M&E Connections

TiVo, Ampere Execs: Voice Control’s a Key Way to End Viewers’ Content Chaos

TV viewers are facing a constantly expanding choice of content to view across the growing number of linear channels and over-the-top (OTT) services, resulting in mass confusion – but voice control navigation represents one major way pay-TV operators can solve the problem, according to TiVo and Ampere Analysis.

“We are big believers in the power of voice,” Chris Thun, VP of product at TiVo, said Dec. 12 during the webinar “Navigating Content Chaos: A roadmap for pay-TV operators.”

And it isn’t only simple voice command queries that are important, he said, explaining: “We believe that as the market evolves, being able to talk to your TV and have the TV understand context and the relationship between movies, actors and concepts in a given show so that you can really do natural language interactions with your TV, [is] what’s going to ultimately simplify the experience and take it to the next level.”

TiVo is also “investing heavily in personalization” on two fronts, he said. First, the company wants to predict why a viewer turned the TV on in the first place and place predictions of what that person wants to watch on the home screen based on past viewing behavior, he noted. Also, when a viewer wants to discover new content to view, TiVo wants to automatically sort content that it thinks the user would be most interested in, he said.

In a perfect world, users shouldn’t have to be forced to decide where they want to watch content before they decide what they want to watch, as is the case today, he also said. Viewers should be able to instead first decide what content they want to view and then have a variety of options where they can watch it in linear or non-traditional means, he said.

But he conceded: “That’s hard. It’s a hard metadata problem in terms of matching the catalogs and getting it all right. And it’s not only about universal search…. It’s about voice, it’s about recommendations, it’s about the browse experience and getting the right universal discovery and metadata and matching across the entire experience.”

The core part of TiVo’s strategy, meanwhile, is to be “device agnostic,” he told listeners, explaining the company wants to “give operators the flexibility to support both their legacy footprints….and embrace newer platforms” including Android TV and streaming devices including Amazon Fire, Apple TV and Roku. To enable that flexibility, “you need a unified cloud backend that simplifies the operations” and lets operators, over time, migrate from legacy platforms to new ones, he said.

The webinar started with a summary of the findings from TiVo and Ampere’s recently released white paper, “Navigating Content Chaos,” that included findings from a third-quarter 2018 survey of 26,000 consumers in 12 mature global markets, including the U.S.

“Today’s consumer feels no better able to find something to watch than they did three years ago,” Ampere analyst Robert Ambrose, the report’s co-author, said during the webinar. It’s become “essential for pay-TV operators to provide compelling navigation to help viewers discover what they want and to engage the most valuable consumers across every device” they want to use, he said.

“Fundamentally, there are three converging trends that are creating what I call a perfect storm of content chaos,” Ampere executive director Guy Bisson said. First is the “proliferation of content and the increasing availability of content that is delivered in a non-linear format,” he noted. Second is the “emergence and proliferation” of subscription video on demand (SVOD) services and the “huge number” of titles available through them, he said. The third trend is changing consumer behavior in terms of what devices they’re using and the way they access and watch content, he pointed out.

“Consumers are creating their own non-linear bundles,” combining pay-TV with SVOD and “stacking multiple SVOD services within the home from multiple providers and they’re watching, of course, on multiple devices in many, many different locations outside the home,” Bisson said, adding: “The inevitable result is a challenge” when it comes to navigating content consumers want to view.

Good navigation solves the growing problem and “voice control is the icing on the cake” because early tech adopters are less price sensitive, spend more money and act as strong brand promoters, Bisson said.

In addition to voice control, Ampere recommended that operators “stack and aggregate to conquer,” deliver content across multiple devices, provide a best-in-class user interface and personalize with effective recommendations, Ambrose said.