The Battle for the Living Room

TV viewing has dramatically changed over the past few years. New companies, new formats, new devices and new subscription models have all impacted what we can only very loosely still call ‘TV viewing.’ At a recent evening organised by MTM, we heard some of the brightest and the best from Sky, BBC, YouView and Google debate how our beloved googlebox experience may change even more over the next decade.

The biggest changes we can expect are around data, voice search, the user experience and ultimately the battle for YOUR living room.

Firstly, the opportunity with data is huge, and TV content providers are only just getting started. Everyone has taken note of the success Netflix had, and they are looking to improve the user experience through data to understand and personalise the viewing experience. This makes the EPG critical. In the UK, given their data capabilities and reach, Sky and BBC should be able to go toe to toe with Amazon and Netflix. Everyone else is in the uncomfortable position of playing catch-up.

The challenge is, viewers want content suggestions tailored to them and their viewing habits, but also want completely left-field suggestions they would never choose themselves and might love! No small task.

Voice search and command is highly significant, but also the great unknown. Searching via voice is twice as popular amongst 18-34s compared to all adults. Understandably, people are far more comfortable talking out loud from the comfort of their own house than in public. This means TV content is some of the most searched for via voice. Currently, content providers are trying to work out how to balance users switching between remote control use and voice.

Amazon’s Alexa’s technology is moving into more smart TV, offering Alexa as a catch-all assistant for viewing content on your TV, provided it is connected. Unsurprisingly, Google is not far behind in linking assistant to your TV alongside other household devices, and Apple TV already utilises Siri.

So rather than a battle for your TV, or perhaps your living room, this is quickly escalating into a battle for the OS to your home!

The engineers in the room were getting very excited about UX. Known to people like me as the user experience. It seems everyone is developing, learning from and improving upon everyone else’s UX. This amalgamation, where data meets the interface, meets navigation, and crucially gets you to compelling content fast, is the utopia moment for all broadcasters.

Interestingly, most are already testing different layouts, messaging and content. So, no-one’s Netflix or Sky interface will look the same as anyone else’s.

This brings us neatly onto the next significant development: The TV as an entertainment hub in the future. As voice interface more readily controls your TV, lights, curtains and thermostat, the TV may well become your main household interface. Whilst we may then spend more time with the big screen, TV content will be elbowed out the way by a plethora of other uses.

As TVs integrate a camera and movement recognition, we will more happily use the main set for video calls and games taken straight from apps. Games consoles can already be integrated into the main set. Photo albums and video clips can happily be called up from phone or Facebook with a simple command, and the TV becomes a social hub too. Snapchat lenses are far more fun when there is room for the whole family to be turned into rainbow-spewing trolls!

Where does this leave today’s content creator and provider? Interestingly there were some truisms that remain. The power of channel brands still exists, and their heritage makes them a default viewing option for years to come. Additionally, linear scheduling was still seen as important. Releasing an episode a week creates talkability over time which binge watching cannot yet compete with.

And finally, we may never rid ourselves of the power of Saturday Night. Families and friends still want to congregate together, to watch the biggest shows as a collective, connected mass. All the voice-controlled, Alexa-powered technology in the world cannot deter us from tuning into a bit of Ant n’ Dec.

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About Author

Dan Matthews

Dan has over 20 years media experience across a range of blue-chip global clients. During the past four years, he has worked principally with The Walt Disney Company across most aspects of their media and marketing. He passionately believes a good account director should understand their client’s business from the outside in, and deliver business results, not just marketing outcomes.

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