By Anders Erlandsson, 19 December, 2016.

Ericsson ConsumerLab TV and Media Report 2016: Content Discovery – how hard can it be?

Today’s generation of TV consumers are watching more content than ever before. In the 7th edition of the annual Ericsson Consumerlab TV and Media report, we found that consumers continue to increase their viewing year by year. Driven by the emergence of new TV and media services as well as video enabled devices, consumers can today consume video anywhere and anytime. Yet, in doing so, they are spending more time looking for content too. Astonishingly, the average person across all the studied markets, will spend 1.1 years of their life swapping channels and navigating the TV guide – and in several markets it is even higher, like Germany (1.2 years), USA, China, Brazil, Italy (1.3 years), Spain, South Korea (1.4 years), and India (1.7 years).

Given that the average life expectancy is above 80 in several countries and growing almost everywhere – for example, in Sweden, life expectancy for women is expected to increase from 84 years today to 89 years by 2060 and for men it is expected to reach almost 87 by the same time – it’s a fairly sobering thought that TV viewers around the world will be using a big chunk of their entire lifetimes looking for the perfect piece of TV content. 

The content discovery paradox

As viewers already have the opportunity to decide what time, location and screen they watch TV and video on, it’s hardly surprising that they are also becoming more proactive in the content decision making process. We are moving into an era where the need for programmatic discovery of content is ever more important. In order to better cater for the evolving consumer discovery needs, recommendation engines must be able to go beyond today’s “what’s new” and “other people watch this right now” type of recommendations, ideally interpreting the mood we’re in, and the types of entertainment we might want at any given moment. 

Yet, while the TV and media industry is making strides in his area, there is still some significant work that needs to be done. Content discovery is an area that has to be cracked; our research found that 44 percent of linear TV viewers in the US can’t find anything to watch on a daily basis. Meanwhile, only 34 percent of VOD viewers in the US say the same thing.

In contrast, US consumers spent 45 percent more time choosing what to watch on VOD services compared with linear TV. Paradoxically, 63 percent of consumers claim they are very satisfied with content discovery when it comes to their VOD service, while only 51 percent say the same for linear TV. This suggests that although VOD discovery is more time consuming than linear TV, consumers rate it as a less frustrating pastime, as it implicitly promises the opportunity to find something they want to watch, when they want to watch it. They are also willing to invest time scrolling through VOD libraries because of the flexible pricing and short cancellation periods (often within a month); there is a desire to maximize the potential of the service they have paid for. 

A world of serendipity?

One of our favourite words at Ericsson ConsumerLab is ‘serendipity’, particularly in the area of content discovery. Oftentimes consumers don’t have a clear picture of what they want to watch, and thus express a need and interest in being able to be positively surprised with a piece of content. For instance, why do consumers have the urge to channel hop when there are a range of discovery tools on the market today? Simple – because occasionally we are able to stumble randomly on an interesting piece of content we find to be rewarding. 

The key, however, is to ensure discovery tools within VOD services can deliver that same moment of serendipitous delight as can be found in scheduled linear TV today. In an Ericsson Media blog earlier this year, we commented on the “creation of effective, personalized discovery (as) a key pillar in the delivery of a compelling TV experience – not least because it is a highly influential factor in the consumer’s perception of what makes a valuable service.” Personalization is the driver of the content we consume on a daily basis and influences the way we browse video across the web, social networks and multiple screens

The future of content discovery

Consumers want a combination of the shared social experience of traditional broadcast TV services, alongside the option of media à la carte – the ability to create their own world of compelling, personalized content. Additionally, the opinions of our friends and family members are still regarded as one of the most valuable content discovery mechanisms. We should not underestimate the value of traditional ‘word of mouth’ promotion.

There is a major opportunity to simplify the process and make more accurate, relevant recommendations that resonate and delight. The danger of overwhelming the consumer with a plethora of irrelevant content presents its own risk; personalization is required to ensure extensive content libraries offer genuine choice and hopefully, moments of serendipity. 

But the personalization opportunity has to be bigger than simple recommendations. It must enable both commercial and promotional opportunities, enabling service providers to target specific demographics, based on decisions around content type, time of day, user groups sponsored links and editorial selection. It must also deliver possibilities for further avenues of exploration such as personalized advertising, or even merchandising, which better fits with the consumer’s needs and expectations.

Big data and analytics will play a very large role in enhancing the consumers’ TV experiences, by enabling broadcasters, advertisers, content publishers, social media and service providers to develop a more efficient and satisfying form of content discovery. It will open up opportunities across the entire consumer lifecycle and have the potential to be an enormous differentiator in the future television experience. It’s an exciting prospect and will hopefully help to redress the many months currently lost in the search for great TV content.   

You can find the full Ericsson ConsumerLab Report here.

Written by Anders Erlandsson

As Senior Advisor at Ericsson ConsumerLab, Anders Erlandsson is responsible for analyzing consumer behavior, attitudes and trends to give Ericsson and Ericsson’s customers valuable consumer insights and forecasts to develop strategies that generate revenue and improve the customer experience. Anders Erlandsson joined Ericsson in 1991. He has been a frequent speaker at numerous industry conferences and customer events. He has worked extensively with consumer insights is areas such as social media, privacy & integrity, mobile commerce, rich communication and TV & media.

Anders Erlandsson is based in Stockholm, Sweden and has previously held various Product Management, Business Development, Sales and Marketing positions in Sweden and in the UK. He holds an MSc in Industrial Engineering and Management from the Linköping Institute of Technology, Sweden.

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