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WarnerMedia Builds a Better Streaming App for its Upcoming OTT Service

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Forget the engineers and marketers: It's the consumers who know how to create a better OTT service. To find out what they want, companies only need to listen. 

WarnerMedia provided a sneak peek at its upcoming OTT offerings today at the Advertising Research Foundation's Audience X Science conference in Jersey City, New Jersey. It's now creating the app subscribers will use to access the service, and it's enlisting consumers to help it avoid the pitfalls other services suffer from.

"The way that we've approached it is to almost treat it as a consumer packaged goods product," explained Natasha Hritzuk, vice president of consumer insights at WarnerMedia. "I think a lot of these technology products end up being things that are baked between engineering and marketing, and the consumer gets pried in fairly late in the game. Engineers turn up features, they get maybe quant [quantitative] tested, you create a hierarchy of things that are going to be critical for launch—maybe things that come further down the pipeline—and we've tried to intercept that a bit earlier on and said, 'Hey, I'm aware of key features that consumers want that they haven't even had a chance to articulate.'"

The secret to WarnerMedia's approach is bringing consumers in early. People have tried several OTT services by this point, and know what they like. By holding focus groups, the company is learning what subscribers expect and what they really hate.

"We spent the last quarter of the year doing co-creation with consumers where we had consumers actually building out the tech features, the different features that they wanted on the app," Hritzuk said. "We've been testing them now to get a sense of what is table stakes and what would consumers really value as a differentiated and maybe vital offering that isn't currently available in the ecosystem."

Table stakes nowadays include the ability to access content on any device, and download some or all content to mobile devices for offline viewing. Where the testing really paid off is on pain points. Consumers not only know what they don't like in OTT services, but also know how to fix those problems.

"Where consumers are really experiencing acute pain points—and where they've got a lot of really brilliant ideas about how to overcome these pain points—are around content discovery and Start screen navigation," Hritzuk said. "The carrousel approach, the recommendations that don't really align with what people want to watch, finding things that align with groups who are watching together, search that's a little clunky that doesn't necessarily net the results people are after, and being able to curate the Start screen so it feels a little bit more personalized: Those are the things that are really popping up in the research we're doing."

When WarnerMedia's OTT service finally hits the market, look for its app to provide a better search and discovery experience than the rest. At least, that's the goal. And when will the service appear? Hritzuk said the company is aiming to go to market at the end of the current fiscal year.

Photo: Natasha Hritzuk of WarnerMedia and Julie DeTraglia of Hulu

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