nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Are apps the future of OTT video experience?

Online video viewers must wrangle an ever-increasing list of video apps to figure out what to watch. Will it always be that way, or will the OTT experience move beyond app proliferation?

At DEW 2017 in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of moderating a discussion entitled The Future of OTT: Consumer Adoption & Experiences. I asked the panelist if we would still be dealing with 10s of apps five years from today. Here’s what they had to say.

Apps will multiply, but discovery will rule

Michele Edelman Vubiquity

Michele Edelman, Vubiquity

All the panelists agreed that apps will not only persist, but also proliferate. However, they also agreed that discovery will act to aggregate the experience. Michele Edelman, Executive Vice President of Marketing & Content Strategy, Vubiquity had this to say:

“There will be all these apps at the bottom of the sea, but it’s how they surface that is going to make or break everything.  Whether they surface in categories, in video, in games. It’s what does the surface look like.”

Jason Friedlander, Director, Solutions Engineering, Media & Entertainment, Verizon Digital Media Services, crystallized the need for better discoverability of the shows in the apps.

“I believe it’s going to be a bunch of apps, and I think the discovery is going to be the big thing to avoid people from jumping in and out of a bunch of apps to find out what’s on. That’s what Apple TV has tried to do with their search and voice across multiple apps, and what Xbox’ one guide tries to do.”

Steve Shannon Roku

Steve Shannon, Roku

Steve Shannon, General Manager of Content & Services, Roku, went a step further. He described how the discovery layer might work.

“Here’s the next episode of that show that you’re watching and put that right on the home page. People can click on it without going in and out of apps.”

Trouble in discovery paradise

Roku is already beginning to bubble up a consumers favorite shows and movies by providing cross-app search. This alleviates the need to browse individual app. Unfortunately, it is very slow going driving this type of experience innovation. Mr. Shannon talked about the problems that an aggregator such as Roku faces in trying to help the user find the shows they want to watch faster.

“The challenge is that content partners aren’t really interested in us knowing what people are watching. For me <Roku> to know what the next episode of the show is that you’re watching I have to do a deal with content owner.”

Voice discovery is only part of the answer

One of the hits of the holiday season, and at CES 2017, was Amazon Alexa and the technology’s hardware instantiation Echo. Many believe that voice control will come to dominate search in general, and media discovery specifically. I asked Mr. Friedlander if voice search was the ultimate destination for OTT discovery. He agreed to some extent, but voice has its limitations.


Jason Friedlander Verizon

Jason Friedlander, Verizon

“I think it is voice, but you still need that visual component to come back to. When my son says ghostbusters and there are 18 different versions, he can see the poster art for the one he wants to watch. Otherwise you’ll be waiting all day for it to read you the description of every piece of content.”

Why it matters

The proliferation of video apps appears to be here to stay.

Cross app search and discovery is beginning to emerge on aggregation platforms.

It is helping to reduce the need to enter many apps to find the content desired.

However, limitations in business rules and voice technology are slowing progress.



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