The challenges of retaining serendipity and simplicity: IPTV & YouView

by Foolproof

The advent of Video on Demand (VoD) services such as iPlayer and 4oD has revolutionised TV. Traditionally TV has been a passive consumption experience, where content is pushed out via schedules carefully tailored by broadcasters to the tastes and mood of the audience watching at a particular time.

More change is yet to come with the advent of connected TV (CTV) such as the high profile YouView. CTV is essentially the next generation of freeview; the merging of Digital TV, VoD, PVR and Web Apps.

Some describe YouView as “genuinely market leading”, others claim that despite the opportunity the current fragmented experience presents, by 2012 the market will be very saturated (NMA, 2011).

As the diagram below shows YouView is not the only contender, CTV can come in many forms; a set top box, similar to those used by IPTV companies such as Sky, directly into the TV or via a games console.

"The current and connected TV landscape - Connected TV as the “Pay TV platform without the Pay”

As TV becomes more interactive, the challenge is now to ensure that what is great about TV is not lost. The flexibility of viewing and sheer volume content available has already proven hugely popular, allowing a more personalised experience, where views can watch what they want when they want to.

So I went to hear what Bill Scott (Easel TV) and Marc Goodchild (BBC IPTV) had to say at the recent Bristol Media Innovation Academy event; IPTV & YouView – What’s in it for us?

“The most important consideration is to retain the serendipity and simplicity of the TV. Consumer habits are slow to change and whilst, over time, people may get more used to interacting with their TV, the default viewing mode is to sit back and watch. The user experience is very different to the web on a PC.” Bill Scott.

Bill proposed a solution of “suggested discovery”, replacing the linear broadcast schedule with a personalised suggested playlist generated using a combination of viewer and social trending data. Rather than relying on search boxes and keyboards.

He also explained how the rise of online viewing may result in ‘disintermediation’ of the broadcasters as advertisers pay content producers directly or third party aggregation services which enable users to bypass channels. This reduction in the position of power of broadcasters could negatively impact on advertising revenue disrupting the whole commissioning model.

However, Bill believes that the knowledge of their audience that Broadcasters possess and the resultant trust users place in the Brands (channels) to meet their entertainment needs will remain an important factor. CTV will also mean that for the first time brands will be able to uniquely identify viewers. When this is combined with the potential of CTV to provide a more personalised and engaging TV and advertising experience, by drawing on valuable unique viewer data, brands could potentially demand more for advertising slots.

So in line with what YouView bosses and partners claim in the recently published NMA Cover story: Delays risk making YouView 'irrelevant' (Feb, 2011), it seems clear that the key to it’s success is to turn a complex technology product into a simple, transformational and opportunistic user experience, to consumers and advertisers alike.

Nevertheless, “Interactive TV” has actually been around for a while, as Marc reminded us with his insightful overview of the lessons learnt from developing BBC red button experiences. The great challenge now for the UX industry is to start to define what a great user experience is when TV finally becomes truly interactive.

What do you think?