I’ve just finished reading the recent 2018 Nagra/MTM Pay-TV Innovation Forum report. It’s an in depth document comprising 44 pages of data and insight into the evolving world of TV and the challenges that the industry faces.
For me, two key stats from the report jumped out. The first was that 89% of respondents cited ‘that pay-TV providers will have to innovate to enhance customer experience’ – so there is an appetite for improvement. The second was that 64% highlighted UX and UI innovation as a key priority for the Pay-TV Industry. This underlines an increasingly common theme within the whole industry; as content libraries proliferate and the range of viewing devices multiply, the role of the UI is becoming a significant factor for differentiation.
At the same time as choice and competition are growing, so too are alliances and partnerships. Netflix with Sky in the UK, and Amazon Prime with Comcast X1 in the US, are just the tip of the iceberg. To me, some early alliances looked more like channel arrangements than actual alliances. Increasingly though, they resemble much closer integration and begin to address the challenge of getting the viewer to start watching what they want to watch in the fastest possible time. Here again, I see the UI as a key component.
A significant amount of industry discussion has been devoted to topics around the cloud based integration needed to bring the different partner services together. More recently the discussion has also included the use of AI to enhance search and recommendation across the huge asset base that combining the programme streams and VoD libraries of each partner will create. What’s not often talked about is the need to bring together the various partners’ brand identities and present them within a coherent UI. And whilst much is made of technologies like voice control, very little airtime is devoted to the design of consistent UIs across a range of devices and how to manage the different input types like remote control, keyboard, touch screen and voice coherently. To maximise a brand enhancing experience, I believe that the UI must be consistent across each customer device. I don’t meant that it has to be the same though, compass navigation on a mobile phone would be as alien to the average person as mouse control on an STB would be; each device has its own accepted interaction rules which must be adhered to.
Fortunately, web technologies provide the ideal toolkit for integrating large systems, sharing data and presenting UIs on a multitude of devices. Browser technology in particular has benefitted from the combined learning gained from presenting billions of web services across tens of thousands of different devices. In my view, using HTML as the foundation of the apps that deliver the user experience helps the UI designer achieve brand consistency whilst embracing the essential attributes that each device has to offer.
The 2018 Nagra/MTM Pay-TV Innovation Forum report is an interesting read and is available from the Nagravision website. Further information on the highly responsive HTML browser technology needed to render a great UI on a range of consumer devices can be found at ekioh.com.