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Pay TV Operators Need to Evolve the Viewing Experience With OTT

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Customers don’t want a la carte services on their own, declared Jeffrey Weber, CEO of ZoneTV. What they want are bundles of channels, but bundles that include personalization and OTT features.

Weber spoke this morning at the Next TV Summit in New York City, on a panel about the future of TV distribution. As is, TV operators force their customers to look elsewhere for OTT features and personalization, Weber said. But cable companies are now signing deals with OTT services that will bring those experiences together. In the future, viewers won't see a different cable world and OTT world, he said, but will experience it all in one place.

"The broad ecosystem will settle," Weber said, noting that new aggregation models haven't taken hold yet. Weber's recently launched ZoneTV brings an AI-driven experience to pay TV electronic program guides, combining a familiar discovery method and linear viewing with online options.

Pay TV customers stick with 12 to 14 channels, Weber noted, but that's more by convenience than choice. It's not that viewers are uninterested in new content, but that finding it is too much work. Linear operators need to surprise and delight customers with new content to make them a fan and a consumer. If they don't evolve the consumer experience, he warned, subscriber declines will continue. "It's going to be ugly and getting uglier."

"I think what consumers are looking for is greater choice," said Richard Au, director of Amazon Channels in the U.S., delivering the conference's morning keynote.

Content discovery is still a challenge, Au said, but Amazon has had success with recommendations based on a mix of sources including content watched by people with similar viewing tastes and even content watched by people with similar shopping histories.

Amazon Channels includes services from a variety of providers, all of which viewers can access through a familiar UI. While some channels have static catalogs, Au notes that channels do best when they regularly refresh content and promote new options. That could mean keeping some of the inventory offline and surfacing it for limited times. Doing so keeps the library fresh and keeps viewers coming back.

"What's really important is a notion of freshness in the service," Au says.

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