When you’ve been in business for as long as we have, you build up a fair share of success stories. Whether it’s helping an entertainment operator grow their audience by over one million net new subscribers in under twelve months, deploying a live streaming Android TV platform in record time, or winning an Emmy for a cutting-edge interactive TV service – when times are good, they’re really good.You also get exposed to the type of errors in judgment and bad decision-making that can hinder the growth of even the most popular OTT service.
Granted, these are often now few and far between. Many of the operators we work with have gone through multiple rounds of product development and redevelopment, to the point where they know what works for their business. But mistakes can still happen. Here are a few tips collected from our colleagues on what to watch out for.
#1. Overcomplication, Lack of Consistency and Failing to Meet the Needs of All Users
Jane Kim, Lead UX/UI Designer - Sydney
The most important thing is to stick to your brand – just because Netflix is doing it, doesn’t mean that you need to do it as well. We’ve often come across RFPs that read as if they are feature checklist for the U.S. streaming giant. It’s one of the quickest ways to waste a lot of money on a product that isn’t fit for purpose.
Instead, spend the time and resource to truly understand your user’s behavior and invest in the functionality that caters to their needs.
It’s easy to overload users with too much metadata, options or fancy micro-interactions that you saw being used by a competitor – but it’s all just noise. By creating reusable UX components and keeping visual elements to a minimum, you can make the end-to-end experience feel consistent.
Also, don’t forget to factor accessibility support into your product roadmap. Beyond it increasingly becoming a legal requirement across the globe, it also opens up avenues to new audience demographics. At least 1 in 5 people have a form of disability in Australia so the need to create an experience that caters to everyone, not just the majority, is paramount.
#2. Running Before You Can Walk
Vojtěch Vít, Backend Solutions Architect - Prague
Ten years ago, when OTT first began to be adopted by the masses, it was a race to the top. Operators invested vast sums of cash in major project releases, typically every quarter, that introduced a host of exciting new functionality and engagement models to users. Money was thrown at the problem of trying to keep eyeballs on screens and no-one thought twice – it’s just what needed to be done to have a foot in the game.
That game has now changed and one of the biggest mistakes a service operator can make is to have not evolved their product evolution strategy alongside it. Small, incremental releases that are backed up by behavioral data enable companies to be more agile and able to respond to emerging trends – while keeping greater control over total profitability. They also help software development teams:
- Understand what’s essential and what’s just nice-to-have
- Focus on one thing at a time
- Plan realistically based on the pace of previously delivered increments
- Get completed features to production sooner
- Try different approaches or change plans if something doesn’t work as expected
By the way, I’d add that this also applies to any customizations to out-of-the-box third-party software. We’ve witnessed first-hand horror stories with operators who request complex changes to OOTB platforms that delay initial release development, throw up higher risks and reduce the level of flexibility they get in running their service day-to-day.
#3. Convoluted Entitlement
Aaron Booth, Design Director APAC - Sydney
‘Keep it simple’ & ‘don’t make me think’ are the clichés often applied to UX & UI design, but they also apply to subscription & entitlement.
The most successful OTT services in the world have a simple offering - subscribe once and watch whatever you want. There may be options around multiple devices and 4K, but once the user has subscribed they are welcome to watch anything that is presented to them in the UI.
Some providers think that by offering a complicated array of packages, subscriptions & add-ons, they are giving their customers more choice and (more importantly to them) increasing their profits. This short-sighted way of thinking has lead more than one OTT service to an early grave.
When a user trudges through a subscription flow and launches the app for the first time, they are excited at the possibilities of all the new great content they are going to watch. That excitement is quickly dashed when they are presented with a smattering of content they are not entitled to, laced with TVOD, Pay Per View and advertising for other packages. It makes for a terrible first impression that will stay with the user throughout their engagement with the service.
Nothing sours a customer’s opinion of a service (and therefore their NPS) more than double dipping. We often hear in user testing “I’m already subscribed to this service, and now they are asking for more money?!?” Users often tell us they avoid paying extra on top of a subscription on principle alone.
Having a complex web of entitlement also adds to the mental friction of every browsing interaction from that point on. “Am I entitled to this?” “What’s in my package?” “Am I on the right package?” Instead of being excited about the content, users are forced to think about this every time they use the service.
Building your service around complicated packages & TVOD may seem like an enticing way to increase profits in the short term, but an OTT service with no users makes zero profit.
#4. Sitting Back After a Successful Launch
Richard Mills, Design Director EMEA - London
It sounds obvious, but I feel like it needs repeating – don’t stop testing! Just because you have had a successful launch, it doesn’t mean you can stop learning from your users. Remember that a good launch doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll experience ongoing success. Sustained growth and improvement come through continued dialogue and exposure to your audience. Use a framework to identify the key metrics that would be useful to know and track once you’re in market and, most importantly, create ongoing tests to monitor and make sure you’re hitting those KPIs.
#5. Not Investing in the Research
Dominic De Lorenzo, SVP Products - Sydney
Many OTT operators relaunching a service fall into the sunk cost fallacy around existing features. It’s often the case of wanting everything they had before plus more – a doomed-from-the-start way of thinking as it increases complexity for consumers and diverts focus away from core differentiators.
Why is this? Often, it’s because service operators lack the relevant metrics on how consumers use their platforms, making it difficult to make decisions around which features need to be kept, enhanced and discarded. Ensuring you define and capture the right metrics is critical and has to move beyond ‘page views’ to the nuances around how consumers engage with specific content.
Many become obsessed with adding every feature they’ve ever used on any service since the dawn of OTT – resulting in the ‘Fyre Festival’ of product wish lists. Greater focus needs to be spent on validating which features are the most applicable to YOUR consumers – this is the key to maintaining focus and delivering a successful product.