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Is Too Much Choice Making OTT UX Unmanageable?

How much choice is too much choice for OTT media and entertainment consumers? Evan Shapiro, CEO, ESHAP, and Jonathan Laor, Co-founder and President, Applicaster, discuss the rising sense of overwhelming entertainment options that may negatively impact OTT UX satisfaction.

“There's a ton of science that says the more choices a consumer has, the fewer choices they actually make,” Shapiro says. He asks Laor, “Do you see an assemblage? I mean, you work with a lot of smaller players. Would a bundle of those services at a lower cost and ease of use work for consumers? Or is that genie completely out of the bottle?”

Laor says several bundles are already available, but some are more effective than others based on factors such as ease of UX and pricing. “A lot of marketing goes into it,” he says. “And so if we unpack that, I mean if you look at the Disney bundle, that goes from Hulu and ESPN, that's a big bundle…”

“[It's] the lowest churning SVOD in all of streaming,” Shapiro points out.

Laor highlights the complexities of the various bundles that aggregate CTV streaming services by attaching them to other deals that complicate how SVOD bundles may even be tracked. The Disney bundle, he says, “Is [also] bundled with Verizon, and then the numbers are skewed by having it free with every unlimited 5G package you buy with Verizon. So I don't use it because it's ad-based, and I want to pay the premium. And I also get my Paramount through Walmart Plus, which I get for free through my Amex Platinum. And I also am a Peacock subscriber that I get through my streaming rebate from Amex Platinum, so I get that for free. So there's a lot…”

Shapiro says, “That's a really great lineup of existing bundles that are already out in the ecosystem, that I don't even really necessarily factor in when I start thinking about bundles.”

“Everybody came out with a mega service and then my kids all want all these services because that's on this and this is on that and the other's on there,” Laor says. “And I don't love this model, but the only one that I'm actually really paying real people dollars for is Netflix, because it's the de facto [platform]. Everybody thinks they still have to have it. And then all the others I kind of get free from all around except for Hulu, which I pay extra for. So there is a lot of bundling happening. And also in our customer base, there are passport services. And TV Everywhere was kind of a first passport service here in the US.”

Ultimately, Laor notes that all of these complex bundlings are beginning to resemble traditional linear cable TV bundles. “There's a lot of free content in a model that really goes from linear, from the old days to the new days and translated more one-to-one,” he says. “It didn't disintegrate in that way here in the US. So our customers are actually engaging in passport services trying to see if [they] could have one subscription for several apps. So it goes between different aspects of our long tail service, and it more resembles the packages that you could buy on cable. So that is coming back.”

Laor emphasizes the importance of streamlined UX as a defining factor to how users engage with and remain subscribed to offerings. “UX plays a huge role here,” he says. “We see from our numbers that it makes a huge difference if a user has to log in with a username and password on a smart tv or if you have a QR code using an off-device authorization flow grant. And even now, going to magic links…you don't even have to do any login. You just get an email, and you click a button. So talking about how you lower the bar and make it seamless – it's very important.”

How subscriptions are tracked via built-in smart TV UX interfaces can also skew the numbers, Laor says. “We have to remember that Samsung people that are listed in those numbers are people that just bought the TV set, and it's there, and it's connected to the internet. It doesn't count how many people actually logged in and downloaded one single app on their own and expanded their platform beyond what was pre-bundled. And my suspicion – I don't have any exact number – but I think we all agree that that number is dramatically lower than the amount of people registered as users on a platform like Roku. Because when you buy a Roku stick, you actually express your intent to use it to download apps.”

Shapiro says, “I mean look, the connected television doesn't necessarily mean it's being used as such. But when you look at the streaming numbers, Samsung and Roku got into it very early. As first movers, they gained a lot of advantages just from pure usage. But you're right…you should look at the streams versus the devices available.”

“When you think about these bundling packages and lowering the bar,” Laor says, “it becomes that much more important to lower the bar than the platforms that are harder to operate.”

“I mean, look, ultimately, we should all have a UX that is not hard to operate!” Shapiro says.

Learn more about OTT UX at Streaming Media East 2023.

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