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Unless you’ve been hiding under a particularly large rock these past few years, you may have noticed that our viewing habits are changing. If you’ve been scanning the headlines in the marketing press you’ll be aware that it’s a case of “the TV is dead, long live the TV!” On the one hand, what you might call our conventional TV habit is in decline. We watch less, and if we are younger we watch a lot less. But on the other, a new category of ‘Home Digital Media’ has emerged that gives consumers more control and choice over what appears on the television screen than ever before.

Before going any further, it might help to define or at least understand our terms a little more clearly. There are a number of subtly different approaches and technologies out there, but from a consumer perspective they ultimately all add up to the same thing: the ability to interact with the traditional TV screen, select and stream media on-demand, and browse interactive content, all from the sofa (or whatever soft furnishing you’re having yourself). Digital Media Services, Interactive TV, Smart TV and so on – are ultimately technologies moving towards the same long-term goal.

By way of practical example, consider AppleTV or Roku. Both essentially piggy-back on the home network and the TV screen. They enable video streaming content from providers such as Netflix and Amazon Video to be selected and streamed straight to the screen. And in turn, this leads to the very modern trend of ‘cord cutting’ – the moment when the consumer realises that these ‘over the top’ services deliver all the entertainment they need and thus severs their long-standing relationship with a conventional cable TV company.

The Marketing Opportunity

As marketers, there are a few obvious things to be aware of here.

Firstly, the TV screen has now become an ‘active’ rather than ‘passive’ form of entertainment*. I sit down and make an active choice to catch the latest episode of Game of Thrones, I don’t simply turn on a curated (that’s a nice word for it) channel that decides what I want to watch at any given time. For marketers that is a significant shift. It means that old models of interruption are no longer as valid or effective, just as they are on mobile.

Instead, we need to consider how best the brand can take part in the Digital Media / OTT experience. For most organizations, exactly how that will happen is still up for grabs, but ‘being there’ is a start. In most cases, access to media services are via apps, or something that to the consumer looks awfully like an app. And those apps don’t, and aren’t, restricted to conventional media or streaming services.

Take Gilt as an example. With a dedicated Apple TV app it understands that sitting on the sofa ‘watching’ TV no longer has to mean just consuming content. Why not shop, or play, or chat to friends – or interact and purchase from any of our favorite brands while we are there? The Digital Media and OTT space gives brands an opportunity to add further depth to their relationship with customers. But just as on mobile, the challenge is to ensure that app users on TV get outstanding experiences and relevant, optimized content. If they don’t, you are a novelty and nothing more. If they do – you have successfully opened up a new channel that drives loyalty and revenue (everyone knows multi-channel customers are more valuable customers).

What Next For Netflix Et Al?

Of course, the rise of OTT / Digital Media Streaming is of most importance to organizations that generate original content. Into this category, we can place both traditional news and media broadcasters, and of course internet-only players such as Netflix, Amazon etc (who almost certainly don’t need any advice from me).

For these organizations, success means either an ability to serve lots of advertising, or collecting sufficient revenue directly from subscribers. The former requires high levels of engagement that in turn means delivering the best possible experiences to viewers. With so many alternatives competing for consumer attention, that is not small task.

The latter subscription model is equally challenging. Across multiple channels (TV, Mobile, Desktop Internet etc) the provider need to gain a clear understanding of users at the individual level and deliver the experiences and campaigns (think messages displayed within the app, on all channels including TV) that drive subscription, reduce churn, and upsell packages where relevant. The details of exactly how that is done are for another blog in the very near future, but what is absolutely certain is that the opportunity is huge for those ready to put in the effort!

*There is some debate about exactly how true this is, but again, that’s for another post in the near future