There are realistic hopes at Swisscom that consumers will watch more television and that this could be turned into additional revenues from pay-per-view (PPV) and VOD purchases thanks to the IPTV provider’s Swisscom TV-Guide iPad app, which was introduced last year and enhanced in February with the introduction of remote control features. In an example of how it could boost content consumption, you can rent live PPV sports events from the app. Customers can also bookmark a VOD movie when they are travelling and this title will then be waiting for them as a selection on the set-top box when they get home.
“We see a heightened interest in on-demand programming like VOD or recorded programmes with iPad users,” reports Volker Dietzel, Head of Experience Development Entertain at Swisscom. “On-demand programme consumption is usually preceded by a longer-than-normal content discovery phase before someone actually pays a rental fee. They watch trailers, read movie synopses and discover similar movies, for example. The iPad app supports this process and offers the customer a seamless experience. It is proving to be a sales channel for our exclusive pay sports events and our VOD library and, to support that, we merge some editorial VOD suggestions into the TV guide.”
The Swisscom TV-Guide and Remote Control iPad app is one of the ten most popular apps for the Apple device in Switzerland. It enables Swisscom TV subscribers to control the television from their couch, browse and discover content, including through an EPG and search, and schedule the DVR remotely. Stefan Schmidlin, Product Manager at Swisscom TV, says consumers are using it extensively and spend 3-4 times more time in the iPad app than they spend in the company’s iPhone app, which provides the TV guide and discovery functionality but not yet the same remote control features. (There are plans to add remote control to the iPhone and also bring the guide and remote control features to Android devices, though there are no firm dates).
The new remote control functionality is performing well in the home and supports simple channel zapping. Swisscom reports that in most cases, channel change times are actually faster using the iPad app via the home network than they are with the standard remote control. There is no suggestion that this kind of app is going to replace a standard remote any time soon, however. Instead, it is complementary and the main benefit is improved content discovery, both for free and paid content. “We offer a much broader experience with the iPad when compared to a traditional remote control,” Schmidlin confirms.
The iPad app is used for what he calls a more conscious TV experience. “Users plan all stages of their TV experience with the app: they discover TV programmes at the kitchen table and use the same tablet device in the living room to tune into the selected programme. The iPad’s role is to enable content discovery in a vast TV entertainment offering. The remote control feature bridges the gap between content discovery and consumption. There is no need to remember channel numbers anymore. You can simply tune into the selected programme without worrying about which channel it is broadcast on,” he explains.
Swisscom hopes this improved discovery will turn into more revenue. “VOD discovery is much easier with all the different types of search we offer,” Schmidlin says. A simple example is the ability to search content by actor. “This feature enables a playful shopping experience, and we already see indications that customers are adopting this approach.”
Today, Swisscom offers the TV-Guide and Remote Control app and a separate Swissom TV Air app that covers the actual viewing of multi-screen content on tablets and smartphones. These are downloaded independently of each other. The next step is therefore to merge these functions into one universal app. “We are working on this, to bring search and discovery together with entertainment consumption on these devices,” Schmidlin reveals.
The Swisscom iPad app can also be used to change the sequence of channels in the programme guide, thanks to a personal ‘channel map’, though this is also possible via the set-top box and the web customer care portal. The company thinks tablets are a natural place to manage the TV service, like changing settings for subtitles or parental ratings, for example.