In a changing media landscape, where video streaming is growing ever more popular, the role of many industry stalwarts is changing. But far from disappearing completely, the success of any long-lasting medium or technology depends on being able to adapt and transform to current consumer behaviours and needs.
Reinvention was the key theme of a 2022 Connected TV World Summit panel which brought together a range of experts – from operators (KPN and TalkTalk), technology and app providers (Comcast), and content owners (Horse and Country) to discuss the future of Pay TV operators.
From Pay TV aggregator to super-aggregator
According to Alejandro Casal Gómez, Product Owner of STB Embedded Software & Apps, KPN, there are three tried and tested ways operators remain relevant today. The first is through their pre-existing footprint that can extend reach “to millions of eyeballs”; the second is by offering easy-to-use bundles that provide consumers with a “clear overview of the services they are subscribed to”, and the third is through the “durable relationship” they have with their customer base. He also pointed out that operators are not selling a device but a service.
Asanga Gunatillaka was Commercial & Group Product Director of TalkTalk until July and provided his insights before leaving this role. TalkTalk recently moved away from its role as a “traditional Pay TV aggregator to a super-aggregator” – furthered this point by explaining how they were responding to an increased need for flexibility and simplicity.
Contextualising the situation of consumers today, Gunatillaka noted that “increasingly, customers are looking to save money – particularly in these challenging times – which is an opportunity to be an aggregator of a variety of video services. We make it easy to discover new content, switch between providers, [as well as] getting the Wi-Fi right into the home.”
No matter where in the industry you stand, it seems like operators do still have an important role to play in the current media mix. Heather Killen, Chairman and CEO of Horse & Country, said even though as a content provider they had pivoted towards a multiplatform model – two linear channels, a premium channel, as well as online, on-demand content – Pay TV was still “a good part of the revenue mix and a good part of the customer funnel”.
While superfans and subscribers made up two-thirds of their revenue, the wider reach TV affords – drawing in a larger audience who wouldn’t have otherwise come across their content – was still relevant.
Industry challenges: technology, ease of access, and the d-word
That said, one of the main challenges for super-aggregators involves unifying this experience. “How do you integrate that into a seamless process?” asked Thijs Bijleveld, Executive Director, Head of Business Development & Account Management EMEA, at Metrological, a Comcast Company.
“We need to create a framework for both content operators and content providers,” he explained, adding that within most households, the ideal was “a personalised screen, one remote, one bill, one personalised UI – and if you want to put everything behind one remote, you’re going to have to make some bold decisions to do that.”
Of course, any discussion about media, content, and consumers today could not miss out on the d-word: data.
Killen pointed out that when it comes to using apps, or any kind of platform that is not a D2C experience, “there’s a trade-off where you’re giving up margin and control over your and your customers’ data, particularly if it is an in-app purchase”. Consumer insights, she added, are incredibly valuable when it comes to understanding and engaging with their user base, as well as helping to identify people who are a churn risk.
Indeed, any possibility “to facilitate some degree of transparency or engagement with the audience on behalf of the provider” would be greatly beneficial to everyone: “The consumer, the content provider, and then with increasing engagement, the operator partner as well.”
Extending the life cycle of devices and media takes constant reinvention, while at the same time recognising the great variety of ways consumers use different devices and technology.
Set-top boxes appeal to certain cohorts, while other consumers will be happy to bring their own device. And while Gunatillaka considers the set-top box a relevant element within “the connected ecosystem”, there is no “one-size-fits-all solution”: something all players, whether content provider, operator, or technology platform, are having to understand.