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Exploring the Mysteries of Content and Apps Discovery

by David Mercer | Aug 05, 2011

Two recent pieces of research from our Digital Home Observatory have given us tremendous insight into one of the great strategic challenges of the digital content age: how digital consumers navigate their way through the complexity and wealth of choice they are now faced with. In two key emerging areas – TV apps and online video – we have identified key lessons for industry players seeking to build new opportunities in these markets.

 

The first report, TV Apps: Owners Won't Give Them Up, researched behaviours and usage surrounding the apps available on the latest generation of connected and smart TVs. Recent adopters of these devices were interviewed and observed in their own homes to understand the thought processes they were going through as they made use of these advanced capabilities.

 

Surprisingly, perhaps, we found that most of the participants in our study had not intended to buy a “connected” or “smart” TV when they first purchased the device. The key deciding factors when buying a TV, even for “smart TV” buyers, were those we have recognised for many years: price, picture quality, screen size, high resolution and matte screen. A typical respondent told us:

 

“I didn’t know there were apps on the TV till I got it home. The sales guy told me I could watch iPlayer on it but that’s all I knew”

 

But every one of our participants, once they had installed the TV and begun to explore its capabilities, became hooked on at least some of the apps, to such an extent that they felt the apps had become the most important element of the TV’s capabilities and that they could not imagine being without them.

 

Critically, however, our research found that users were unlikely to make use of apps with which they were not already familiar from other devices and services. So Hulu Plus subscribers would quite happily use the Hulu Plus app on a smart TV, but would be reluctant to explore apps they did not already recognise.

 

Our second report, The Online Video Discovery Process, emphasises the variety in discovery processes apparent in different types of online video application. The discovery process related to television shows, for example, assumes a high degree of knowledge about the specific show and even a particular edition or episode of that show: viewers frequently know precisely what they are looking for and are less interested in recommendations or suggestions.

 

However, viewing of movies online is often driven by a quite different set of motivations. The decision to watch a movie is often taken only when no television shows of interest are available from various sources. And partly for this reason, many potential movie viewers have not decided which movie they wish to watch when they begin the discovery process. This explains why recommendations engines are much  more critical in the movie genre than in television shows.

 

There is a lot more richness to be found in our research which can’t be revealed in a blog posting. But these pointers demonstrate that technology vendors and service providers still have a great deal of work to do as they maximise the business potential of emerging connected television platforms.

 

Smart or connected TV is still very much in its infancy: early implementations, going back to 2007 or earlier, certainly had their limitations: the products now being introduced are clearly a leap forward in terms of user experience, and our research shows that their advanced features and apps can offer high levels of appreciation and satisfaction. But the industry will fail to meet its objectives if it does not urgently address the remaining challenges, which largely centre on communicating the benefits of connected TV to potential customers. Manufacturers, developers, service providers and retailers must each play their part.

 

David Mercer

Client Reading: TV Apps: Owners Won't Give Them Up; The Online Video Discovery Process

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