just by the COVID-19 pandemic but also by the intersection of key technological and societal developments. The pandemic more or less acted as a catalyst to accelerate trends already on the rise, whether in terms of consumption, production, or distribution.

On the consumption side, the lack of public cinema made way for the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ as popular alternatives with growing amounts of binge-watching. On the distribution side, continuous improvement in streaming quality over mobile networks especially, even with 4G, has encouraged OTT viewing on the move. Now, with the introduction of 5G, viewing OTT on the move is going to be even more encouraged.

Apart from the impact of mobile and 5G, the ongoing evolution of CDNs is proving to be one of the biggest factors involved in the advancement of OTT. CDNs combine connectivity with cached storage to optimize content delivery and minimize latency. According to Cisco, globally, Internet video traffic will be 82% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2022, up from 73% in 2017. Thus, it is increasing the growth of CDNs purely backed by the increase in video consumption. This is further solidified by a forecast report by Markets and Markets. According to this report, the CDN market size is expected to grow from USD 14.4 billion in 2020 to USD 27.9 billion in 2025, at a CAGR of 14.1%.

At the same time, CDNs have diversified into different versions suited to specific requirements. The role of CDNs naturally varies between on-demand and live content. For the former, CDNs use caching closer to subscribers to minimize consumption of a wide area of bandwidth. CDNs increase scalability and improve the customer experience by storing cached copies of data at strategic locations and delivering smoother reduced start-up lag.

WebRTC-for content delivery

WebRTC or Web Real-time Transfer Control protocol is a streaming protocol for web communication allowing users to connect in real-time without connecting to an additional server. It is basically a peer-to-peer open source communication project first invented by Global IP Solutions (GIPS) in Sweden and later taken over by Google in 2011. Over time, WebRTC proved to be an efficient way of content distribution as well. With the advent of 5G, WebRTC supported devices will usher in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) ecosystem which is a next-generation service ecosystem to handle communications processes such as telecommunications, broadcast media, intelligent building management systems, audiovisual processing and transmission systems, and network-based control and monitoring functions.

WebRTC working mechanism

WebRTC working mechanism

WebRTC theoretically works with a 4 step process to establish peer to peer communication – signaling, connecting, securing, and communication.

WebRTC gives a lot of value to OTT developers due to its extremely useful benefits. WebRTC has ultra-low/real-time latency which makes it perfect for live streaming, it is open source which allows developers to experiment, it is ultra-compatible with a large range of devices, it is secure, adaptive, and delivers a high-quality video output.

WebRTC will be the RTC platform of choice with the introduction of 5G and the expansion of OTT offerings. It makes every component of OTT available to anyone at ridiculous costs.

Challenges to 5G rollout

For several years 5G has been highly anticipated to be the next generation of mobile communications technology, but it is still at the early stage of network deployment and market development.

Some challenges may delay 5G rollout across the globe and hence a slower impact on the OTT industry than expected.

  • Possible high costs will lead to uncertainty over customers’ willingness to pay. According to a McKinsey survey, two-thirds of customers are unwilling to pay more than five euros per month for ten-times-higher speed. At the same time, 49 percent of customers expect consistently high speed, and 43 percent expect new applications and services.
  • Affecting industries reliant on wireless communication in the same bandwidth (e.g., airline industry). Read more about this issue here.
  • Installation of base antennas and technology ineptitude of the majority of countries. Since a majority of countries are still developing and barely have extra budgets allocated for faster adoption of newer technology, 5G rollout there is not possible in the near future.

What to expect in the future?

The rollout of 5G has already started with many successful events witnessed such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But we still need to wait for the full deployment of its connectivity before we understand its full potential. But whatever the case, this next-gen connectivity would most likely encourage viewers to stream more often, on the go, and go live. 5G will make it possible for video to be the primary method of digital content consumption. With its improved reliability, data streaming speed, and video delivery capabilities, we should all brace ourselves for this upcoming revolutionary digital solution called 5G network connectivity.

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Media & Entertainment Opinion

How Over-The-Top (OTT) Players Can Get Tech-ready to Tap Into a World of New Opportunities

New opportunities for OTT

As over-the-top (OTT) matures as a medium, consumers are looking for fresh experiences. Shaping new engagement that caters to changing demands will be key to OTT providers’ profitability.

The time is right to imagine new engaging experiences in media and entertainment (M&E), by taking advantage of the latest technology developments in broadband cellular networks. 5G becoming mainstream means increased bandwidth, no more buffering, enhanced viewing with 4K video, at a minimum. With bandwidth no longer an issue, smart devices can also provide interactive experiences. Newer applications will emerge supporting collaboration, which extends beyond web conferencing.

But there’s more – Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) can enhance the live streaming experience. Gaming is expected to swell in popularity as augmented reality and virtual reality bring the user interface and experience even closer to reality. Participating in conferences and exhibitions will become more realistic. As will online learning and online consulting businesses, which will gain traction in hitherto unexplored areas like medical, legal, or management consulting.

For OTT providers, the way forward is to plan for scale

While OTT is currently making leaps and bounds in entertainment, OTT providers must peer into the looking glass to foretell and prepare for the opportunities that lie in wait. They must revisit the way they view the platform and look for innovative solutions that prepare the foundation for scale, such as:

Agility of scalable architecture: Consumer expectations are volatile; companies need to be agile and not rely on a monolithic framework to build their streaming services. Some companies are strengthening the spine of their platform, making it robust, modular, scalable, and easy to integrate with a microservices approach. They might choose to work with a technology partner such as Robosoft to bring together services like ad servers, recommendation engines, billing services, payment gateways, etc., to offer a holistic solution with complete security.

The right development strategy: In building a platform, OTT providers can choose to offer ready-to-use streaming or bespoke solutions – both have advantages and need to be evaluated based on how they want to position themselves. Off-the-shelf solutions are more affordable upfront, quicker to deploy, and best-suited for OTT providers who want to offer video as a nice-to-have service with just the basic features. Custom-developed solutions, even though they take longer to deploy and have a higher initial investment, offer full control and technology ownership to the OTT platform provider.

Off the shelf or bespoke solutions for OTT platform?

The right monetization strategy: The current monetization models of OTT are nascent, and as young as the medium and technology itself. With new applications such as gaming, television commerce, learning, event streaming, and personal video conferencing, successful experiments in revenue models will spell the next level in maturity for the OTT industry. Stemming from traditional broadcasting roots, advertising and subscription are two prevalent models of revenue – both have their distinct advantages. The OTT provider may prefer one monetization model over the other depending on the nature and format of content and the kind of technology investment they are willing to make.

For example, the advertising monetization model enables free content with ads to consumers across multiple platforms such as connected TV, desktop, and mobile ecosystems. Here, finding new users is easier as it has in-built technology to target opportunities using more accurate data on user preferences. Also, providers can leverage predictive and prescriptive analytics using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and use data for greater personalization of services.

• In contrast, providers choosing the subscription model might be those in the business of entertainment, health, eLearning, etc., and stand to gain long-term value by delivering consistent quality content. Investing in the right technology will help them implement security and encryption integrations that are necessary for this model. In addition, on the web and Android, various payment options can be provided for users to make subscription payments, since viewers may have their own preferred payment modes, and benefit from discounts, rewards, and cashback that third-party payment apps offer.

Stickiness of the omnichannel experience: Both video and audio streaming services are booming. OTT companies can enable multi-channel, multi-device options for a multi-sensory, seamless experience, especially to woo the digital consumer who is migrating from the traditional platforms. They can improve stickiness by incorporating the adaptive bit rate feature for smooth playback, regardless of device, location, or Internet speed, making it best suited for usage in low bandwidth areas. Other features such as ‘download and view later’ can be embedded with appropriate technology solutions to protect Downloads from video piracy or copyright infringement.

If omnichannel is about having a presence in multiple touchpoints and devices, a multiexperience (a term coined by Gartner) approach connects them all.  It is a customer-first & experience centric design that promises a seamless experience to customers. Below is a comparison chart between multiexperience, omnichannel, and multichannel.

Multiexperience vs omnichannel vs mutichannel

Protecting proprietary content through Digital Rights Management (DRM): Protection of licenses and prevention of unauthorized distribution of their proprietary content are major concerns for OTT providers that can be addressed through investing in the right Digital Rights Management (DRM) solution.

Nurturing a long-term love affair with OTT

A PWC study estimated that movie theatre box-office revenues fell 71% in 2020, even as Netflix attracted a record 37mn net additional subscribers. As digital consumption in media and entertainment (M&E) continues to build, OTT is poised to replace traditional media & entertainment channels, in a big way.

By gearing up on different aspects – technology investment, business model, and operations – every kind of OTT provider, from the established to the newbie, can fully cash in on the opportunities that are opening up. By becoming future-ready in an already-crowded market, they can promise a consistently engaging and engrossing experience on their platform/app that consumers come back to and fall in love with, all over again.

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Media & Entertainment Opinion

How OTT providers can shape engaging content experiences for the empowered consumer

OTT engaging content experiences

Over-the-top (OTT) is a medium where customer is king and content rules. The pandemic served as a catalyst for greater OTT adoption, driving home this truth stronger than ever. OTT channels exploded, providing many hours of entertainment at home, and on any device. As the global pandemic took hold in 2020, 36% of consumers say it was a direct driver of them taking out a new OTT subscription.

Propelled by the widespread distribution enabled by OTT, companies are in a race, pursuing content in various ways – generating their own content or turning aggregators, working with small creative houses to produce short films, increasing localization of content, or crowdsourcing.

However, today, to develop a platform and enable OTT is only completing the first lap. The market is crowded with players, big and small, jostling for a toehold. Today’s empowered consumers crave engagement, which means, providers need to build targeted content that will reel in customers and keep them hooked over time. To be a marathoner, the OTT provider needs to be able to both engage and retain.

Building sustained customer experiences led by content

The empowered consumer is spoilt for choice – avoiding both app fatigue and subscription fatigue will be important. This approach is backed by a 2020 Deloitte survey of US consumers – their reason for choosing a particular brand of service seemed to indicate a preference for both a broad range of shows & movies, and content not available elsewhere.

Deloitte OTT streaming video subscribers survey

OTT providers can look to win the war for viewers through a number of ways including:

  • Top of the mind recall: optimizing AI-based tools and segmentation will be essential for targeted content consumption. For instance, huge success of Korean TV series “The Squid Games” has shot up the demand for similar drama TV series in local languages. Thus, enabling AI to push localized content to a wider audience and providing them with new content areas to explore.
  • The right positioning: carving out a unique selling point through a niche segment or a curated experience targeting a hobby or lifestyle preferences will be key. Discovery+ for its unscripted content targeting lifelong learners, Disney+ Hotstar for family entertainment and sports viewing, Netflix for premium or affluent audience, BritBox for British TV shows, Hayu for reality TV shows could be examples.
  • New content forms: as more physical events and activities move online – learning, exhibitions, business consulting etc. – podcasts, edutainment, gaming will augment the experience and bring it closer to reality.
  • Socially relevant content: With more consumers moving away from traditional platforms, content that integrates the social elements will be in demand.
  • Tough going for smaller companies: with their content limitations, they face reduced DAUs, flattening out of subscriptions, and reduced or stagnating advertisement revenues. One way out could be to form alliances to provide variety and choice to viewers or get acquired by larger players.
  • Loyalty/Gamification: It will play a role in keeping users engaged. In fact, Netflix has already started to offer exclusive gaming options varying from simple card games to theme based games based on popular TV series like “The Stranger Things” to their subscribed users.
  • E-commerce website for entertainment a no-no: over time, intake of users, consumption, revenues, ad revenue are bound to fall and wave of subscribers will flatten or taper.
  • Digital Rights Management (DRM): Protection of licenses and prevention of unauthorized distribution of their proprietary content are major concerns for OTT providers that can be addressed through investing in the right DRM solution.
  • Super Apps: Super Apps mostly need business collaborations and partnerships to offer various services. Thus, the rise is largely driven by large conglomerates and huge e-Commerce companies to have a sophisticated app addressing all the basic needs of a consumer. Amazon Prime Video launched Prime Video Channels in India in collaboration with 8 OTT partners to showcase premium content from them and make all content available inside the Prime Video App. These partners include Discovery+, Lionsgate Play, Docubay, Eros Now, MUBI, Hoichoi, Manorama Max, and Shorts TV.

Prime Video Channels super app

Irrespective of the specific genre or direction, the OTT provider chooses to follow, the mandate is clear – shape engaging content experiences for the consumer. The provider can’t become complacent but needs to be ready with a roadmap for retention as well. By investing in technology to build content, engage and elevate consumer experiences, they stand a better chance to gain the elusive competitive edge.

Enabling the X-factor with right experience

The instant global success of OTT as a medium, and is a turning point and milestone in the history of entertainment and broadcasting technologies. There is no other medium that allows a wider potential reach, yet puts the audience in charge. With digital re-shaping the way we interact with each other and how we entertain ourselves, the success of OTT is only the beginning for this medium. From training to gaming to keeping in touch with family, the potential is limited only by imagination.

CX/UX/Personalization: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence power up algorithms and predictive analytics to identify consumer behavior, viewing patterns, preferences etc. and tailor the user/customer experience down to the individual consumer. These technologies are already helping the biggest in the business, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, offer unique experiences through product or content recommendations that are most relevant to that individual.

Becoming more ‘immersive’ with 5G: As 5G becomes mainstream, increased bandwidth will support more immersive streaming services such as 4K video and Virtual Reality (VR). Newer applications supporting collaboration – beyond Web conferencing – will emerge as a result. By combining 5G with OTT services, the provider can ensure less buffering and faster streaming, and therefore, venture into 360°live streaming of events etc.

Online gaming: The increase in Smart TV viewing means that passive consumption needs to be supplemented by gamification engines, interactive live television, real-time polls and more – these can be implemented with the help of 5G that promises up to 10Gbps speed and faster response times. With near-zero lag, better connectivity and data speeds, the gaming experience can be truly enhanced.

Shared OTT experiences: consumers realized the importance of spending time with family/friends during the pandemic. This led to the success of events such as Netflix’s Teleparty and Amazon Prime’s Watch Party. Powered by high-speed internet technologies, such services – consumers staying apart, watch movies together on the same video chat, or stream simultaneously within their social networks – could soon become the norm.

Multi-device, multi-platform experience: Consumers can enjoy immersive experiences on different mobile platforms, switching between devices seamlessly – including iOS & Android mobile phones, iPad and Android tablet, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick, Roku or any Android-based smart TV.

Building a multiexperience OTT

Implementing analytics and monetization strategies

The current monetization models of OTT are nascent, and as young as the medium and technology itself. Still stemming from traditional broadcasting roots advertising and subscription have been the existing models of revenue.

Advertising monetization vs subscription monetization: both models have their unique advantages. The nature/format of the content and the kind of technology investment can be deciding factors in the model that the provider chooses eventually.

Learn more about OTT monetization models in detail

The advertising monetization model enables free content with ads to consumers across multiple platforms such as connected TV, desktop, and mobile ecosystems. Here, finding new users is easier as it has in-built technology to targeting opportunities using more accurate data on user preferences. Providers can leverage predictive and prescriptive analytics using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

In contrast, providers might choose the subscription model if they are looking to gain long-term value by delivering consistent quality content such as those in the business of entertainment, health, eLearning etc. Investing in the right technology will help them implement security and encryption integrations that are necessary for this model.
With new applications such as gaming, television commerce, learning, event streaming and personal video conferencing, successful experiments in revenue models will spell the next level in maturity for the OTT industry.

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Media & Entertainment

OTT Monetization: The Ultimate Guide to Select The Best Revenue Model

OTT Monetization

The OTT industry has observed a major increase in the number of OTT players in recent years. It resulted in the majority of them competing for the same set of customers with very little to separate each other. While content quality on offer is always going to be the ultimate decider, having convenient OTT monetization models for different sets of targeted customers is always a plus point.

OTT monetization mostly revolves around video-on-demand (VOD) models. Here users pay for a pre-recorded and uploaded or live stream content on an OTT platform.

The first quarter of 2021 has seen a 47% increase in OTT subscriptions in the US compared to the first quarter of 2020. The index is now at 1.03, which means the number of OTT subscriptions is more than the number of people in the United States. The American population will be approximately 330 million people in 2020, and the number of SVOD subscriptions is around 340 million. The global OTT market size was valued at $121.61 billion in 2019, and is projected to reach $1,039.03 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 29.4% from 2020 to 2027.

Subscription video on demand (SVOD) services (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime) became the largest OTT revenue source in 2016 by overtaking ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) services (i.e. Pluto TV). SVOD’s share of total revenue is expected to increase from 47% in 2017 to 53% in 2023 and AVOD will see a revenue share of 36%.

Modern content consumers are rapidly moving away from time, place and device dependent content sources like traditional cable or Linear television. There is still a tug of war going on between OTT and traditional TV in countries like India. But, over the years thanks to portable smart devices, SmartTVs and streaming players such as Roku or Chromecast, video content consumption has seen an uptake.

Content producers are finding innovative ways to include advertisements or monetize their content to generate revenue. In a path breaking event in the OTT monetization space, Transmit, a next generation streaming media ad platform, introduced OTT’s first fully automated ad break and content monetization for live sports and entertainment.

In this guide, let’s talk about OTT revenue models, OTT advertising benefits, when and why you should apply a certain OTT monetization model for your OTT platform.

What are OTT Revenue Models

There are thousands of OTT broadcasters currently serving their unique content or an aggregation of the most popular content to their customers. All the successful brands are using a multiexperience OTT platform with the right monetization model to generate revenue. But if we were to categorize these OTT revenue models, the number of ways thousands of OTT brands generate revenue comes down to single digits.

There are primarily 4 OTT monetization models available for professional broadcasters. These are:

i) Monetizing with Advertisements

The Ad-based Video on Demand or AVOD model generates revenue with ads. The content aggregator or the content search platform provides the content to users for free. But there is a catch as the content is served with ads to the users.

The broadcasters make money by charging a fee to advertisers in exchange for a place in the content platform to play commercials. The ads are generally played as video ads, sponsor screens, sponsored content and more. A recent survey by Deloitte shows 55% of the US residents use an ad-supported video streaming service.

US consumer subscription survey by Deloitte

Examples of AVOD businesses: Pluto TV, Tubi, Xumo, YouTube (non-premium).

ii) VOD Subscription based

Subscription-based Video on Demand or SVOD businesses charge a recurring fee weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly for full access to their video platform. The SVOD model was first made popular by Netflix and it still continues to dominate popular OTT businesses today.

Examples of SVOD businesses: Netflix, Apple TV+, HBO, YouTube Premium, Voot.

iii) Transactional based content

Transactional Video on Demand or TVOD is the most straightforward OTT revenue model of all. It works on a one time give and take system like buying or renting an item from a nearby shop. Customers buy or rent videos one at a time based on their needs. This OTT model is sometimes also known as pay per view (PPV) or pay per download (PPD).

Examples of TVOD businesses: iTunes, UFC, Sky Box Office, CinemaNow.

iv) Hybrid (SVOD+TVOD+AVOD)

Truth be told, a hybrid business model isn’t a single established business model. Many companies are putting their own spin to already established monetization models to come up with a hybrid model that works for them.

Some businesses like Disney+ are blending SVOD with TVOD as they are offering access to new films on a transactional basis apart from the subscription. Discovery+ categorized their customers on two levels to mix AVOD with SVOD. The lower fee subscribing customers are served their content with some ads, while higher fee subscribers get the same content with zero ads.

OTT Platforms that use VOD monetization

OTT vs VOD: What is the difference

There is one major difference between OTT and VOD. Apart from that the line gets blurrier the more you try to understand the difference.

OTT software solutions

Typically, OTT umbrella contains three types of content delivery platforms and content.
These are:

  • Streaming video on websites or apps like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, DAZN, Sky Sports, etc.
  • Internet-connected devices like TVs (smart TVs) or devices like the Amazon Fire TV stick, Google Chromecast, or the insanely popular Roku streaming device.
  • Watching live TV using internet streaming: Popular examples are DirecTV, Sling TV, Hotstar (in India), and the list goes on.

On the contrary, VOD is restricted to content that is not live streamed and can be consumed at any place, any time.

In simple terms, OTT describes “how the content is delivered” while VOD describes “how the content is consumed”.

What are different types of VOD

VOD or Video On Demand enables people to watch their desired videos – anytime, anywhere, and on any video playing device.

Video on demand (VOD) is a promising technology with top-notch and lucrative opportunities in the new cord-cutting status quo. By 2023, Cisco System predicts the number of internet-connected devices to be more than triple of the global population.

OTT has fundamentally changed the content production and distribution approaches when it comes to video consumption. Streaming Media reports that video-on-demand viewing time has grown up to 155% year-over-year, comprising 17 minutes per session on average.

This rapid rise in demand for video content provides endless opportunities to OTT brands to generate revenue using different advertising and subscription models.

Let’s talk about these OTT business models in detail.

AVOD

AVOD is one of the common OTT platform revenue models, where you offer free content to your audience. AVOD businesses generate revenue with ads inserted into the video to monetize it. These can be commercials, pop-ups, or any other type of sponsored content.

Under AVOD, you may choose to run ads at the beginning (pre-roll), in between video plays (mid-roll), or at the end of the video (post-rolls).

Advantages of AVOD monetization model

  • AVOD enables businesses to serve free content with ads to their customers across several inventory platforms such as connected TV, desktop, and mobile ecosystems.
  • The biggest advantage of AVOD is the possibility of finding new viewers without much effort. With little or no barrier to entry, viewers can get hooked on your content without hitting any hurdles. If you serve a niche demographic or interest group, you may be able to charge higher rates from advertisers enabling you to offer discounted prices to your customers.
  • AVOD provides very refined targeting opportunities with more precise data about audience interests than mere age and geo data.

Advantages of AVOD monetization

AVOD isn’t as popular among premium content owners and streaming giants mainly because this model generates less revenue compared to SVOD. You may need to gain a substantial audience before you turn a profit.

When is the AVOD monetization model suitable?

If you are serving generic content, how-to and comedy videos, you may use AVOD platforms. These content types usually generate huge viewership, especially the younger audience who are less likely to subscribe or remain loyal to regular entertainment sources. The AVOD model also required you to choose the right ad network to maximize revenue benefits.

SVOD

As mentioned earlier, subscription based video on demand model allows watching as-free video content available on the platform at a flat rate, with a monthly or annual subscription.

With easy-to-unsubscribe policies, SVOD is one of the most lucrative revenue models and makes up the largest segment of the OTT industry.

Advantages of SVOD monetization model

  • The SVOD model used by Netflix is extremely popular and hence familiar among households. In fact, a 2019 report finds up to 75% of US households have a SVOD subscription.
  • It’s a very efficient model that creates steady income from every customer. SVOD is also associated with high revenue. Because consumers can pay an affordable fee to access the entire content library, many prefer these platforms.
  • It provides multiple subscription options to the user to pay weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually at their convenience.

Advantages of SVOD monetization

The SVOD model has a higher entry barrier as big players like Netflix, HBO, Apple TV, Hulu, etc. cover almost 3/4th of the consumer market. This makes it hard to find new customers and harder to retain them. Any change in content, price or the economy causes people to end their subscriptions or switch to another OTT provider. Also, the cost of producing quality content compels businesses to set higher subscription pricing to enable bigger profit margins.

When is the SVOD monetization model suitable?

The SVOD model is perfect for businesses seeking a long-term value by serving constant quality content in the form of movies, TV shows, originals, etc. It is primarily the right choice for businesses focusing on entertainment, health, fitness, eLearning, and other content.

SVOD OTT streaming solutions require extra effort and resources to correctly position your platform in the right target audience. Also, there is the small matter of adopting the best security and encryption integrations to meet the user’s needs.

TVOD

TVOD or Transactional Video On Demand is a rental-based VOD monetization business model where the user rents the content or has access to the service for a short period of time by paying a fee.

TVOD is also sometimes known as pay-per-view (PPV) or pay-per-download (PPD). The model usually involves Download-to-own (DTO) or Electronic sell-through (EST) systems. Another option is renting videos for particular periods.

Advantages of TVOD monetization model

  • TVOD is a straightforward and simple model great for serving one-off video content. The power of choice given to consumers lets the businesses charge or offer discounts on the content piece accordingly. Consumers are more willing to pay for high quality content they intend to watch.
  • The most attractive reason why TVOD is a great choice is its immediacy. Consumers get access to desired content by renting or buying even sooner than after the general release of specific media content.
  • TVOD services enable businesses to retain customers with seasonal content. This strategy suits tutorials, lessons, sports, or other seasonal events. Sky Sports Box Office is a good example of TVOD platforms.

Advantages of TVOD monetization

Two of the biggest problems in the TVOD monetization model is getting consistent revenue and gaining consumer confidence. More people are becoming comfortable using services consistently than earlier. Plus having to pay for each additional program can be a frustrating experience.

When is the TVOD monetization model suitable?

Most TVOD businesses work with exclusive content deals and close release windows to drive customers for purchases. TVOD also works best for live streaming services like entertainment events and sports events that are seasonal. The best way to use a TVOD model is to combine it with another VOD monetization strategy for a consistent revenue stream.

PVOD

Premium video on demand or PVOD is more like a special case of TVOD where the user can pay to get access to content sooner than other SVOD or TVOD customers would! For example, premium movies are released on PVOD first and then the subscribers get access via SVOD or TVOD.

Disney’s Mulan was a prime example of a PVOD release. It got its first release as a PVOD as it had to skip the theaters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hybrid VOD

Many OTT platforms are now adopting a hybrid approach when it comes to monetizing their content. AVOD, SVOD, and TVOD hybrid models are a proven approach to profitable advertising in the CTV and OTT ecosystem.

Hybrid VOD monetization model could prove to be the best option in a highly competitive OTT landscape. It offers the best of both worlds to the consumers from TVOD, AVOD, and SVOD. Usually, one of these revenue models is selected as primary, and the others are used for exclusive deals.

Advantages of Hybrid VOD monetization

Advantages of Hybrid VOD monetization model

The one big advantage Hybrid VOD has over other VOD models is that it provides the best of each monetization model. It also provides flexibility as you can combine selected benefits from each model to create your own hybrid monetization model.

A wisely combined hybrid model can suit nearly any OTT business.

When is the Hybrid VOD monetization model suitable?

Hybrid VOD monetization model works best for businesses who are targeting a vast set of audiences. The second important thing is for your platform to have a vast library of content to cater to each audience type. Therefore, by leveraging the different monetization models, you can meet the needs of various users.

What is OTT Advertising and its benefits

OTT advertising is serving personalized content to different viewers’ devices while they watch the same TV show or movies. Personalized user experience based on AI-powered recommendation engines is one of the most important key factors in designing a successful OTT app. Thus, we can say, OTT advertising is a targeted ad delivery on Internet-CTV sets enabled by programmatic OTT technology.

Due to the widespread adoption of OTT platforms, advertisers can now expand their audience reach that was previously available only on traditional TV. Many consumers in the US are now ‘cutting the cord’ but a report from the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) says advertising is still essential to the ecosystem.

5 benefits of OTT advertising

OTT advertising is a win-win situation for everybody involved in it. Advertisers love it as they get access to behavioral and personal choice data of consumers they didn’t have access to earlier. Also, they love it for the massive revenue and brand potential such targeted ads can garner. Consumers love it because they get far better options in OTT in terms of content and convenience over regular TV.

Recent advancements in OTT technology made it possible to bring alive both the product and in-store experience of retail brands onto the OTT device. Gree, the world’s largest air conditioner maker, sold 44 million USD worth of merchandise on Kuaishou, China’s leading short-video and live-streaming social platform.

In addition to this OTT advertising also offers:

#1 Sticky ads: If you are an advertiser, you would love a sticky ad where the user can’t fast forward or skip the ad. OTT platforms provide a visible 90 seconds or 2 minutes countdown window to the advertisers to display their ad content. Since the consumers are invested in the OTT content, they let the whole ad play out while resuming the video content afterwards.

#2 Advanced targeting: The OTT registration details of the user cover all the basic demographic data for the advertisers. And after a while, OTT platforms can provide a heap of data about the kind of content a user watches and his behavior. Advertisers can target people based on their unique viewing habits thanks to a comprehensive portrait rendered in numbers.

#3 Advanced reach: OTT advertising provides a unique opportunity to reach the ever-elusive group of ‘cord-cutters’ and ‘cord-nevers’. Broadly speaking, OTT platforms are a boon to advertisers who could formerly only hope to make contact with a blanket TV ad strategy. With the advance reach and advanced targeting capabilities, sky’s the limit.

#4 Advanced attribution: Gone are the days of hoping and wondering for advertisers. OTT advertising can provide attribution in a way that broadcast and linear TV never could. OTT advertisers can now use pixel-based tracking from multiple devices to determine website or product page visits by a potential customer. You can also gauge the time spent on the website, any other clicks made, etc. to gather more actionable data.

#5 First look rights: OTT platforms have the option to provide first look rights to an advertiser. This allows an advertiser to circumvent the targeting restrictions that inherently come with programmatic ad buying and brings several advantages. Now not only do the advertisers get access to top quality content, they can also strategically distribute ads to particular platforms and publishers. This way advertisers don’t have to see a large portion of an advertising campaign go to a single outlet in order to complete an impression campaign.

Which type of VOD is faring well in the current OTT market

SVOD and AVOD are the two most common OTT subscription models found currently with their own place on the market. Advertising is the prevalent revenue model. However, that is going to change as of 2021, 54% of OTT brands plan to change their business models to appeal to a wider range of viewers, with an additional 22 % considering it. Two-thirds of OTT brands are now transitioning to a hybrid monetization approach.

Thus, the best model any publisher can go for is the Hybrid VOD monetization model. It brings the best of both SVOD & AVOD and more.

AVOD expenditure for TV episodes and movies will climb by 144% between 2020 and 2026 to reach $66 billion across 138 countries. AVOD has the highest revenue share of the OTT market of all monetization models. But this revenue fluctuates from season to season and proves to be worse for overall user experience. However, the

AVOD monetization model has a lower barrier of entry and is easier to set up and isn’t dependent on audience size like SVOD.

The SVOD monetization model is excellent for those publishers who are looking for consistent revenue streams. If you have exclusive and premium content for users who are willing to pay for that content, then it becomes a win-win for all parties involved. However, SVOD has a very high entry barrier and is more challenging to set up. It might deter many who’d rather watch free content.

Read about the recent OTT trends and opportunities for current and new brands

Overall, publishers should test all the methods available and see what works for them since the better choice greatly depends on your content type and audience.

Best practices for OTT subscription billing

A good OTT subscription billing experience must deliver:

Time-to-market speed: OTT billing can also work as a medium for content promotion. However, publishers must create, test, and refine promotions rapidly without much IT intervention every time. This accelerates and improves the customer acquisition process.

Dynamic retention: OTT platforms have the leeway to manage entitlements of the customers to keep them connected to the content even in the event of temporary issues. This works well for a superior user experience rather than reducing retention from rigid entitlements.

Support for multiple currencies, languages, and payment options: Consumers love personalization. And what more they would love than seeing their language being used for transactions for their preferred payment method.

Scale and reliability: If you provide quality content and gain a large user base, you must always be prepared to handle large demands with quick turnarounds. A slow or difficult initial transaction drives customers away.

Robust finance, tax, and anti-fraud support: Consumers trust their credit and debit card details with you to provide them a seamless experience. Hence it becomes paramount that your billing solution should proactively screen for fraud along with providing a defined revenue and tax format.

Intelligence for continuous improvement: Have a proactive billing team who are always on the lookout for updated best practices for billing. This way you can benchmark yourself against other OTT providers and stay on top.

How OTT providers are implementing hybrid VOD monetization model

The first step towards implementing a hybrid monetization model is to identify the VOD monetization models that you want to combine. The next step is to identify your primary VOD monetization model and strategize how you are going to introduce the remaining models.

The final step, of course, is to build a multi-device, multi-platform OTT streaming solution that captivates your audience.

Some businesses like Disney+ are blending SVOD with TVOD. Disney+ costs about $X/month, but offers TVOD access to new films like Mulan. Another prominent example, Hulu blends AVOD and SVOD. Low-level subscribers pay a small fee to watch their programs with ad interruptions. High-level subscribers pay more, but get to watch with 0 ads. In this hybrid model, you can make some portion of the content library free-to-view with ads inserted, and lock the rest of the library for paying subscribers.

Discovery plus OTT platform

Looking at Hulu or Apple TV, for instance, both services offer a subscription (SVOD) model. However, you can watch videos with ads for free on Hulu, as an AVOD model. As for Apple TV, the service gives you an alternative to buy or rent movies and shows (TVOD).

Read: How to design an experience-based subscription model for your business

What are other content monetization opportunities available

Apart from the traditional OTT monetization models discussed earlier, content providers can find their own way of monetizing their content. Let’s discuss some of these opportunities below:

Live stream content pre-order

Content providers can put up live stream content for pre-order as soon as the feed is available at their end. This takes care of your marketing, audio & video monetization, and other crucial aspects in one go.

World renowned musician Kanye West hosted a listening event at a stadium in Atlanta for his much awaited music album, Donda. The event was attended by 42,000 fans who paid between $25-$100 per ticket. Not only that, the listening party was live streamed by Apple Music and watched by 3.3 million viewers – a record breaking number. Another such listening party for an updated version of the album recorded a whopping 5.4 million views and $4M in ticket sales. To top it off, the event recorded $7M in merchandise sales at the venue alone.

Crowdfunding & Donation

Some content becomes an instant hit among the people and they just keep coming asking for more. An independent movie or a short TV show, or a short video, it can be anything. You can use the popularity for your benefit by letting your end consumers donate for the next production budget.

Theater and OTT collaboration

Theaters were one of the worst affected businesses in the media industry during the pandemic. But this misfortune created a new opportunity for both theater and OTT players. Towards the end of the pandemic, a group of theater owners have begun to form a consortium and digitally broadcast content in theaters. Thereby theaters have now become experiential spaces for OTT consumption.

Content aggregation

Many up and coming OTT players like Aha TV, Hoichoi use content aggregation to provide off the shelf OTT content to their subscribers. They prepare a combined EPG for all channels and make revenue off the subscriptions for content that is not their own.

End-user wallet

Create a digital wallet for your end users where they can store credit points based on purchases. These users can buy, store, manage and spend their store credits to watch their favorite content anytime they want.

Restricted subscription access

Get restriction access certificates for certain geographically restricted globally popular content. Once you get them, you can allow the streaming of such content for an excess charge in the restricted geographies.

Content creation processes

It is not only the final product that earns money in OTT services. There are multiple monetization opportunities in content creation, content transformation (people use different cameras, aspect ratios etc. during shooting. They need to be synergized into a common format), content processing (adding subtitles, language overlay), content storage and retrieval.

What is new in OTT?

OTT primarily refers to sending content over-the-top or over the internet. OTT monetization models primarily refer to videos (SVOD, AVOD, TVOD). But increasingly there are new content formats gaining much prominence such as text and audio OTT.

Text OTT or OTT messaging refers to the phenomenon where OTT apps use the internet as a method to connect phone calls and send MMS and SMS messages. For example, iMessage, WhatsApp, and others allow users to send messages whenever the device is connected to the internet.

Audio OTT platforms deliver content over the internet to the consumer by procuring content from publishers/music labels/other distributors. The content is usually accessed through an independently hosted application. For example, Spotify, SoundCloud, iTunes, internet radio stations and podcasts.

Monetization of all these current content formats can be coined under new terms – SCOD, ACOD, TCOD – where C stands for Content.

Conclusion

As we are seeing a huge tectonic shift in consumption habits of global consumers, it presents an opportunity to every OTT provider, irrespective of their budget, size and industry. SVOD, AVOD, TVOD monetization models will likely continue changing and

weaving, so we can expect more new approaches to the rapidly developing OTT and CTV market.

The OTT market is inclusive of all publishers as long as they have a sufficient budget. Even if you are a small publisher, you should have no trouble getting a few advertising deals (e.g., with SpotX or Google ADX) to start monetizing and building your revenue stream. The only real hurdle to entering the market will be whether you have a large enough team to handle your development needs.

As the saying goes, a long journey begins with a small step; content providers must start with one monetization model that meets business needs and then gradually integrate other models. It enables you to keep a check on important things like customer experience and opens up multiple lucrative opportunities for audience engagement.

So many businesses have put their own unique spin on the OTT industry. We’re excited to see what combinations are dreamed up next.

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Media & Entertainment

How video streaming evolved for industries beyond media & entertainment

With the onset of the COVID-19, OTT and video streaming saw a surge like never before. This rise was attributed to a number of factors: the amount of time people spent at home, fewer avenues of entertainment, reliance on digital media for day-to-day interactions like business meetings, doctor consultations, online classes, and more. Video platforms also became a necessary means to fill the gap of human connections in people’s lives. According to a survey done by Limelight, in July 2020 over 89% of respondents used video to communicate, and over 50% used it daily.

Last year, video conferencing became one of the most critical tools for all kinds of businesses including Edtech, Retail, Healthcare, BFSI, etc. A cloud communications service provider based in the US saw an increase of 843% in the video minutes consumed by its users across domains, out of which Telehealth usage grew the most. The financial services and education sector also saw a significant spike in usage.

In our earlier article, we explored how the new-age LMS platforms are leveraging video streaming and creating innovative solutions across all their offerings – employee onboarding, partner training, customer education, employee training, and more.

‘’As enterprises continue to adopt technologies for remote learning and collaboration for employees, technology companies are amending their features and support. In the years to come, effective use of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, VR, adaptive learning approaches, gamification will increase in LMS.’’ Srinidhi Rao, Senior Vice President – Solutioning and Account Management, Robosoft Technologies

In another article, we outlined how the Retail industry is using video for customer acquisition, retention and engagement.

 

‘’Out of sight, out of mind,  is more pertinent than ever before.  Hence it is essential for retailers to use innovative approaches to remain on consumers’ radar. Videos play a crucial role in this as it’s a more visually engaging medium.’’ Jay Shah, Vice President, Pre-sales & Solutioning, Robosoft Technologies

OTT and video streaming have become a force to be reckoned with in an age when all the rules of engaging and communicating with customers have changed. In this article, we will outline how video streaming is being used in 5 key industries: Healthcare, FinTech, B2B SaaS, Real Estate, and Manufacturing.

Healthcare: Medical streaming becomes a powerful channel for medical professionals

Medical streaming in healthcare is a phrase that has a broad range of use cases. Starting from providing consultations to patients in remote places to supervising surgeries, live medical video streaming has seeped into every crevice of medical aid to simplify doctor-patient relationships. In response to the COVID-19, the Spanish health authorities implemented Telehealth services at the primary care level. In addition, some private health providers offered video consultations for the general public free of charge. For Vonage, a cloud communications service provider, overall video minutes used by its healthcare clients spiked by 727 percent from February to March last year. The major use cases where video conferencing was used were: telehealth apps providing remote consultations, therapy sessions, online staff training etc.

Even prior to the pandemic, usage of video in healthcare was already picking pace for video consultations, training, and more. Below are some key use cases of how the healthcare sector leverages video streaming:

Telemedicine: Telemedicine is a stream coined to make medical assistance reachable to a vaster population. Medical live streaming, though primarily used to provide consultations, has also been used to share knowledge, research, and equipment demos.

Remote Medical Scribes: Documenting medical records to keep track of patient history and other key details is important but also time-consuming if done by physicians manually. Thus, the medical community created scribes – a virtual medium where doctors outsource these clerical jobs to people offshore. Live streaming these details has cut down a great deal of time and increased work efficiency in hospitals. Apps like SmartMD helps physicians record their visits. While the app scribes notes directly into the patient’s chart, saving everyone time and getting the most out of your EHR.

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Virtual Training: Medicine is an ever-evolving field that needs its professionals to keep up with the catching technologies and other advances. Even practicing doctors are often in need of requiring brief training. Live streaming can help the medical community updated through e-learning options.

Surgeries: Surgeries that do not consist of a senior doctor in the place have been monitored through live video streaming and hold an interactive session to eliminate surgical risks. In some cases, surgeries have also been broadcasted to a larger audience as lessons to educate those who are in training.

Online Consultation: Live streaming consultations have given the patients a wider choice of good doctors, not only for treatments but also for attaining opinions on diagnosed problems. These online live streaming consultations in healthcare can be used to review prescribed medicines, treatments, and other medical records such as scans and X-rays. This feature has vastly enhanced the experience of medical assistance and has also cut down on patient wait time as they do not go to meet doctors in real-time.

Last year owing to the pandemic, many hospitals and health systems launched and expanded telehealth programs in a matter of days. In response to the quick demand in access, HHS healthcare began leveraging platforms such as FaceTime and Zoom for virtual visits covering a wide range of conditions, from urgent care, primary care check-ups, medication follow up and COVID-19 screenings. Owing to the increased usage of video streaming services healthcare providers like Aetna Healthcare, UnitedHealthcare, Humana also starting including telehealth in their reimbursements.

Fintech and BFSI: Video-based content to acquire, engage and retain customers

BFSI and FinTech sectors can leverage the power of video streaming to not just engage with customers but also help them use their products and services with ease. According to a report from Accenture, 48% of US millennials would like their banks to offer video banking.

Here’s how the video streaming is being leveraged in this sector:

Video Banking: As physical branches become less relevant banks are upgrading their digital channels and introducing innovative methods to communicate and connect with their customers. Video Banking is one such innovation, which helps bridge the human-interface gap. For instance, LiveBank offers Virtual Branch Banking for the banking sector. It is an omnichannel communication and collaboration hub for banks that aggregate all communication channels like text chat, video, and audio. LiveBank provides retail banks secure and friendly contact channels for its clients.

Reducing the processing time: the BFSI sector is using video streaming to simplify the paper-based processing of loans, accounts, etc. Ping An, a wealth management company based in China reduced the loan application time to 6 minutes with the face recognition feature of Live Bank. At Robosoft, we partnered with a leading insurance company for the integration of Robosoft’s Video Chat solution to support online claim surveys for motor insurance. The integration of Video Chat solutions helped to personalize the digital interactions between the claim managers and customers and eased the claims process.

Making BFSI more inclusive: SignVideo, a British Sign Language (BSL) video interpreting service, was used by Lloyds to make their customer service more inclusive by making video an integral element of their customer services operations. Similarly, Santander UK and HSBC also use SignVideo to make their services more inclusive.

Better customer service: In a survey done by Accenture, more than half of survey respondents expressed an appetite for a true omnichannel banking experience that would allow them to switch seamlessly between physical and digital channels. In a post-COVID world where physical interactions are limited, channel innovations such as video conferencing, virtual reality, and chatbots can bridge the gap of face-to-face interactions.

“Video banking shows customers that behind the bank, there is something. There are people that can actually help you. It’s not like talking to a machine, it’s like talking to a real person.” Grzegorz Młynarczyk, vice president of virtual banking services provider LiveBank

Video-based marketing: 85% of businesses use video as a marketing tool, and of those, 88% of marketers report getting a positive return on their investment. Furthermore, videos can be more engaging learning tools than other forms of content. Service and product offerings in the BFSI and FinTech sectors can be complicated. Videos enable businesses to distill complicated concepts into a short, digestible format and to tell a story that showcases even the most complex technology. Customers can visualize how a product or service can solve their challenges, even ones they may not have known they had.

 

An example of video simplifying a complex FinTech solution for its customers can be this video from Crypto Arbitrager, a Fintech enterprise that enables investors to make money on the difference in rates of cryptocurrencies: bitcoin and litecoin. The fintech solution video shows how Crypto Arbitrager allows you to profit from exchange rate differences.

B2B SaaS: Embracing the power of video across the sales funnel

B2B marketers have found that video content is more effective than written content. 59% of senior executives said they’d rather watch a video than read an article. Videos can play an important role throughout the sales funnel leading to conversions.

‘’Video marketing, especially for SaaS companies, involves utilizing video through the funnel to attract, convert and delight customers” Ed Laczynski, CEO of Zype

Video isn’t just for marketing anymore; it can play an influential role in the sales process now. The introduction of sales video platforms like Vidyard’s GoVideo and Wistia’s Soapbox has made it easy for sales reps to integrate video from their very first approach email.

These videos can be of various types – product demos, customer training videos, personalized videos embedded in email marketing campaigns, etc. Some examples to take a note of are:

Product explainer videos: Finalsite is a B2B SaaS company with more than 20 products and each one has a product video lasting under 60 seconds. PrecisionLender does a great job of addressing the key product questions in short 90 seconds videos.

Personalized sales videos: The Angle, a B2B tech marketing company used Wistia’s Soapbox to create a personalized video to promote a blog post. The video can be easily shared by the sales team in their emails to engage with the prospect.

Customer testimonials videos: Slack, produced this fun, two-minute video to tell the story of how the company’s platform improved Sandwich Video’s productivity. The video answers the main questions of any good testimonial video addressing the key concerns of decision-makers like quantifying the impact the product has made, product features, and more.

Real Estate: Video-streaming changing the rules of real estate purchase

The buying process in the real estate industry has evolved and Real Estate companies are using new-age technologies to engage with buyers throughout the buying cycle. At Robosoft, we partnered with one of the leading real estate development companies of UAE to create a mobile platform that can help buyers keep a track of their property-related transactions and create an engaging experience throughout the journey of home buying to living. We also worked with a service realty solutions organization that helps manage real-estate for private individuals, landlords and investors. We partnered with the client to create an aggregator web solution for landlords and tenants, for their property management requirements. From looking for a property to managing transactions and legal documents – digital has become a critical element.

Videos can help real estate enterprises engage with their customers better. Various ways in which the Real Estate sector leverage videos are: Virtual tours of the property, provide agent profiles to gain buyer’s trust, educational videos helping buyers learn more about the complex concepts surrounding the housing market like subprime mortgages, depreciation, and foreclosure, etc.

Tools like  BeLive.tv can help real estate enterprises to take interested buyers or agents on a virtual or remote tour of the house. Another type of video that the real estate sector can use is creating 360 views like Google Street through imaging equipment like Matterport 3D equipment, which is an enhanced imaging software. This camera does a high-res scan of every room in the house and creates a virtual, immersive, 3D experience.

Manufacturing: Customer education to process training videos are simplifying the manufacturing landscape

According to a Video Benchmarking report by Vidyard, High Tech, Professional Services & Media, and Entertainment & Publishing are the top three industries for video production. Manufacturing also ranks high on the list at number eight.

The manufacturing industry is leveraging videos as a powerful tool to show their customers, and investors, how the processes inside their factories work. For example, Rocket International, a national distributor of packaging supplies and equipment, put together a video that showcases the machinery that can be added to a line to place a carry handle to packaging. Similarly EVS Metal – a leading provider of end-to-end metal fabrication and manufacturing services gives a factory tour video that allows their buyers to see the size, conditions, capabilities, and products and services available at EVS Metal.

Another important use case of videos in the manufacturing industry is Process Training. Process training is an integral part of the manufacturing industry and videos are ideal to demonstrate step-by-step instructions that are useful for teaching the operation of a tool, product, or procedures. These how-to-videos pertaining to manufacturing are a better alternative to reading bulky manuals on the process because they provide visual stimulants that are easy to remember.

For the employer, these process videos reduce the time and resources spent on training employees how to carry out a process, while decreasing the learning curve for employees.

The manufacturing industry is also using immersive videos with AR/VR technologies for process tours, training, ensuring safety, and more. For instance, At the UK’s Eggborough Power Station K, tech companies Arithmetica and Transmission TX partnered to create an immersive VR training experience for workers at the power station, which delivers coal-fired power and biomass conversion. The VR experience simulated a real-life hazardous environment, providing a 360-degree video experience via consumer-friendly and fully available Samsung Gear VR headsets.

Ford, which outfits its employees with VR experiences to simulate the construction of upcoming models in its plants, years before the cars start rolling out of the warehouse doors. The intent of this VR application is to encourage workers to create the tools and processes they need in order to create a safer production environment. The introduction of VR in the manufacturing process resulted in an injury reduction rate of 70 percent.

In conclusion:

OTT and video streaming market is growing, while the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this pace, the adoption was already underway. Industries beyond media & entertainment are leveraging video streaming for higher engagement with their customers. Be it educating the customers, communicating with them, or engaging with them – videos have become a critical aspect of strengthening the customer experiences. Additionally, videos are also helping in employee training, communication within enterprises, and more.

At Robosoft, we have the width and depth of experience crafting OTT and video app solutions. Our solutions are anchored on multiexperiencean approach focused on customer journey – providing multi-sensory, multimodal, and seamless experiences. We have partnered with several brands in crafting OTT solutions that have captivated users and delivered business growth through a combination of cutting-edge product strategy, UI/UX, and engineering services.

Know more about our OTT and video app solutions here.

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Multiexperience: the imperative for every CXO for 2021 and beyond

‘People buy from those who they trust’ is an adage that is timeless both in the offline and online world. Whether it is the familiar neighborhood store or an enterprise in the online world, earning consumer trust has always provided an edge – helping in customer retention and loyalty.

The trust factor came into play even more so in 2020 which has been tumultuous, to say the least. The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of people and enterprises alike in a manner we never imagined or prepared for. While several industries have been adversely affected (e.g. restaurants, amusement parks, cinema halls) many others have benefited. Digital banking, fintech services, streaming video services, EdTech, online delivery are some of the categories which have seen usage surge in 2020. The one factor which binds all the brands we turned to during this time has been the trust and familiarity factor.

As mentioned by McKinsey, particularly in times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on his or her sense of trust and loyalty. They go on to say:

‘Now is also the time for customer experience (CX) leaders to position themselves at the forefront of the longer-term shifts in consumer behavior that result from this crisis. Keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovating to redesign journeys that matter to a very different context will be key.’

Years ago, the proliferation of digital platforms, channels, and devices led to the concept of multi-channel experience – which essentially meant presence across multiple channels. It was essentially a checklist approach of presence across digital platforms.

It later progressed to omnichannel – when such brand experiences were ‘connected’ across channels. Banks and retail enterprises were among those leading the call for such omnichannel experiences as can be seen by their efforts to have a presence through a physical store or branch, a website, and a mobile app. Starbucks and Disney are among the many brands which aced the omnichannel strategy.

Beyond omnichannel – the multiexperience advantage

As devices, platforms, and technologies proliferated over the years, consumer habits, dependencies, and expectations changed too. In order to address these changes effectively, Gartner proposed a change in mindset, espousing multiexperience as a new approach.

It calls for a customer journey-centric approach providing multisensory, multimodal, and seamless experiences. It calls for crafting seamless and native experiences across an increasing number of touchpoints – whichever mode the customer is comfortable with. It could be voice, chatbots, personal assistants, wearables, and augmented or virtual reality. In simple terms, multiexperience is taking the brands or products where the customers are and allowing them to engage as part of their user journeys.

The key is to get all this done without friction and using that platform, touchpoint, or interactions feature to the maximum benefit. At a glance, the difference between multichannel, omnichannel, and multiexperience would look like this:

Beyond omnichannel - the multiexperience advantage

The critical difference is the consistency of the digital experience and the seamless handover from one device to another mode, without the hassle of starting off all over again. Dennis Maloney, Chief Digital Officer at Domino’s Pizza said:

“What’s the easiest way to order? When you don’t have to do anything.”.

Domino’s Pizza’s ‘Anyware’ platform allows users to order in 11 different ways – from voice assistants to smart TV. The focus is on letting the consumer do less to place an order and from as many devices and modes as possible.

Domino’s Pizza’s

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Another example of such a seamless experience is being planned on Google Maps which was hitherto only seen as a navigation aid. Today, it is being re-imagined as a means to gather information such as cab fares, show real-time ‘crowdedness’ information, and live food delivery status.

Multiexperience also requires backend applications to be micro-services enabled so that re-usable components are created to make them digital-ready. The microservices architecture is based on a collection of interconnected services. They are easier to build and maintain, and focus on business capabilities while enhancing productivity, speed, and scalability.

Why multiexperience? Winning the two big wars.

‘Change is the only constant’ maybe a cliche but never has the pace of change been so accelerated as in the digital age. Who would have thought that several industries would be upended when technology and great customer experience come together? Fintech, utility services, food delivery, aggregators across taxi services, and more have benefitted from fulfilling customer needs through great digital experiences.

These developments have forced legacy brands across segments to re-look at their business model and customer experience. Product or service parity is common across categories leaving little or no room for real, meaningful product differences. The only edge very often is customer experience. And as we live in an experience economy, this becomes core to a business strategy and not just limited to optimizing technologies or user experience.

At Robosoft, we recently crafted a multiexperience OTT platform for Discovery+. Viewers are evolving and methods of consuming content are fast changing. Brands today are constantly battling for user attention and time. This combined shift in the OTT space led us to the creation of a unified and effortless experience for Discovery Plus. With users owning more than one device, the goal was to design and deliver a consistent experience across devices, regardless of where the user starts, continues, and ends the journey.

Multiexperience OTT platform for Discovery+

The other big war afoot is the one to win consumer’s trust. In the digital world, it is said that winning consumer’s attention is important. But I would argue that beyond mere attention, enterprises should strive to win consumer trust – as that is what leads to retention and consumer loyalty. Design can play a role in retaining customers, especially in businesses where subscription and repeat purchases are critical.

In the post COVID world, it is imperative that CXOs embrace the multiexperience mindset and craft effortless and seamless experiences that enable customer delight and win their trust.

This article was originally published at Linkedin Pulse under my LinkedIn handle – Ravi Teja Bommireddipalli

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Key factors to consider while designing an OTT platform in 2021

The script of the media and entertainment sector is getting re-written, as the content consumption patterns of consumers see a tectonic shift in a post COVID world. While the gradual move of consumers towards OTT mediums was already underway, the lockdowns, need for social distancing, dearth of other entertainment avenues accelerated this momentum.

The average time spent on subscription OTT and Video-on-Demand content in the US alone has risen by 23% from last year.

As viewership skews towards OTT, more and more media and entertainment players are launching their OTT platforms. According to a recent Research Dive report, many digital media and broadcast providers have stepped up their efforts to build new channels for consumers to access different types of content. We recently partnered with the leading infotainment brand Discovery, to launch their OTT platform Discovery+ for the Indian market. The app received close to 3 million downloads within just 4 months of its launch.

With existing OTT players stepping-up their game with richer content, personalized experience, and more, the new entrants have stiff competition ahead. In this article, we will outline the factors that will help enterprises build a successful OTT platform.

Key factors to consider while creating a successful OTT platform

The journey of any digital product development starts from understanding the users’ needs and pain points, ideating on a solution that will address these needs, and finally developing a user and business-centric product.

In this article, we will outline the journey of creating an OTT platform in two phases: (a) Research & prototyping and (b) Execution & implementation.

Getting started – Competitor Research, User Research & Prototyping

At Robosoft, we use the principles of Design Thinking to create user-centric experiences – which start from empathizing with and understanding the users. In that context, user research and competition research become critical aspects to understand the business and customer requirements.

1. Competitor research

With the deluge of OTT platforms, it becomes important to understand the competitive landscape. This will not only help in outlining features that already exist and work but will also help in avoiding the shortfalls of other platforms. Knowing the competition is also critical to offer something better and unique and gain a competitive advantage.

For instance: in OTT platforms – ‘Add to Watchlist’ or ‘Like’ is a common feature. However, just trying to replicate the same model is insufficient. In order to create the differentiator, we need to delve deeper into the world of ‘favoriting’ and what makes the user want to add a particular content to a list

In this instance, some of the key aspects we need to understand about what is already being offered can be:

  • The value of a watchlist and how it works
  • UX flows – how to keep the viewer moving forward while making it quick and easy
  • How to help viewers feel smart and put their mind at ease
  • How to improve the disadvantages & limitations.

An understanding of such factors will help in creating a differentiation in UX, even while offering the same features.

OTT platforms

We kept such in mind when we built the Discovery+ app, ‘Continue Watching, Favorites & Watch Later’ features were added. Once the user likes or favorites something, they get a notification for similar content or new episodes and populates the home screen basis the user’s likes/favorites.

2. User research & prototyping

To design user-centric experiences, understanding users is critical. One of the most important stages of user research is creating Empathy Maps that enables design and development teams to chart out users’ motivation and pain points. In the context of OTT platforms, user research can help to derive the below expectations of users:

Expectations from an OTT platform: as a user

  • see value in what is offered before making a decision.
  • keep moving forward while watching content; it can be shifting from one episode to another or an alternate movie or series after a season.
  • seamlessly navigate through the platform or complete their journeys (e.g. from logging in to paying).
  • feel self-reliant or empowered and have their minds at ease while using the platform.

Prototyping

Once both competitive and user research is done, the findings can help in creating a high, medium, or low fidelity prototype of the proposed solution. Prototyping is the stage where a representative model is built to validate its viability and experience. It can help in testing various features and get quick feedback from users and iterating the solution accordingly. Keeping the final outcome in mind is the most important aspect of this stage.

For example: while testing a new live racing experience for GCN’s (Global Cycling Network) VoD app, our team had the below goals in mind and created flows to evaluate them accordingly:

Goals for user research

  • Identify any aspects that might cause the user to abandon the viewing experience.
  • Understand which aspects provide value and which do not.
  • Gauge how the sports enthusiasts feel about such a feature.
  • Explore how easy it is to navigate across the journey.
  • Understand the sports enthusiasts mindset and expectations to subscribe for such a feature.

The feedback ranged from excitement for the feature to quick suggestions on how we can improve the prototype. This helped us to build faster and build something that the cyclists and cycling enthusiasts will expect from the platform.

Execution and implementation

1. UX of content

With the proliferation of content on the OTT platforms, the challenge for OTT players is to ensure an easy experience. The faster and easily users can get to the content they like, the more likely they are to stay on. Some of the factors that help in this are:

  • A clear segregation of the content types: since content is key on OTT platforms, the experience to discover and view the content has to be delightful and seamless. Clear segregation of content types helps in this aspect.
  • Different treatment of content categories: live content and VoD content (VOD – Shows, Movies, or clips).

  • Easing the content discovery journey by defining clear navigation to browse content and finding what to watch and creating clear sections for premium, short-form content.UX of content
  • Clear categorization by language, type of content (Movies, TV Shows, genres, audience segments).

UX of content

2. Design System

As designs evolve, OTT players will need to think about building thoughtful design systems. A well-defined design system can help create well-designed user-centric digital products. While colors and typography play an important role, how the interfaces are built help to tell the whole story. This is where the Atomic Design system comes into play.

In an Atomic Design, interfaces are made up of smaller components. This means the entire interface can be broken down into fundamental building blocks and built up from there.

For example: for Discovery+, we created the design from scratch using the Atomic Design system to build a unified and consistent design that is scalable.

3. Personalized User Experience

In the digital era, users expect a personalized experience from all their digital interactions. Here are a few ways in which OTT players get their personalization game right:

AI-powered recommendation engine

Building a robust recommendation engine is the key aspect of creating a personalized user experience. More than 80 percent of the TV shows people watch on Netflix are discovered through the platform’s recommendation system. Netflix uses machine learning and algorithms to help go beyond viewers’ preconceived notions and find shows that might not have been their first choice, but they will like. The data that Netflix feeds into its algorithms can be broken down into two types – implicit and explicit.

Examples of ‘explicit data’ will be giving a thumbs up for a show. ‘Implicit data’ is behavioral data; for instance, if a viewer binged on a show and completed watching it in two nights, the engine understands that behaviourally. The majority of useful data is implicit.

AI-powered recommendation engine

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Personalized upsell and retention packages

Today’s subscribers want services that are personalized at every stage of the experience from sign-up to discovery, viewing, and renewals. Thus, personalization should permeate beyond content and include the entire user journey on the app. Today a user is constantly toggling between multiple devices while accessing the platform. Developers will need to take into account data from these sources to notify the user about the upsell and the renewal offers. That also includes giving the user the power to make choices.

Device management is another aspect of creating a personalized experience. Allowing users to choose multiple devices, streaming quality options, renewal options tailored to their choices, etc. can help in elevating user experience and ensure retention.

Personalized upsell and retention packages

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4. Elevating user experience through easy navigation

Even if an OTT platform has an awesome content library, if users find it difficult to navigate through it they will abandon the app. According to a research, 80% percent of users uninstall an app due to a bad user experience. Here are a few factors that lead to a great user experience:

Easy onboarding and simplifying the journey

It is critical to make the onboarding process quick and easy. In that context, app owners should only ask for essential personal details and permissions and stick to the key features and UI elements that are absolutely necessary.

Tech-savvy users might not want to be hand-held through the onboarding process. In that context, giving users the option to skip becomes a critical aspect. In fact, music video streaming app Vevo found that adding a skip option to their onboarding flow increased logins by nearly 10%.

Preview app content

Another way to speed up the process and make the onboarding process quick and interesting is to allow users to experience the app before asking them to sign up or taking them on a product tour. Hotstar previews popular content and lists membership benefits on the very first screen — and they feature a prominent free trial button. Going one step ahead – Netflix now lets users turn off autoplay previews. That means videos and movies won’t begin to play trailers or video clips as they are looking for something to watch. Users can turn it off on every device at once.

Preview app content

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5. Intuitive UI and simplified viewing experience

Intuitive UI simplifies every aspect of the process. In the case of OTT platforms, it is important to not just simplify the process of discovering content but also watching. Some key features to get that right are:

  • Giving the flexibility to switch on-and-off the subtitles option.
  • Information about the quality of video and data consumption.
  • Option to resume from where the user left off.
  • Quick and easy buttons for start, stop, rewind, fast forward.

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6. Building a multi-experience for users

Today viewers are consuming content on multiple devices. Seamless delivery of content on multiple devices is no longer an option for OTT players, it is mandatory.

While building the Discovery+ platform, the goal was to design and deliver a consistent experience across devices, regardless of where the user starts, continues, and ends the journey.

Building a multi-experience for users

Casting to a larger screen is another opportunity that can enhance user experience and help in driving the value for viewers. The Discovery+ app has the casting feature which is an easy way of connecting web, tablet, and mobile to a TV. The feature allows users to enjoy a big-screen experience with family and friends.

Another important aspect of adding value to users’ on-the-go viewing experience is by giving control of watching content at their convenience without the limitation of internet speed. In that case, the option for downloading the video for watching later enables the user to engage with the app and the content they like whenever they want.

Offline Mode

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7. Subscription models

A subscription model provides predictable and recurring revenue for a long-term engaged user base. Subscription strategies allow OTT platforms for price diversification, accommodating a broader, diversified income group of users over a fixed ‘one-price-for-all’ model. However, it is critical to choose a subscription model that fits the requirements of the viewers. For instance, most broadcast players getting into OTT have a yearly and monthly plan with free trials or free access to regular content. On the other hand, established players like Netflix will have subscription models that are only yearly or monthly.

On Discovery+ the subscription model that was built-in was ‘free unlimited access to regular content’. However, to view premium content, an additional fee is charged. On Global Cycling Network, users can buy a monthly or yearly race pass to get unlimited access to the best cycling content.

Subscription models

8. Easy Payment gateway integration

With a plethora of payment options available, making this step easy is important. Major OTT apps accept payments through credit or debit cards, digital wallets, and real-time payment systems where available. Further, these platforms bill users every month on the same day making the payment cycle easy.

9. Push notifications

Push notifications are an essential part of the user experience and can ensure continuous engagement with viewers. However, badly done push notifications can also lead to users abandoning the app. According to a survey, 71% of all app uninstalls are triggered by a push notification. Here are a few factors to get push notifications right:

  • Make personalized and relevant to the user.
  • Sending notifications in the engagement windows and at the local time zone of the user.
  • Send actionable notifications to drive engagement.
  • Don’t send too many notifications in a short duration.

Push notifications

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In conclusion:

As OTT becomes increasingly popular, more and more entertainment and media firms will develop their own OTT platforms to engage with the viewers. While the variety and quality of the content will be important to acquire new viewers, UI/UX will play a decisive role in retaining them. In the future with newer technologies, we will see interesting innovations in the OTT sector, but a simple and delightful user experience will remain the most important factor that will define the success of any OTT platform.

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OTT Video in retail – the coming revolution

Covid-19 pandemic has caused rapid changes in consumer behavior across categories. Enterprises are striving to recognize this evolving consumer behavior and leverage digital to acquire, engage and retain customers.

In the last few months, US retail sales fell by 8.1% year-on-year – the worst decline since the financial crisis of 2009. In the UK, retail footfalls dipped by 32%, and India saw a 40% drop in consumer spending. Sectors that relied heavily on their physical presence – brick-and-mortar retail have been among the worst-hit sectors during this time.

On the positive side, online businesses have seen a surge in revenues. In the times ahead, the acceleration of e-commerce and the role of digital experiences through apps will be a defining factor in helping retailers connect with consumers to acquire a competitive edge. The outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of digitalization. A CNBC report mentions that 40% of consumers say they have increased or significantly increased their online purchasing.

A key component of the online purchasing has been the video platform.  Static images are giving way to streaming videos to better convey product and brand value.

Key benefits of video streaming for retail 

Out of sight, out of mind is more pertinent than ever before.  Hence it is essential for retailers to use innovative approaches to remain on consumers’ radar. Videos play a crucial role in this as it’s a more visually engaging medium. Let us look at some of the factors triggering the need for video streaming in retail:

Consumer demand drives the popularity of OTT

The lockdown of more than ¼ of the world’s population has propelled the usage of online streaming and entertainment services. In the US, OTT usage surged by 7.5% in April 2020 compared to the same month a year ago. And during the last year, the number of streaming services subscribers surpassed the number of cable subscribers and reached a number of 613 million. Disney+ has had a 75% rise in subscribers since early February. The Discovery+ app that Robosoft helped build has garnered close to 4.5 million installs. This rapid adoption unveils a need for a more human connect which a video meets better than static images or text.

Increasing penetration of smartphones, affordable high-speed data networks, demand for personalized experiences, rise in adoption of smart TVs, and devices such as Fire TV are some of the reasons behind the rise in demand for Video OTT services.

Relevance across categories and use cases

Video OTT is no longer a vertical medium confined to the media and entertainment domain. It is now a horizontal technology that can be integrated into various industries like – education, healthcare, and retail, amongst others. Fortune Business Insight cites Medical Aid and Educational platforms as significant contributors to growth in the streaming video market propelling it to USD 842.93 billion by 2027.

A new format of the familiar – TV home shopping re-invented

The TV channels, as we know it, had a slew of video channels showcasing products.  However, the call to action to close the purchase loop was left to consumers calling up a number as there was no easy way to complete the purchase on the TV channel. The OTT technology in retail enables the best of both the worlds: the engagement of TV and the interactivity to explore options, make desired selections at own convenience and importantly place order and make the payment. Recently, the world’s largest air conditioner maker, Gree, sold 44 million USD worth of merchandise on Kuaishou, China’s leading short-video and live-streaming social platform.

Bring alive both the product and in-store experience (Video OTT for Brand promotion and Advertisement)

We have all experienced the gorgeous presentations of products in categories such as food, consumer goods, luxury, etc on the TV channels, evoking an emotion – a desire. Such experience is partially carried forward on social media platforms such as Instagram. According to Forrester, Instagram ads have the highest engagement rate of all digital ad placements. Several categories where visual appeal (food, apparel, interior decor) matters have taken advantage of the format. Video OTT adds a dimension of interactiveness and convenience to this.

Combined with AR/VR, it gives organizations the tool to bring the in-store experience to the digital channel rather than being merely a catalog of static images. In India, jewelry brand Tanishq has clocked a sales of USD 10.3mn in two months during the recent lockdown period through video calls and Whatsapp chats. Now imagine the brands in the retail domain across categories generating similar uptick in revenue using the OTT channel.

Taking a cue from this trend, in July this year, Google launched Shoploop, a video shopping platform for discovering, evaluating, and buying products, all in one place. Similarly, there have been more online video-based shopping apps that have been launched recently – for e.g. YEAY is the first app where products are sold solely through video. Bulbul is another – online Video Shopping app that is from India.  Enhancing the online shopping experience further, Dutch Cheese Merchant Kaan lets online customers order artisanal cheese and interact with staff in real-time as if they were actually inside the shop. A setup like Kaan’s Stream Store could fill the missing human element into the often impersonal experience of shopping online.

Foster customers relationships and build loyalty

This is also the time for brands to build a stronger connection with their consumers by personalizing and humanizing their experiences. Videos can help bring the human-connect in the consumer’s shopping experience that is beyond ‘click and buy’.

According to a recent report from Mckinsey, the specialty-apparel and department-store retail channels have already reached peak promotional frequency online, so it will be difficult for brands to break through with clear, differentiated offers that stand out from competition. As the holiday season nears, shoppers will be bombarded with messages about flash sales, BOGO deals and so on which will be lost among a sea of similar emails and digital ads. Retailers will have to re-evaluate their strategies to stand out and Video streaming used effectively can help do that.

Don’t just communicate – engage and entertain – ‘Shoppertainment’

A PWC report suggests that consumers are 50 percent more willing to try new brands at this time. And consumers are spending more time on social media and online streaming platforms. This is a great opportunity for brands to recognize this changing consumer behavior to further their leadership position using Video OTT. Strategies include connect with consumers with effective storytelling strategies using live streaming, influencer marketing, AR/VR, 3600 videos, and more.

Videos and live streaming will prove to be an effective tool to leverage the power of social media and get more buyers, for instance, Be.Live the video streaming format has seen a 70x increase in the number of customers using its live shopping feature. Similarly, Alibaba’s Taobao Live live streaming platform has surged.

The younger generation expects more engaging shopping experiences. Leveraging this trend large retailers are already leading the charge with interactive video. For example, Fandango’s streaming service Vudu has been investing in shoppable ads to uplevel their platform’s e-commerce capabilities. Alibaba has tapped into streaming platform Bilibili to leverage anime video content and get in front of new audience segments.

Further, according to Taobao (Alibaba), there were 400 million users watching its 60,000-plus Livestream shopping shows in 2019. The Livestream channels, hosted by brand stores or influencers, generated 200 billion yuan ($28 billion) last year. Shanghai Fashion Week in late March was fully live-streamed on it: viewers could pre-order the clothes the models were wearing on the catwalk, as well as buy pieces from the designers’ existing collections.

Shorten the buying cycle, optimize costs and expand revenue streams

Video medium could help in shortening the buying cycles by making pertinent features of the product more evident and reduce the number of returns resulting from mistaken selection. Video OTT can also greatly facilitate product exchanges by providing a near live in-store experience. Recently, Galeries Lafayette in France used live video to help launch an exclusive Live Shopping service, where interaction with the store’s personal shoppers are made possible via video. Products can be chosen and confirmed by email with online payment, ready for either home delivery or Click & Collect.

Smaller retailers are also jumping the bandwagon using video platforms to reconnect with their customers. The number of merchants using it for the first time grew by 719% from January to February. Sarah Akram a master aesthetician and founder of Sarah Akram Skincare, which caters to celebrities like Billy Porter and Zooey Deschanel moved to video format to offer virtual consultations and live skincare assessment through Instagram’s live feature.

The video medium has also opened several opportunities for B2C services as well. Shapermint a direct-to-consumer shapewear company recently began streaming live yoga practices, meditations, and home exercises as well as sessions on how to care for children while working from home.

Better analytics for delivering personalized experiences

Video-streaming platforms coupled with a digital backbone can remember customer interaction history and personalize their subsequent experiences. can offer detailed data reviews and analysis are available for a better brand and product sentiment and roadmap. Further, the data from these platforms can help in collecting qualified high purchase intention leads, allowing precise retargeting and remarketing. Roku launched a new shopper data program that is designed to improve targeting and measurement of TV advertising for CPG marketers, with Kroger Precision Marketing (KPM) joining as a launch partner. The information will help CPG marketers better target ads that run on Roku’s platform and tie ad exposure to online and in-store sales.

In conclusion:

While going back to normal may happen eventually, some shifts in consumer buying behavior may be permanent. Retailers are already shifting strategies and adapting to today’s current landscape. The pandemic turned more consumers into online shoppers across all categories. Retailers already believe that this could be the new normal. Given that, the audio-visual nature of streaming services will have a powerful impact on consumers as videos are the most engaging of visual media. Videos when done well and in a non-intrusive way can influence shoppers in their buying journey and help accelerate the purchase decision favorably.

Video platforms and live streaming will have a crucial role to play in the future because they offer a sense of community as well as entertainment — two things consumers are yearning for and two critical aspects of shopping. People buy things not just because they need them, but also because of the experience. Videos and live streaming have the potential to simulate a real-life experience, leading to a stronger brand association and hopefully a long-term relationship with consumers.

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