No sphere of our social lives has been left untouched by Covid-19 From retail to restaurants, lockdown has had a negative impact on many businesses, while others such as OTT and streaming services have seen a huge rise in subscriptions. Consumers were already welcoming new streaming services, but lockdown certainly accelerated this trend.
There is an assumption that when restrictions are lifted yet again, there will be a rush to get back to normal. However, the virus is likely to have a lasting influence over our collective consciousness, and people will be anxious about the return to public life. Businesses will need to ensure suitable safety measures are in place and work hard to secure consumer confidence.
Audiences have gotten used to replacing trips to the cinema with movie nights at home and many households have invested in better viewing technology. Entering the theatre has taken on a new level of risk, and it seems unlikely that audiences will go back to the big screen after experiencing streaming the latest releases at home.
Retaining and attracting viewers
With all these social factors in mind, what should OTT providers be focusing on to offer the best service for their audiences?
- Catch-up and nPVR. Lockdown has been an obvious disrupter to normal viewing schedules, but people’s routines are changing long-term. Working from home will continue on a mass scale for the foreseeable future, and many organisations are looking to make this a permanent fixture. The whole concept of peak linear viewing will inevitably alter, as audiences reinvent the traditional 9-5 schedule. The flexibility to record live content and catch up later will continue to be crucial.
- VOD content. The recent increase in subscriptions has encouraged an emphasis on quality content. OTT providers have recognised that in a competitive marketplace, they need to invest in the right catalogue to appeal to consumers. This will certainly be as important for retaining existing audiences as it will be for attracting new ones. Providers need to respond to market trends as they happen – a good example is the increase in home movie nights which have pushed providers to offer creative film bundles to viewers.
- UX and Personalisation. While increasing content choice is vital, a lack of curation can be frustrating for viewers. Audiences have more demands on their time than ever, and need to be presented with a selection that is personal to them. Seamless content consumption is vital for keeping platform engagement high, as are personalised suggestions. Algorithms must offer recommendations that are consistent with a viewer’s taste, but also occasionally introduce something new to maintain a sense of novelty.
OTT Marketplace Longevity
There has been extensive discussion on how coronavirus will impact different industries moving forward, and how society can be redesigned in response. It seems that no sector will be unaffected by the impact on consumer behaviour.
Many are predicting an inevitable churn from OTT services once life returns to normal, but it seems very unlikely that all of the growth will be lost. What is apparent is that viewers will become more discerning and demanding. The key for OTT providers is to not only secure existing viewers but also attract new subscribers. What are some ways to achieve this in a competitive sector?
- Trial options. As choice within the marketplace increases, try and buy options are becoming the norm. This offers an introductory period for consumers to sample a new service and gives providers the chance to showcase their platform. Functionality, content and user experience will all play an equally important role in hooking these potential paying subscribers.
- New features. Increased competition means that providers need to go above and beyond. They need to develop alternative ways for viewers to engage with their platform and build new viewing habits. Flexibility and novelty are key here, by offering a range of options; from multi-room as an extra feature, to premium add-on packages, providers can deliver a customisable service to their audience.
- Awareness. Launching your platform is the first step but marketing it effectively is how your audience will find you. Providers need to understand how their target market engages with their offering, whether they want to appeal to a broad base of consumers through multiple genres or target an audience with a specific niche interest. Identify where your potential viewers are spending time online and that’s the place your platform needs to be the most visible.
With all these different considerations, providers must focus on the quality and features they offer in a cost-effective way. You need to balance all the requirements for a viable and attractive service, with realistic spending.
There has been a great deal of speculation regarding consumer behaviour post-pandemic, but one thing is for certain, this experience will change viewers relationship with technology and their social lives forever. It is likely that audiences will keep the best bits of their lockdown experience and get rid of anything that isn’t serving them. However, I don’t believe we will see a fall in OTT adoption following the return to normality. With the right development priorities and marketing focus, a broad range of OTT platforms will become an indispensable source of entertainment for years to come.