Solving Connected TV Viewers’ Content Choice Conundrum (B+C Guest Blog)

Family watching TV
(Image credit: ©KidStock/Blend Images LLC)

Opening a connected television (CTV) interface presents a unique challenge for someone who is looking to turn on their TV for a lazy session of viewing. With several visual boxes on-screen, all with varying logos or screengrabs showcasing what can be consumed, taking the first steps to viewing content over CTV is a lot like opening the menu at The Cheesecake Factory — more choices than one person can fully process.

Wurl CEO Ron Gutman

Ron Gutman, CEO of Wurl (Image credit: Wurl)

The litany of streaming platforms, channels and applications available across the CTV ecosystem is growing every day and with good reason. Insider Intelligence forecasts that CTV households will hit 115.1 million by next year — more than doubling traditional pay TV households. The transition from traditional TV viewing to streaming over internet-connected television has arrived.

All of this underscores that the time for streamers and publishers to get their content in front of viewers is now. But, there’s a challenge that lies at the core of this mandate, and every other new frontier with services jockeying for their share of the market: discoverability.

Streaming Choice Overload

Just as many consumers express extreme overwhelm when sitting down to select a meal from The Cheesecake Factory’s famously expansive menu, the approaching ubiquity of CTV interfaces often leads to choice overload — a specific type of indecision born out of having too many choices. 

CTV comes with an incredible number of options among advertising-based video on demand (AVOD), subscription-based video on demand (SVOD), and free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels. Hulu, Disney Plus, Samsung TV Plus, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, and Peacock are just a handful of the streaming apps available, and we’re seeing more FAST channels — from names like Amazon and Comcast — launch every day.

For the average consumer, these choices are more or less indistinguishable from one another. Making a decision about which platform to subscribe to or which app to download and test often has to do with which options are presented on-screen most prominently. Otherwise, viewers who know exactly what they want to watch and where to watch it will choose their streaming option accordingly — though this is less often the case than a user who turns on the TV without a specific agenda hoping to be pleasantly surprised. And, even if one is familiar with their CTV interface, being creatures of habit, there’s often little room to connect with users who might consider a new streaming service — free or not.

This challenge of discoverability is not unique. The job of a marketer is to cut through the noise to find new customers who are likely to purchase a product again and again. Similarly for content distributors, finding viewers likely to enjoy their specific library of content, enticing them to download or open the corresponding app and encouraging them to return to watch content on a regular basis is the million-dollar question the streaming ecosystem has in front of it.

Not-so-distant industry history provides a glimpse of how this might play out. Performance-based marketing solutions revolutionized customer acquisition for the web and mobile apps. From this point forward, the same approach to data-driven targeting and measurement has the potential to effectively transform streaming advertising.

Understanding Content Is Key

A first requirement of getting in front of the right viewers is for the technology to truly learn and understand your content. Are you a FAST channel focused on live sports, a publisher centered around local news, a streamer with a myriad of programming across genres or in some other niche? Once the technology knows your content, it can then pave a better path to finding — with compounding effectiveness — the user profiles most likely to download and engage with your content library. Like any performance marketing effort, the goal becomes to acquire new viewers at such an effective rate that the cost of spending on advertising becomes revenue positive.

Solving the discoverability challenge clearly stands as the next frontier in assisting viewers to find their way through the comprehensive CTV menu. Imagine a future state where content distributors advertising their streaming services and content can swiftly find and actively promote to the most high-value viewers. The increasingly positive outcomes, both in terms of volume and efficiency, would begin to speak for themselves.

Ron Gutman

Ron Gutman is CEO of Wurl, a connected TV software and service provider.