i3 | April 05, 2021

Streamlining Video Discovery

Gary Arlen

Video streaming concept
Source: Vertigo 3D/Getty Images

Finding your way through the growing roster of video programming is a challenge, despite new tools to help viewers discover and navigate to the show they want to see. Experts speaking at several #CES2021 sessions about streaming video developments acknowledged viewers’ frustration while discussing solutions to help in the search for content across streaming and conventional channels. Yet the process is still a work in progress.

Predictably, data is at the heart of video navigation and search. Sandeep Gupta, vice president and general manager of Amazon’s Fire TV, explained his company — recognized for its algorithmic awareness of customer preferences and usage — has identified “the key thing is helping [viewers] discover content in ways they didn’t think of before.” It’s done through processes which highlight the user’s experience and adds marketing insights, Gupta explained.

“We work closely with partners to highlight their content which is unique and to develop content integration,” Gupta said. “We highlight recommendations that relate to a movie or show that [customers] watch,” including the transition of viewing actions from a single program to a library of shows.

The key thing is helping [viewers] discover content in ways they didn't think of before.
Sandeep Gupta VP and General Manager, Amazon Fire TV

Gupta said the uptick in streaming video access during the pandemic has “accentuated that kind of decision-making. We saw very different patterns.” Online program navigation is not a “one size fits all” process. “They’re starting to recognize that they can get (whatever they want to see) in a way that meets what they’re looking for,” Gupta explained. “People recognize there are different ways to interact and personalize,” he added.

Other CES panelists agreed the streaming video deluge has catered to viewers’ desires “to watch shows, not just watch TV.”

Video Magic

On another panel, Brian Fuhrer, senior vice president, product strategy & thought leadership at Nielsen Global Media, said his data found a “fundamental shift” during the pandemic as the new multi-platform audiences wanted to find shows their friends mentioned or to summon favorite old movies or TV shows. Fuhrer cited kids shows and movies as “key considerations” in the video program search process. He also suggested the navigation/discovery process may get more complex as media and platform companies continue to make “big bets” in their streaming ventures.

Sarah Lyons, senior vice president, product experience at WarnerMedia, estimated that two-thirds of the time viewers know what they want to watch and can find it. But, one-third of the time, they are “looking for something new. We believe in a blend of human curation with underlying data to facilitate that curation,” Lyons explained. “You need to make sure data is targeted to the individual user at the time it is most appropriate. The blend is the magic.”

Stefanie Meyers, senior vice president of distribution at Starz, emphasized a common goal of program suppliers. “We are all in this battle to make sure our customers can find our content as easily as possible on whatever platform,” Meyers said. She said Starz is identifying “microtrends around usage,” observing that “savvier customers” are choosing what they want to see “with more discrimination.”

Scott Reich, senior vice president, programming at Pluto TV (owned by ViacomCBS), noted Pluto’s platform is “optimized to get people into new categories,” including CBS and Viacom content such as “bringing classic TV shows to a younger demographic.” Reich added, “This is not a winner take-all marketplace.” He also expects “more experiments” as the industry determines how many Subscription Video-On-Demand (SVOD) services the market will support.

i3 magazine March/April 2021 cover

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