Pay TV Needs to Keep Up the Pace in Search

Consumers enjoy advanced discovery and navigation in Web, mobile, social media and other applications that offer fast, accurate and personalized user experiences. The average household has 5.7 connected devices.

Users previously did not have a comparative benchmark for pay TV navigation experiences; that is no longer the case. By comparison, content discovery in pay TV is not keeping pace.

In addition, users have content choices from the Web and over-the-top services. In most cases these services offer better usability, having come out of the world of the Internet. Based on research our company conducted, pay TV users place higher value on product features than content selection and customer service when switching services (the decision is driven first by price and second by features and functionality).

Discovery challenges cause users to spend considerable time searching — whether browsing the guide, channel-surfing or using recommendations. Even when people know what they want to watch, finding it is problematic. More than 60% of users spend 10-plus minutes a day searching, and more than 10% spend a considerable amount of time looking for content. This takes away from viewing, and reduces audience metrics and monetization for operators.

Poor discovery also leads to dropped viewers. More than 85% surveyed have turned off the TV without finding something to watch, and almost 50% do so more than occasionally. More than 20% turn off the TV more than half the time without finding anything to watch.

When asked how discovery challenges can be addressed by operators, respondents overwhelmingly preferred improved search over recommendations. Almost 75% preferred search for finding content; less than 5% preferred recommendations, and the remaining respondents were indiff erent between the two.

The low desire for recommendations is consistent with research indicating that recommendations from friends are almost four times more likely to be acted upon than electronic recommendations due to lack of trust and efficacy.

Consumers have a positive outlook toward search and value good functionality, particularly as it becomes more advanced and personalized. Positive experiences in search utility raise users’ expectations and inform their overall dissatisfaction with capabilities currently available on pay TV.

Among search interfaces, voice is rapidly growing across connected devices. For pay TV, research has shown that voice commands with conversational interface features drives a more appealing experience and motivates users to change providers, as well as incent users to watch more television through improved discovery.

Overall, improved discovery through search, including conversational search, showed positive impact on churn, viewing time and audience metrics. These are critical to operators’ top-line business metrics.

Sam Vasisht is chief marketing officer of Veveo, an Andover, Mass.-based provider of intelligent search technologies.