Tag: SVOD

Ad-supported video-on-demand–could this be the way to go

Article

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

Could ad-supported video-on-demand be the way to go on our smart TVs and set-top boxes like the Apple TV?

How Australians feel about advertising-supported streaming – AdNews

My Comments

Increasingly we are making use of advertising-supported video-on-demand services when it comes to streaming TV shows.

One form these services come in are “broadcaster video-on-demand” services run by private or public-service TV broadcasters that run advertising. The other form are video-on-demand services that are purely funded by advertising such as YouTube. This will also include the subscription video-on-demand services that are starting to offer ad-supported reduced-price or free-to-use plans in addition to their premium ad-free plans.

The AdNews article had found that Australian TV viewers are accepting ad-supported video-on-demand services. This is due to the user-experience for ad-supported video-on-demand being perceived to be better than the traditional experience associated with advertising-supported linear TV viewing.

This issue may be seen as being different from broadcaster video-on-demand services ran by advertising-funded TV broadcasters. But it may apply to TV broadcasters who offer a premium video-on-demand video service as an adjunct to their broadcast and BVOD offerings, with examples being Stan or Paramount+ ran by the Nine Network and Ten Network respectively.

How will the viewing experience come across for ad-supported services

Netflix official logo - courtesy of Netflix

.. what with Netflix lining up ad-supported low-cost subscription tiers

Here, you have fewer commercials per ad break compared to the traditional TV experience, As well, there is an increased chance of seeing shorter more succinct ads, something that may only have been ran later on in the same ad break as a prior standard-length ad to reinforce that ad’s message.

Some platforms may even allow the user to skip particular ads or may offer some form of interactivity so users can “act on” ads relevant to their needs. An example of this could be to support “telescoping” where you can choose to see a longer-form ad with more details if you are interested in the product or service concerned. Or it could be about being able to use your “companion-screen” device like your smartphone or tablet to act on the offer being advertised such as to book a seat at that movie or play whose trailer you saw.

Add to this the ability for ad-supported video-on-demand platforms to support targeted advertising options. This will be facilitated with the video-on-demand service providers subscribing to one or more adtech platforms or ad marketplaces and having these platforms “fill” at least some of the advertising inventory with campaigns provided by these marketplaces, in addition to the service selling its own advertising inventory directly.

Like with traditional commercial TV, the ad breaks that these advertising-driven video-on-demand services will also be about creating breaks during the viewing experience. This could be a chance to go to the kitchen or bathroom or, where applicable, to put more fuel on the solid-fuel fire. As well, most of us would be looking at our smartphones or tablets during the ad breaks to interact with social media or look for online resources about concepts that are highlighted in the content.

The increased appeal of advertising-driven video-on-demand has come about due to a saturated market for ad-free subscription video-on-demand services. Here, some users are even questioning whether it is worth it to subscribe to multiple subscription-based streaming services at the full price. This is more so if one service’s content appeals to them more than another service.

It will mean that users could sign up to many of these services through ad-supported low-tier plans or benefit from services that adopt a freemium business model where there is a free ad-supported service plan alongside a premium ad-free service plan. This could lead to users subscribing to one or two video-on-demand services that they value the most while watching content on other video-on-demand services that run a ad-based freemium approach.

Impact on video content offered

But there are questions that will come up about the increased acceptance of ad-supported video-on-demand. One of these would be whether this has an impact on the kind of video content offered through these services.

Here, it may be about producers being required to avoid taking risks in order to keep their content “brand safe” so as not to impact advertisers’ reputations. This would necessitate avoiding controversial topics and contexts being part of the content.

Or it could be content producers pandering to the lowest common denominator in order to attract advertisers that offer goods and services that “every man and his dog” wants. This can be more so where an advertising-driven video-on-demand doesn’t create its specific niche market.

Let’s not forget the issue where some service providers will offer a smaller selection of their content to those of us who sign up to the ad-supported service tiers. This may be of concern for those of us who have discerning content tastes, something that has become more prevalent thanks to Netflix and services offering “premium-grade” TV content.

In some cases, you may find that lower-priced ad-supported tiers may offer the content at a basic video and sound quality specification like Full HD or stereo sound. Or there is a limit on the number of devices that can be concurrently used to view different content.

Similarly, there will be questions raised about video-on-demand services who have content directed at children and youth as part of their content lineup. Here, it would be about a requirement to keep the amount of advertising down within this content and maintain a strong control over the goods and services advertised while that content is shown. This is in order for parents and educators to consider these services as being “safe” for children and youth to use.

Conclusion

The increased prevalence of ad-supported video-on-demand services, including subscription-based services offering free or low-cost ad-supported service tiers, will be expected as a way to answer the over-saturated online video marketplace.

Why I support multiple accounts with online media endpoints at home?

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

The Apple TV set-top box – an example of a popular online-media platform

It is so easy to think of the idea of one person associated with an account-based online media service that is run on a commonly-used online media device. The classic example of this is a smart TV or set-top box that is installed in the main living room. It also extends to smart speakers, Internet radios and network-capable audio setups that work with various online audio content services.

There is a reality that many adults will end up using the same device like the aforementioned smart TV. But a lot of online-media services like Netflix, the broadcast video-on-demand services run by the free-to-air TV broadcasters or online audio services implement user-account-driven operation so customers benefit from their subscription or user-experience personalisation like “favourite shows” lists. With these smart TVs or similar devices, you can only associate the device with one user account for each of these services. This assumes that one person owns and operates the device.

Dish Joey 4K set-top box press picture courtesy of Dish Networks America

Set-top boxes connected to TVs in common areas are used by many people

It is although Apple has started work with having one Apple TV device work with multiple Apple ID user accounts, leading towards concurrent operation of these accounts in tvOS 13. But, at the moment, this only works with Apple-provided online services that are bound to end-users’ Apple IDs.

This reality is driven by the rise in multi-generational households with adult children living under the same roof as their parents. That has come about due to strong financial pressures on young people driven by costly housing in major cities, whether owned or rented. It goes along with that long-time adult reality of maintaining personal relationships under the same roof, while other adults end up staying at the home of another person they are friendly with as a temporary measure. As well, younger adults are increasingly living in share-houses in order to split their living costs easily amongst each other.

Dell Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1 - viewer arrangement at Rydges Melbourne (Locanda)

An online media account set up on a laptop, tablet or smartphone is typically set up for one user having exclusive use of that device

But a significant number of the accounts for the various online-media services are established on computing devices that are primarily or exclusively used by a single adult. Then a person may decide to register their online-media service account on a commonly-used online-media device to use their subscription or customisations there.

The problem that easily happens is that other people cannot operate their accounts for the same service on that same device thus losing the benefit of their customisations being valid at that device. Or if they do so, they have to complete a rigmarole of logging others out before they log in, with some services having a login procedure requiring you to enter usernames and passwords on the media device using that dreaded “pick-and-choose” method even if the service was set up using social sign-in.

What does the single account problem affect?

Netflix menu screen - favourites

Shows you have marked as “favourite” for your profile in your Netflix account

The situation can also affect the account that is associated with the commonly-used device in a number of ways. This is more so with the content recommendation engines that most online media services implement which help in the discovery of new content that may be of interest. The behaviour of these engines manifests in the form of a “recommended content” playlist that appears on the service’s homepage, the customer email that is sent out to each of the service’s customers with a list of recommended content or a content suggestion that appears at the end of content you were engaging with.

SBS On Demand - favourites screenshot

Another example of shows you have marked as favourite – this time on SBS On Demand

Here, you may have “steered” SBS On Demand’s content recommendation engine to bring up European thrillers due to you watching these shows. But someone else comes in with a penchant for, perhaps, Indian Bollywood content. They binge on episodes of this content and you end up with the recommended-content list diluted with Indian content.

SBS On Demand - recommendations screenshot

The recommended-content playlist like this one can be diluted when there is one account shared by many with different tastes like with SBS On Demand

Another area where this will affect is the list of favourite shows or currently-viewing series that these services keep. Here, you use these lists to identify where you are up to in a show or series you are viewing. Similarly, your member email may alert you to new seasons of your favourite series or if the show is to be removed from the service. But if you started working through a show or series on a computing device you exclusively use but want to continue it on the large-screen TV bound to someone else’s account, you won’t be able to do so unless you log in with your account to continue your viewing there.

In the same context, it doesn’t permit a user who is enjoying the content on the account associated with the commonly-used device to another device associated with their own account. This may be of concern if, for example, you commenced viewing of an episode of a binge-worthy series on the main TV in the house’s main living area but had to continue it on your 2-in-1 laptop in your bedroom because someone else wants to do something else.

Common workarounds

Using a setup like AirPlay, Chromecast or hard-wired connectivity to link your own computing device to the large-screen TV may be seen as a workaround for access to your account even if the set or main set-top device is associated with another account.

But this can yield problems like mobile devices not yielding a best-quality picture with a hard-wired connection or the existence of an Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV setup or appropriate cable that is connected to the TV you want to use. Let alone it not being feasible to carry that desktop computer of yours around to the main TV to watch that Netflix show there using your account and its customisations. Or your smartphone or tablet going to sleep and interrupting your viewing due to it taking battery-conservation measures or simply running out of battery power.

You may find that connecting multiple set-top boxes or similar devices to the main TV with each one bound to different accounts may exist as another workaround. This is typically demonstrated by the use of a games console bound to its owner’s online media service accounts connected to a Smart TV that is bound to someone else’s online-media-service accounts.

But this can look very ugly, become less useable and you may not have enough HDMI ports on your TV or audio peripherals (soundbar, AV receiver) to cater for each set-top device bound to each individual household member’s accounts. It is made worse by most TVs having up to 3 HDMI inputs and most popularly-priced audio peripherals only having the one HDMI-ARC connection to the TV.

What can be done?

An online media service that works through a particular online media endpoint device could support multiple logins with the number being this side of 10.

Here, you could have an option to add or delete extra accounts to the online media-service interface as if you are managing your own account on that interface. The authentication process for adding accounts would be the same as for your own account, whether through supplying a username and password or transcribing an on-screen number in to the Website or mobile app for that service to enrol a limited-interface device.

A question that will come up is whether to have the accounts concurrently operating with the device exposing the customisations associated with each account on the same interface; or require the end-users to switch accounts for exclusive operation when they want to use their account.

Concurrent operation may be considered of relevance to, for example, a couple who watching their shows with each other whereas exclusive operation may come in to its own with an adult who watches their shows by themselves. This can also help with building out content recommendations or the online-media service keeping track of the popularity of a particular piece of content including how it is enjoyed.

What features can this add to online media consumption?

One feature would be the ability to easily enjoy the same content across different devices associated with your account, no matter whether they are exclusive to your account or not. This would benefit where you are working through the same content in different locations like hearing a playlist from that online music service in the car, or at home on the hi-fi; or watching that series on an iPad while you come home from work on the train then continuing it on the TV in the main lounge area at home.

Concurrent operation could also allow for an amalgamated content-choice experience, perhaps with separate menus or playlists for each person. It can extend to providing a list of common favourites or content recommendations that appeal “across the board”.

You also make sure that the content recommendations offered by the online media service reflect your content-consumption habits rather than be diluted by someone else’s choices. This is more so for music or video content that you enjoy and you want to discover similar content.

In some cases, you could have the ability to have the content-recommendation engine come up with content that appeals to the tastes represented by a group of accounts like a household rather than just one account. Such recommendations could be listed alongside account-specific recommendations lists.

Conclusion

What needs to be considered as the rise of online multimedia consumption occurs is the ability for multiple online media-service accounts to be used for the same service on the same device. This means that these services can work well with the reality of multiple-adult households such as couples or multi-generation households.

It then means that the service is personalised to each end-user’s tastes and the content recommendation system in these services reflects what they watch.

Two niche video-on-demand providers are starting to show up strong

From the horse’s mouth

Acorn TV – SVOD provider offering the best of British telly to the USA

Native Clients

Mobile: iOS, Android

TVs and Set-top Devices: Apple TV (tvOS), Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV (newer)

SBS On Demand – AVOD provider offering foreign and art-house content to Australian audiences

Native Clients

Mobile: iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle Fire, Windows Phone

Regular Computers: Windows 10

TVs and Set-top Devices: Apple TV (tvOS),  XBox 360, XBox One, PS3, PlayStation 4, Humax, Fetch TV, Telstra TV, Telstra T-Box, Sony Bravia Smart TVs, Android TV, Google TV, Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs, Panasonic Viera Smart TVs, HBBTV, TCL TV

My Comments

As the mainstream “over-the-top” video-on-demand market becomes saturated with service providers who try to cover all the bases, a few companies are rising up or will rise up to offer an “over-the-top” video-on-demand service that targets a niche audience.

Some of these companies are based on an existing media-publication or distribution platform that already courts that particular niche like a home-video distributorship, a TV broadcaster or a bookstore. Here, I would simply see a niche video-on-demand provider very similar to an art-house cinema or a specialty bookstore.

The different companies provide these services on one or more of the following three business models

  • AVOD (Advertising Video-On-Demand) – advertising-funded with TV commercials run during the show like with traditional TV. It is commonly used with services that started out as “catch-up TV” services offered by TV broadcasters who sell advertising.
  • SVOD (Subscription Video-On-Demand) – funded by users paying a monthly or yearly subscription fee to see all of the content offered by the video-on-demand provider. It is the same kind of business model that Netflix operate on.
  • TVOD (Transactional Video-On-Demand) – viewers pay to have access to a particular movie or series title either on an infinite basis or for a certain time period. It is similar to the video offerings provided by the platform app stores (Apple iTunes, Google Play or Microsoft Store).

These providers may find that the business model that they choose may please the audience that views their content, especially if they are capitalising on their media-distribution heritage. On the other hand, they may have to operate the different business models together such as taking a “freemium” approach with an advertising-funded service but allowing viewers to subscribe to a premium ad-free service.

There are two services I am calling out in this article that are answering to the niche video-on-demand market.

 

Screenshot of Acorn TV website

Acorn TV – the best of British telly in the USA

One of these is Acorn TV, a subscription video-on-demand service that is supplying the best of British telly to the American market. It was based on the Acorn imprint which sold British shows on packaged home-video media (VHS videocassettes and DVD / Blu-Ray discs) in to the USA since 1994. Acorn are even heading towards creating their own content as well as redistributing the content offered by the British TV channels in to the USA. It appeals to British expats who have moved to North America along with Americans who appreciate the high-quality content that British TV is known for.

SBS On Demand Windows 10 platform app

SBS On-Demand (Windows 10 native app) – foreign-language TV in Australia thanks to SBS

The other of these is SBS On Demand, an advertising video-on-demand service that is supplying Australian viewers with foreign and art-house content. This service evolved from a “catch-up TV” service that SBS, a publicly-funded radio and TV service that focused towards Australia’s ethnic communities since the late 70s, ran in conjunction with their free-to-air TV service. Here, they have become the Australian TV outlet for the rising classes of subtitled content like Nordic Noir crime fiction even before such content came on the scene in the UK and USA. SBS still create their own edgy TV content to show on their regular TV service or directly on this on-demand service.

Most of these providers work on traditional content trees with content grouped primarily by the standard content genres with opisodic content listed by series title. But as this class of on-demand video provider evolves,  there will be the curated thematic content groups appearing in their content trees, focusing on particular themes like content classes that underscore the niche very well like the “Golden Age of British Comedy”.

What needs to happen is the ability for those niche video-on-demand content providers not to just represent themselves as just another app in your smart TV’s or mobile device’s app store but to expose the fact that they provide a particular class of content.

Allowing for niche SVOD providers to exist

Google Play Android app store

App stores like Google Play could be the place to set up shop as a boutique SVOD provider

An issue that will face the subscription video-on-demand market will be the existence of niche players. These are boutique SVOD providers that provide current and back-catalogue content that focus on particular tastes and interests. Examples of these could include a provider who runs European, Asian or other foreign films in to English-speaking markets; a specialist in art-house cinema, documentary movies or low-budget fare of the 60s and 70s that was run at a “flea-pit” cinema or drive-in, or even an extension of a Christian bookstore chain that runs Christian movies.

This is similar to how home video evolved through the early days where video content providers worked with particular vertical markets even though the major film studios saw this new distribution medium as too risky. This allowed, for example, the low-budget independent content to gain more of a foothold with some of the names listed in these movies’ credits to head towards bigger better-paid gigs.

Very hard to compete in the successful mainstream SVOD world

Netflix official logo - courtesy of Netflix

Netflix – the sign of a saturated SVOD marketplace

What has been noticed recently is that only a few mainstream SVOD providers that “cover all the bases” can exist in one market at one time. This was recently exemplified when QuickFlix fell of the tree because they were trying to pitch the Australian market against Netflix, Presto and Stan. Similarly, the SVOD model has been proven to be successful as this article from Advanced Television shows, underscoring concepts like increased perceived value and customers signing up with multiple SVOD services.

From my experience with Netflix, I had noticed that the subscription video-on-demand services were able to come across in an exciting manner especially with their user interface. For example, they offered a recommendation engine which allows you to discover content you may be interested in; along with a carousel-style user interface that encourages browsing.

Ability to divide the niche genre in to sub-genres

A niche SVOD provider would be able to license particular kinds of video content that serve their niche and even break this content collection down in to multiple sub-genres. Examples of these could include the Australian “Ozsploitation” movies that could be part of the “grind-house” low-budget movie niche; or there could be a Christian SVOD provider offering the “testimony” movies as a separate class of movie. Or a foreign-language provider could run language-focused genres like, for example, a European provider running the Nordic-noir content as a distinct class of content.

Ability to sell the content in other forms

Inspector Morse DVD box set

Collectable optical-disc box sets could still be sold by niche SVOD providers

A situation that can easily give the niche SVOD provider an edge over the traditional SVOD provider of the Netflix ilk is that they could work directly with studios and distributors servicing that niche, typically indie studios, to take the content further.

For example, they can offer “download-to-view” or “download-to-own” as a content-acquisition option along with the streaming option. This can be facilitated through the use of the SCSA Vidity secure-content-delivery mechanism. Similarly, the niche SVOD provider, especially if they work alongside a bookstore, video store or similar outlet, could allow for online or “click-and-collect” selling of content on physical media like Blu-Ray Discs. This is becoming more so as the niche bookstores and “collectable” DVD stores are still hanging on even though there is a reduction in the number of mainstream content stores in the “bricks-and-mortar” form.

Specialised information including playlists

The specialist nature also has the ability for a niche SVOD provider to supply more detailed material about the content or even offer themed playlists that viewers can work through. Such playlists could be created based on an occasion like an anniversary or awards ceremony that affects the niche; or even films based in a particular location.

But what would these providers need to do to put themselves on the map?

As well as acquiring the necessary server space on optimised servers around the world and licensing the catalogue of movies and TV shows to have available, they would need to work on making Web and platform apps available to gain access to this content.

Apple TV and Chromecast – a foot in the door

Apple TV - Mirroring on - iPad

An Apple TV device could be a foot in the door for niche SVOD providers courting iOS users

Some platforms, namely the iOS and Android mobile platforms support streaming to the large-screen TV via a home network thanks to the Apple TV and Chromecast devices that connect to your regular TV. This may dodge a problem associated with catering to most of the smart-TV platforms where the content provider may have to be allied with the platform’s vendor or approved by that vendor to get the content app in their app store. It is because the user interface can be focused on the iOS or Android devices with the app “throwing” the stream from the SVOD service to the Apple TV or Chromecast device.

But some Web-based platforms may be able to work with the big screen thanks to Apple TV (in the case of MacOS or iOS) or Chromecast (in the case of Android, Chrome OS or any operating system with the Chrome browser). In some of these cases, you may be able to have it that the video content goes “full screen” while it is playing.

Platforms that would succeed for app-based approaches

XBox One games console press image courtesy Microsoft

XBox One – the games console / multimedia box accessible to niche SVOD providers

The platforms that I see as working well for niche SVOD providers would be the Android and Windows 10 platforms due to being able to show a larger variety of content without the risk of being removed from the platform’s app store. Similarly, the Android TV platform supported by the Freebox mini 4K set-top box, some of the newer Sony smart TVs and the NVIDIA Shield games console; the XBox One games console or the Kodi open-source set-top-box platform could be seen as TV-based platforms that facilitate niche SVOD providers.

Bringing new customers on board

Another issue that needs to be raised is that the onboarding experience for new subscribers has to be simplified. This may involve a Web-based or app-based experience including the ability to allow TV-based or set-top-based apps to cater to multiple users and accounts. It may also involve whether the niche SVOD provider has to implement social sign-on, perhaps as an option, where one can use a social network’s user interface to sign on to the service.

This could be facilitated through the initial onboarding experience being facilitated with a secure Web-based user experience where the user ends up creating their own account and setting up a subscription plan. Then they log in to the mobile-based or TV-based user experience with this account that they created in order to enjoy the content.

Promoting the service

To reach out to the audience base that would value the content, the potential niche SVOD provider would need to run advertising and PR campaigns focused on that audience class. They may also be discovered through feature-app functionality provided by the different app stores, especially where the app store creates thematic app lists to expose particular content to particular users.

In this case, the blurb that the niche SVOD provider supplies to the app stores for their platform apps needs to mention the kind of audience that the SVOD provider is intending to reach. This includes using the keywords that best describe that audience and the sub-genres that the content is classed to.

Conclusion

When a subscription-video-on-demand service market becomes saturated, it may have to be the time to create this new medium’s equivalent of a specialist bookstore, art-house cinema or specialist video store. This also means that there has to be the ability to utilise different ways to nurture the enthusiasts who are willing to spend more on this kind of content.

Telstra announces a set-top box that supports all three video-on-demand services

Article

Telstra TV media player (provisional design) press picture courtesy of Telstra

Telstra TV media player (provisional design)

Telstra TV will offer Netflix, Presto and Stan | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

Telstra

Press Release

My Comments

Telstra are putting forward another online TV platform that will be sold alongside the T-Box PVR platform and the Foxtel pay-TV platform which they have a share in.

This will be based around a Roku-designed box which will represent the first time a Roku product has been offered in Australia. Telstra’s use of an existing platform for their Telstra TV service will allow for the quick rollout of new services to customers.

The headline feature for Australian customers is that this box supports all three main subscription video-on-demand service i.e. Stan. Presto and Netflix. They will be offered alongside Telstra’s BigPond Movies and various catch-up TV offerings.

As for network connectivity, The Telstra TV box connects to your home network via 802.11g/n Wi-Fi or Ethernet, which I would prefer people to use when they use these services if they want real reliability. Here, you can use Ethernet wired directly from your router or use it with a HomePlug AV powerline-network segment if you don’t want to deal with new wires.

The device uses an SD card and a USB port for removeable-media storage but also allows for Miracast and second-screen operation with Netflix and YouTube. Of course it comes with an infra-red remote control so you don’t always have to use your smartphone to control this device.

A question I am raising is whether it can support DLNA or VidiPath functionality for use with media held on your home network or if Foxtel bites the VidiPath bullet for whole-house pay-TV. Since this is a work in progress, one is not really sure.

It does show that Telstra want to have their fingers in many different online-video pies and they could make this box play with their existing T-Box or Foxtel video services if they want to really make it sing.