“OK, Google, what’s the latest on the Brexit?”

Imagine asking your TV, tablet or smartphone that question. Instead of a few websites and videos, it returns a series of broadcast-quality video clips in response. You are using your TV operator’s environment like a search engine to find your favourite celebrity or politician, catch-phrase or pop culture topic deep inside millions of hours of video. Rich, high-quality content is easy to access and find; it’s relevant and customized to your taste. You rely on it all the time. Could this be a not-too-distant future? At the moment, TV operators invest a lot of resources in providing valuable content to consumers. However, with the consumption of linear content in decline, winning eyeballs isn’t just about having all that content in one place. It’s also about making it accessible and personalized to meet consumer demands. Fortunately, tools are emerging to help TV operators in that area – new tech that they can leverage to capture and keep viewer attention.

Broadcast content could be capturing and keeping more eyeballs

The quality of broadcast content is so high, so varied, and the experience so immersive, that a TV environment should be the “place to be” for content. That’s not just true for big network flagship shows, but also for local content, like news or native-language detective series and soaps. But although TV content is evolving from live broadcast to OTT delivery and can be consumed on-demand, content via the EPG is presented much like it was in the days of linear. That no longer makes sense to today’s video consumers.

Consumers want convenience and this also holds true for TV content. They want to watch content when it suits them, find relevant content easily, and are quickly loyal to personalized playlists or “discover” lists, which they know from other apps, like Spotify and Netflix. Although some content is still likely to be viewed live, for the majority of programming, viewer tastes have changed. According to research performed by Ericsson, approximately 70% of viewers prefer on-demand and catch-up services over linear TV content¹.

Poor search and user experience: why consumers are turning away from TV environments

Meanwhile, in many TV environments, consumers are turning away because they can’t find what they’re looking for or access it in a way they want. Especially in a set-top box environment, search is clunky because of the remote control; interfaces are frustrating; and results are irrelevant because the engine doesn’t look inside the videos themselves. These tools rely on human input – incomplete synopses that necessarily can’t foresee all sub-topics in the video. In search engine terminology: they aren’t provided with the right meta-data.

To add to this, TV operators offer a lot of content – hundreds of TV channels, VOD assets and thousands of hours of replay TV – which turns into content overload. People default to just viewing the top TV channels, or worse, turn to competing platforms that offer a better experience.

On the other hand, they might also be in a hurry or interested in a specific topic. That means hitting the off button on long-form programs because they want a short and ‘to the point' content “snack”. In that case, they turn to video websites like YouTube. To address this, some video services offer clips by manually “cutting” linear content into VOD assets. However, this is an expensive and slow solution that doesn’t scale well.

Without providing consumers with better ways of searching, finding and accessing content, TV operators end up losing viewer attention and traffic.

“Here you go”: smart in-video search with voice assistant to see “what’s inside” video

Fortunately, recent technological developments can support operators in creating the kinds of experiences that will satisfy consumers with a smooth, friendly and personalized experience. What’s more, these tools can go beyond meeting consumer tastes and helping TV operators maintain a number of subscribers. They can create new innovative products to compete against other platforms and generate new sources of revenue for operators.

A voice assistant is the first part of the puzzle to solve the problem of the clunky interface and bad user experience. However, this will come across as “gimmicky” if not backed up by a truly advanced search engine for video.

To return relevant and personalized results, that kind of search engine will need to understand what a video is about. An advanced video search engine can extract meta-data using an AI that “reads” faces, speech, objects, logos and in-video text like visible words and subtitles. Based on this it recognizes topics and learns which is relevant to a user. That kind of relevant, meta-data enriched video search can take a voice assistant capability and turn it into a natural and intuitive way to find the content you are looking for.

Next, because this type of AI search reads and understands video, it can find, cut and present the content found as a series of short clips. Consumers today don’t follow TV channels or even programs anymore. They want to follow their favourite person or topic of interest. When short clips are available for them to browse, that pulls them into further topics or longer content.

Finally, AI-powered tech is discovering new ways of serving up recommendations, like Spotify’s ‘Daily Mix’ for video. With data at last year’s CES showing that 70% of viewing time on YouTube is spent on viewing recommendations², the commercial potential of creating a “sticky” broadcast environment for consumers is enormous.

With smart AI-search and recommendation tools backing a voice interface, TV operators can finally provide the immersive, personalized experience consumers have been waiting for. Beyond that, these tools can create new product offerings that will keep consumers in service providers’ TV environments.

The hearth of the home? Command central? To be continued…

Just a decade ago, cable television was the king of media, and was the central focus of attention in so many living rooms. Today, despite the high investment in quality content by TV providers, attention is being caught by other platforms meaning other subscriber and advertising channels.

As we move towards the sci-fi home of the future where talking appliances are the norm, it’ll be interesting to see how consumers respond to, for instance, a new breed of TV. One thing is certain though – the tastes we’ve developed online will need to be catered to everywhere. That’s where voice plus a killer search feature can return the TV environment to its spot as the first-choice “place to be” that viewers and advertisers just can’t help tuning into.

¹ Source: Ericsson ConsumerLab, “TV and Media 2017, A consumer-driven future of media” (2017)

² Source: YouTube's AI is the puppet master over most of what you watch

March 28, 2019

Published by:

Joost de Wit

Founder & Ex-CPO