It’s not hiding under your bed or out in the woods, but browser fatigue can be just as scary and frustrating as your worst nightmare. The endless scrolling through thumbnails without ever finding something enticing to watch can make viewers feel like they’re running in place, never getting anywhere, and far from the finish line of an enjoyable experience.
This is what happens when your impressive content library becomes a double-edged sword. The process of sifting through all your titles and analyzing synopses and cover art becomes an exhausting challenge.
OTT distributors must engage viewers with personalized content so they spend as much time on their platform as possible. Always having something to watch gives subscribers the most “bang for their buck.” It also keeps them returning and recommending your service to all their friends.
Sometimes viewers want to be the programmer and take an active part in content discovery and sometimes they just want to lean back and watch whatever’s on. So today, we’ll dive into how to deliver the best of both worlds to your subscribers to reduce churn and crush your competition.
aim for always be watching (abw), or when linear tv meets on-demand ott
Linear TV (i.e., traditional TV viewing) forces viewers to tune into a specific channel at a particular time to watch the content they’re interested in. On-demand entertainment removed this hurdle so viewers could watch whatever they want, whenever they want.
But according to a report from PwC, 50% of steamers would cancel an OTT service that offered an overwhelming amount of content or a challenging content discovery system [*]. So it’s up to OTT brands to lead their subscribers to water, so to speak, and personalize the viewing experience so viewers are always hooked on the next binge-fest.
Research from 2016 revealed the average Netflix subscriber spends 18 minutes browsing content before selecting something to watch, twice as long as traditional cable viewers spend looking for content [*].
To remedy this issue, Netflix tested a random-episode button for select TV shows on its Android app in 2019 and then began testing its “Shuffle Play” feature in July 2020 on connected-TV devices [*]. This automatically plays a random show or movie based on a subscriber’s viewing history, preferred genres, or saved content on their watchlist. Instead of making the content discovery process easier, the streaming giant just completely eliminated the chore.
It’s still unknown whether Netflix will make shuffle a permanent feature. But it does offer OTT brands one way to get their subscribers to make content viewing decisions sooner.
Crackle tried a similar endeavor when it introduced a new linear TV feature called “Always On,” which begins streaming programs as soon as a user opens the app. This was intended to mimic a TV-like viewing experience where a user just needs to turn on the tube and have content playing sans decision-making.
By leveraging Adobe Audience Manager, Crackle builds user-profiles and segments audiences to serve them unique, “Always On” content. So unlike a traditional TV network offering up the same feed no matter the end-user, Crackle’s stream is customized and tailored for each subscriber [*].
These are just two examples of how established brands are attempting an “always be watching” mentality. Let’s highlight a few more.
solving browser fatigue: 7 content discovery options for ott brands to consider
To marry the ease of linear TV with the on-demand world, OTT brands should consider programming their apps with:
1. data-driven recommendations
Service providers must offer a unique viewing experience tailored to each individual’s specific interests and viewing behaviors. This means delivering highly-personalized content recommendations.
Viewers have grown accustomed to YouTube’s “Up Next” videos and the row on Netflix labeled “Because you watched X.” But OTT brands hoping to compete with top players must go beyond the basic: you watched A so we’ll recommend B.
Enter: sophisticated algorithms to calculate collective-behavior.
These recommendations analyze global quantitative and qualitative data on what, where, when, why, and how viewers watch content. These viewing behaviors help identify relationships between content based on cast, location, release date, etc.
With a complete picture of your end-user, OTT providers can feed this data into a content recommendation engine, which predicts what a viewer will want to watch in the future using artificial intelligence. Essentially, it tells your OTT app how to merchandise all your stellar content so it leaps off the screen and commands attention.
So place highly-relevant content directly in front of your audience, and you’ll streamline the content discovery process to create a hassle-free user experience.
2. menu recommendations
While an intuitive search is necessary for viewers who already know what they want to watch, menu recommendations help those who have no idea. In fact, menu recommendations remain one of the top two reasons 38% of OTT subscribers stick with a streaming service [*].
Netflix knows this better than any brand. Since its users are only willing to spend 60-90 seconds browsing for new content, more than 80% of videos watched here actually come from in-app recommendations [*][*].
This type of personalization, thanks to their world-class data mining, goes hand-in-hand with customer satisfaction (i.e., the greatest weapon OTT providers have in the fight against browser fatigue).
Since almost a quarter of viewers canceled a streaming service after watching all the content they initially signed up for, brands must push viewers to watch new titles [*]. So try placing your most binge-worthy shows in the front menu row during the weekends when viewers have more time to pick up something new.
3. video previews
Video previews of personalized recommendations (tip #1) offer sneak-peeks to help users make faster, smarter decisions. They quickly showcase the title’s storyline, characters, and overall tone. Research shows video previews reduce content discovery times, so viewers spend more time engaging and less time searching [*].
While Netflix may have disabled autoplay previews, which started the video preview right from the browsing menu on its own, that doesn’t mean viewers don’t want these types of trailers. Just make sure viewers can control when these previews play, and you’ll be golden.
4. send personalized “watch now” notifications
Engaged users are happy, loyal subscribers. So once you have a subscriber, you can’t just forget about them; you must reach out and actively engage to keep them hooked. The viewer data you collect will provide key insights about your subscribers that you can use to better connect.
Once you analyze these, your team can:
- Send email newsletters about new episodes of their favorite programs, new films by a director they favor, or content they may like based on their viewing history. Let them watch instantly or quickly add these titles to their watchlist to ensure a speedy discovery process.
- Send push notifications. Push notifications drive engagement, retention, and revenue because they’re a direct line of communication with your audience. Once a user opts-in, you can send targeted messages that get them to take action based on their viewing history, in-app behavior, etc.
Just be sure to send notifications based on specific user data, or subscribers will become annoyed with intrusive suggestions that don’t pertain to their viewing habits.
5. create “channels”
Most people surf a few favorite TV channels to see what’s on instead of clicking through all of them one-by-one. OTT brands could mimic this by creating “channels” organized by microgenres.
For example, within the Disney+ experience, you could find separate linear channels for Marvel, ESPN, Disney Toons, and Star Wars. All users would need to do is click on a channel, and a nonstop stream of content from that universe will start playing.
Your brand could mix short-form content during the day and longer content at night and during the weekends (depending on your user data). Viewers don’t have to decide anything other than which channel to select, which offers a low barrier for entry since, chances are, they signed up for a subscription based on a specific content choice like this.
6. low-commitment bundles
One of the challenges subscription services face is getting viewers to commit to programming. Sometimes they don’t have the time or attention span to watch a movie after work. And starting a 30-minute show, which often ends on a cliffhanger to encourage binge-watching, falls into the same realm.
So OTT brands may want to bundle three to five super short pieces of content a user can dive into right away with very little commitment.
Think about how this works with traditional TV: viewers have 10 to 15 minutes of content before being interrupted with a commercial. They can use this time to grab a snack, use the restroom, or change the channel if they’re bored.
Creating short bundles (with a total runtime of less than one hour) offers the same flexibility and freedom. Users no longer have to fear being couch-locked by content. Viewers don’t have to commit, but they can certainly binge through a few before bedtime.
Love, Death, & Robots on Netflix is a perfect example. No episode is more than 15 minutes, and each is a contained story from start to finish. Viewers can jump in and jump out just as quickly and easily. They score interesting content without committing to anything longer than what they’d expect before a commercial break.
7. highlight what the cool kids are watching
Remember when everyone watched a new episode of Game of Thrones and talked about it around the watercooler on Monday? Aside from live sports, OTT brands miss out on this connected viewing experience.
So ask your team whether you can manufacture interconnected excitement by uniting viewers who share similar interests or watching behaviors. You may want to highlight a specific piece of programming each night or weekend per region and place it on the front page where everyone will see and interact with it.
This may override analysis paralysis and get others interested/talking about similar titles. After all, when deciding what to watch, 19% of cable TV viewers say they value a friend’s recommendation more than a professional critic. But that number jumps to 30% for Netflix users [*].
Netflix sort of does this with their top 10 titles row. Here, they tell you what all the cool kids have been watching and “peer pressure” viewers into believing they’re missing out on the next Tiger King if they don’t tune in too.
OTT brands could create a top 10 feature within their own apps. Base this list on the number of views/downloads a program earns, seasonality (such as popular holiday programming), or current events (like when TCM shows Oscar-winning movies the whole month leading up to the award show).
Do this successfully, and you may even get content distributors or studios to pay for this type of promotion to your audience.
we’ll help you build a better app to squash browser fatigue before it sets in
Competition for streaming services has never been hotter. So while you’re kicking butt signing up subscribers, you also need to take care of the viewers who think they may have exhausted your content library. These subscribers may leave your service for your competitors when browser fatigue becomes too much to deal with.
Our OTT team knows exactly how to give your subscribers what they want. We can personalize your app’s user experience with an intuitive user interface that delivers highly-relevant content before browser fatigue causes them to look and experiment elsewhere.
Get in touch with our experienced team now to see how we can build better for you!