VUIX 2015 Review

This was our second conference on online video product development, user interfaces and user experience. Here’s what we learned.

A couple of weeks ago we, VOD Professional, together with Brightcove, held our second VUIX conference at London’s Kensington Roof Gardens. This was a day dedicated to talking about online video product development, user interfaces and user experience. That might sound like a fairly specific set of topics but they made this event super-focused on the challenges and desired outcomes that broadcasters, service-providers and operators have to live up to when presenting their VOD offerings to the world.

It seems self-referential to be reviewing my own show but I’ll try to be objective! So what did we learn? Some thoughts:

#1. Advertising Isn’t as Detrimental to User Experience as we Might Think

Jason Bradwell, one of our analysts here at VOD Professional, presented a talk about the two UXs – user expectation vs. user experience in online video services. He’d studied, by eye (rather than using any automated tools) 4,200 user reviews from the iTunes and Google Play app stores of fourteen different VOD products including BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Netflix and HBO Go. You can see a write-up of his findings here. For me, the biggest insights were:

a) That performance issues (buffering, lag, faulty functionality etc.) made up the biggest group of complaints – in total around 47% of all negative comments made some reference to bad video delivery;

b) Pricing isn’t that big a deal – only 95 of the 3,431 negative reviews cited excessive SVOD / TVOD cost as a problem;

c) Perhaps most surprisingly, ads aren’t necessarily detrimental to the viewing experience. Less than 10% of those using services which featured ads, either dynamically inserted or as part of a live stream, found issue with them. In fact, a small percentage (around 0.6%) even defended the placement of commercial breaks, recognising that their presence is what keeps an ad-supported service in business.

#2. AVOD Was a Big Topic of Conversation

Despite that last stat, the speakers and attendees alike were keen to talk about the ad-supported model or AVOD as it’s also known. Advertising as a way of monetising editorial content is broken: excessive load times, top-heavy data usage dedicated to ads, page interruptions / re-ordering and auto-play are all common irritations especially when we’re travelling abroad and not covered by native mobile tariffs.

How does this translate to online video and what improvements to the user experience can be made now before audiences get turned off and literally, turn off? Some delegates suggested that better ad creative was needed; others that the idea of traditional 30-second commercials on on-demand platforms was anachronistic. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts – tweet me @consultVodkr

By way of highlighting the problem, Luke Gaydon, VP of Strategic Initiatives, Media, at Brightcove in his speech about Providing a Consistent TV-like Experience in an Age of Fragmentation cited a study from PageFair and Adobe which suggested that in the past year, the global usage of ad blockers grew by 41% YOY and that the estimated loss of global revenue due to blocked advertising during 2015 was a staggering $21.8B.

#3. The Killer App for Online Television is Live Television

Also mentioning advertising was Paul Kanareck, Director of Online & Brands at ITV, who participated in a fireside chat with Gaydon. Kanareck’s contention was that broadcasters – certainly ITV – shouldn’t try to mimic OTT services like Netflix (with multiple box sets, huge back catalogues and complex content discovery and recommendation algorithms, for example) because actually they’re already damn good at what they do which is to provide great live TV.

30% of all viewing on ITV Player, across platforms, was linear he said and that figure rose to 50% during the recent Rugby World Cup which was televised exclusively on ITV’s channels. Audiences are already used to ad breaks on commercial TV and that UX is exactly the same whichever screen they’re watching on – in other words, not an encumbrance and therefore still a good monetisation strategy.

#4. Make Cancelling a Subscription as easy as Signing Up

So said Craig Baxendale, VP of Sales at payment solutions company, Paywizard which has been working in online video for over a decade. It’s understandable that service-providers might seek to make cancelling a subscription difficult either by obfuscating the user journey to a cancellation webpage or by making customers pick up the phone to a call centre. This however, according to Baxendale, would be counter-productive. Keep the goodwill of the customer, capture user data to learn about them and their viewing habits and try to reduce churn through excellent customer service instead, he suggested.

As an aside, Baxendale told us that 28% of pay-per-view (TVOD) customers drop out at the “enter your card details” stage of the payment process, 19% having added something to a shopping cart and 9% at the “Confirm your Order” phase.

#5. How BBC Worldwide Builds VOD Products

The new BBC Store, a TVOD service that lets people buy (to keep) BBC shows is set to launch in November. Whilst VUIX happened a little too soon for Gulliver Smithers, the project leader at BBC Worldwide, to be able to give us a sneak peek at any new interfaces related to Store, he was able to share screenshots of the new BBC Player which will go live in parts of Asia in Q1 2016. This offering is currently being sold to affiliates outside of the UK as a digital extension to the BBC’s linear channel offerings. It will contain catalogues of 500 – 2,000 hours depending on territory and channel line up.

For me, what was most interesting was the process by which the BBC and BBCWW create digital products. Smithers talked about two key elements of this:

a) The build process itself usually consists of seven stages which provide for structure and replicability: Discover, Wireframe, Prototype, Validate, Test, Analyse, and Iterate;

b) The organisation uses something called GEL – a Global Experience Language – which sets out guidelines and ensures brand, feature and information architecture consistency. Why is this consistency important?

Smithers said that:

“Brand associations activate particular parts of the brain and luxury brands activate the medial prefrontal cortex whereas utility and value brands activate the anterior cingulate cortex. Over time, positive (rewarding) or negative (disappointing) experiences with a specific brand are layered into an overall brand identity profile in our minds. Different brands end up with different profiles, and in turn trigger different responses in our brains. Brands who deliver consistent, high-quality experiences across different touch-points like retail, social and customer service don’t just win hearts – they actually win minds and change how we think.”

Shorts

  • The audience was spellbound by a presentation from Mahesh Ramachandra, Head of Product at Hopster which is a children’s VOD service. Hopster’s challenge, he explained, is to create a UI / UX which can show video and provide interactive, educational games to pre-schoolers.
  • We had representatives from six of the leading content recommendation solutions vendors (ContentWise, Digitalsmiths, Iris TV, Rovi, Spideo and ThinkAnalytics) on a panel which internally, we were calling the Content Recommendation Deathmatch! Whilst the participants were mostly civil to each other there was definitely a sense of competition which reflects that this space is hotting up as more broadcasters and service-providers start introducing advanced discovery functionality into their products.
  • Anneke Glasius, Interaction Designer at Ostmodern, took a deep dive into input devices, digital product development paradigms and platform consistency.

Conclusion

We’ve had excellent feedback from attendees about VUIX 2015 (you can see some of it on both VOD Professional and Brightcove’s Twitter feeds from the 22nd of October) and a great day for learning and sharing knowledge.

In terms of measuring success, a marketing director once told me that you can tell if an event has gone well by counting a) the number of people who stay until the end and b) the number of people who come to the networking drinks afterwards. By those metrics, we did pretty well.

Hope to see you at VUIX 2016!



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