Connected TV: The Future of Content Discovery

by Foolproof

Connected TV brings along some marvellous opportunities for innovative new viewing experiences.

But, with the internet opening up infinite content choices, is the reality going to leave the viewer searching for a needle in a haystack to find something decent to watch? I popped along to ConnectedUK’s event on Platforms last week, looking for some answers…

In the June issue of Wired, the ‘Big Question’ posed to several leading players in Broadcast, Consumer Electronics and Content Production was ‘How will Television evolve over the next decade’. The majority responded very literally talking about big screens, multiple projectors, sleek design and cutting edge LED displays, with the odd anecdotal reference to gestural interfaces for good measure.

There was only one reference to how viewer behaviour and consumption habits will evolve. For those of us who are advocates of user experience, the opportunity for future Television consumption is around user driven innovation – not technology focused design.

The TV guide just isn’t gonna cut it

I was therefore pleased when attending ConnectedUK’s event on Platforms last week that this too didn’t transpire to be a monologue around technology, and that at the heart of some of the key speakers’ presentations were some interesting themes around user experience.

A few of the usual suspects bubbled to the surface; device shifting, the question of device dominance, interactive storytelling, personalised advertising experiences, fragmentation and so on.

The most interesting dialogue however seemed to be around the theme of content discovery. YouTube’s Ben McOwen Wilson (Director of Content Partnerships, EMEA) summed it up quite bluntly by saying ‘the TV guide is no longer going to cut it’ and highlighted that addressing the overabundance of content sits firmly at the heart of YouTube’s forward planning and strategy. Zeebox co-founder Anthony Rose, picked up on the same theme with an analogy between the surplus of connected TV content and iTunes – where most tracks get zero plays.

In terms of enhancing content discovery, Antony Rose and Ben McOwen Wilson had different approaches, indicating that innovation in this area could take multiple routes. 

From social sharing to channel surfing

Anthony Rose talked about the notable opportunities for content discovery being inherent in friends and servers. Nodding to Marc Zuckerberg and NetFlix, Rose highlighted that the road to richer discovery lies within peer recommendations or real-time notifications, as well as data-driven Amazon-esque content suggestions.

With 45% of video content already being discovered by YouTube’s audience through social sharing, McOwen Wilson spoke of more traditional discovery mechanisms as being the major opportunity for YouTube (‘browsing’ currently fuels only 6% of video discovery for YouTube). McOwen Wilson sees the future of content discovery lying in the creation of new video channels on YouTube, alongside an ability to create a customised guide.

The irony here is that as TV broadcasters are looking to innovate in content discovery mechanisms beyond the traditional ‘channel browsing’, video content platforms such as YouTube are moving in the opposite direction and seeing traditional channel surfing at the heart of future experiences.

As Channel 4 is on the verge of launching 4Seven, a new channel where programme and content selection is driven by social buzz – twitter, facebook and other forms of social media, it’s clear social remains at the top of the list for driving the future of content discovery.

Although clear patterns are emerging, innovation to date around discovery is not radical (well not yet). You can’t help thinking that the discerning anytime, anywhere, device shifting consumer will be looking for an experience that cuts through the glut of content choices to deliver the perfect match of content, scratching beyond the capability of discovery mechanisms known to date.

Serendipitous discovery

With Zeebox positioning itself as companion style experience, a vision of the future connected audience emerges where what you are watching, and how you decide what to watch are delivered through separate devices. Perhaps this marks the beginning of a new era of discovery-led experiences.

One thing is for sure, discovery mechanisms need to innovate quickly to respond to the content opportunities that connected TV provides. The ‘Big Answers’ around how will TV evolve in the future should be looking at shifts in digital experiences towards mood matching, geo targeting, concierge servicing and other mechanisms that nostalgically trigger relevant connections or new correlations. And of course, all with the serendipitous delight as if the consumer had simply stumbled across the content at the touch of a button.

Author: Lucy Willett.

What do you think?