Money down the drain: Why poor content discovery drives Pay TV and OTT subscribers to YouTube

The modern consumer's appetite for content is voracious, but their attention span is short. Many viewers prefer quick, digestible clips that deliver instant gratification. Short-form giants like TikTok and YouTube have capitalised on this desire with enormous success. That can sometimes be good news for Pay TV and OTT services: a short viral TikTok clip of your new flagship drama can generate buzz, encouraging more people to watch the full show with a positive impact on churn and new subscriptions. But the popularity of clips from your live, unscripted content may be telling you another story. It may reveal viewers are going elsewhere to see your content, bypassing your platform entirely. Is that because they can’t find the nuggets of gold hidden in your TV shows?

Take my own viewing habits for example. Like most motor racing fans living here in the Netherlands, I’m slightly obsessed with our Formula One World Champion Max Verstappen. I already know which streaming service is showing this season’s F1 races and it’s super easy to watch them live or on replay. The practice sessions are easy to find too. But what about the so-called “shoulder content” - all the related content that is available in addition to the main event itself?

Do you want to know how we tackle this problem? Read our case study with NLZIET here!

The importance of surfacing valuable “shoulder content”

How do I know whether Max was interviewed in the pit lane during warm-ups? And once I know that interview exists, how do I find it quickly from within the half hour of pre-race content? What about a feature in last week’s talk show with Max’s nutritionist or personal trainer about his fitness routine? Or a report on his sponsorship deals from a financial news show that I would never normally watch?

The reality is that I, like most fans, will only discover these clips on YouTube by searching for Max by name, or based on a social media recommendation. The TV channels that invested in this programming, and the pay TV platforms that aggregate those channels, surrender the business benefit of their own content to YouTube, TikTok or Instagram because they weren’t able to surface it to me themselves. These social platforms make it easy for me to find and consume bite-size, snackable content that’s tailor-made for mobile viewing and served-up up to me based on my proven tastes.

Now extend this concept to your own viewing habits. Maybe you want to keep up to date with all mentions of your favorite football team? Or find news about basketball in a sea of football coverage? Perhaps you’re a devoted follower of a particular actor, politician or subject area that is regularly featured on talk shows and other live, unscripted shows. Or you just want the latest on a developing news story. This content is valuable to viewers, and they want an interface that intuitively serves it up to them.

Imagine my delight if I was presented with clips of all the content that matters to me as soon as I login to your streaming service based on my previous viewing habits, a quick keyword search, or a one-time selection from a pre-configured list of interests. Not only have my viewer expectations been met, they’ve been exceeded. By helping me to find the content you’ve already got, you’ve increased my perception of value from my subscription (or got me to watch more ads) and I don’t feel the need to go elsewhere. Yet, most streaming services are failing to deliver this premium UX, driving fans to other platforms that do.

The challenge of inconsistent metadata in live, unscripted content

So what’s stopping most streaming services from achieving this next-level user experience? It’s the general lack of consistent, accurate and timely metadata for live, unscripted content. Talk shows, sports programming and news bulletins typically cover multiple different topics and personalities in one show. But the description shown in an OTT platform may be nothing more than “The latest news from your area” or “The best of today’s sporting action”. We don’t know Max Verstappen is mentioned, nevermind the timecode for when his segment starts and ends.

The challenge deepens for services aggregating live channels. Each arrives with varying levels of metadata. Some are rich with details, others far more sparse. This inconsistency muddles the content discovery process, as platforms struggle to uniformly index and recommend content, exacerbating the issue of undiscovered content. Most live, unscripted content currently goes untagged and unindexed, buried like hidden treasure in the vault without any descriptive metadata to guide the search algorithms. People love to watch it, but they just can’t discover it. When they search or browse, the platform draws a blank.

Overcoming the Live Content Dilemma with Data: Introducing Topic Distillery

Paying staff to input the metadata and mark timecodes is expensive and time consuming. It’s not a cost-effective or practical option on a multi-channel service where time is of the essence. Research suggests 60% of catchup viewing happens on the day of airing, of which 35% takes place within the first 15 minutes, so adding tags needs to be a rapid process. Doing it the next day is too late.

Media Distillery's Topic DistilleryTM addresses this precise challenge. It uses advanced AI to analyse video streams in real-time, identifying and tagging various elements from topics and themes to people and events. This award-winning technology doesn't just skim the surface; it understands the content on a deep level, creating rich metadata that was previously nonexistent. And it does it at scale, across multiple live shows and multiple TV channels so you can create the consistent user experience your consumers crave.

Viewers can search for and find specific segments within unscripted live programs. All the topics covered can be highlighted on the programme’s replay timeline, so the user can jump directly to the segments they care about, and enjoy personalised content recommendations that keep them engaged and less likely to seek alternatives. Here’s an illustration of how it can enhance the streaming UX:

The difference in UX with Topic Distillery

Award-winning, proven innovation with AI from Media Distillery

Our customer NLZIET has demonstrated the power of Topic Distillery to great effect in their streaming service. In fact, the implementation of Topic Distillery at NLZIET won both the UX and Content Discovery award and the title of Advanced TV Service of the Year at the VideoTech Innovation Awards 2022. Topic Distillery went on to be named Streaming Innovation of the Year at the Streaming Media European Innovation Awards.

Want to know more about how Topic Distillery works? Stay tuned for our technical blog coming soon! 

Loyalty, churn-reduction, growth: Three great reasons to try Topic Distillery

The benefits of improved content discovery extend far beyond the viewer experience, directly impacting a platform's bottom line. Enhanced search and recommendations and shorter browsing times lead to increased viewership, more time spent on the platform, and improved viewer loyalty. What’s more, you’re getting more mileage out of the content you’ve already paid for, instead of letting it go to waste in your vault. These are all key metrics in the streaming industry's battle against churn and for continuous growth. The choice for Pay TV and OTT platforms is stark: use the latest technology to evolve their UX and super-serve clip-hungry customers, or risk losing their viewers and share of revenue to more responsive social platforms.

Want to see the power of Topic Distillery for yourself? Schedule a demo

October 31, 2023

Published by:

Roland Sars