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The Top 6 App Features Your OTT Subscribers Want

Want your OTT app to compete with the reigning champs? Use this checklist of must-have features to attract new users and keep your OTT subscribers happy forever.

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Back when OTT subscribers only had a handful of apps and services to choose from, they were willing to deal with a frustrating interface or limited device availability for outstanding content.

But now that viewers have over 300 streaming video services to choose from, they’re gaining more experience and learning which features they can’t live without [*]. This vast sea of choices means subscribers are becoming more selective with their wallets and time than ever.

Though streaming consumption during COVID-19 was up more than 74% since 2019, subscription churn rates also climbed 6% [*]. This apex-level competition in the OTT wilds proves your app needs a serious edge to gain subscribers.

Prioritizing the most in-demand features during an app build or redesign is the best way to keep viewers happy, engaged, and willing to pay.

So use this checklist of the top app features your OTT subscribers really want as a roadmap to create an ideal user experience and money-making machine.

top 6 app features your ott subscribers want

According to a special streaming edition of the Nielsen Total Audience report, OTT households consider 13 video streaming attributes when deciding between subscriptions [*].

Predictably, your service’s price and the availability of desired content rank among the top three most important attributes. Streaming/playback quality, load/buffer times, and picture resolution were also ranked as extremely/very important.

But you may be surprised to learn how many features related to your app’s design and user functionality matter too. So optimizing for these six most prized app features will deliver the best ROI:

1. ease of use

A whopping 81% of subscribers say using an OTT app must be easy, or they’re out [*]. Viewers don’t want to fumble around complicated menu screens and get frustrated with clunky navigation.

This expectation of convenience may explain why your UI and UX are the two main drivers that predict whether subscribers adopt and continue using your app.

User interface (UI) refers to the viewer’s physical interaction with your app. It covers everything from your app’s buttons and menus to the layout, sounds, colors, video previews, etc.

User experience (UX) defines how the UI works in your customers’ hands to deliver their overall viewing experience. UX design goes beyond aesthetics to address each viewer’s needs, anticipate/solve problems they may encounter, and enhance customer satisfaction.

These two are intrinsically linked:

If your subscribers don’t like the way your OTT app works, they’ll stop using it and cancel their subscription. On the other hand, if your app is intuitive and easy to use, viewers will have a pleasant user experience that encourages them to return for more.

Titans of the OTT kingdom like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video know this. In a survey of 140 OTT industry execs across 49 countries, nearly 85% rated the quality of an app’s user experience as “very important,” while less than half rated a unique range of content the same way [*].

So in our convenience-first culture, cleverly designed UI delivering an exceptional UX ultimately helps you reduce churn and keep generating revenue.

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2. search of desired content

Along with ease of use, 71% of OTT subscribers rank the ability to search and access desired content quickly as extremely/very important [*]. And a report from PwC showed 50% of streamers would cancel an OTT service if it has a challenging content discovery system [*].

So even if your content attracted viewers to your brand, they’ll abandon their subscriptions (and try out your competitors) if they can’t find what they actually want to watch.

Building a function that lets viewers search across metadata such as a movie/TV series, actor, director, etc. allows them to quickly parse through your entire catalog in a flash. This may require adding a keyboard to your search to upgrade time-consuming alphabetized menu scrolling.

Voice control search has also been skyrocketing in apps, platforms, and devices. Research proves viewers, especially those under the age of 45, utilize voice commands and AI-powered assistants to help them find what they’re looking for.

Source: IHS Markit Survey

You could also consider creating micro-genres, which further refine your collection and make it easier for viewers to jump right into the content they’re seeking.

Minimizing content discovery times remains a top priority for OTT brands. The more content your users watch, the less likely they’ll churn.

Netflix is even testing a new Shuffle Play feature right on the home screen to eliminate the viewer’s need to search at all [*].

3. availability across devices

Almost 60% of subscribers rank a brand’s availability of content across multiple devices as their most important consideration when comparing OTT services [*]. And that’s not surprising when you examine these stats:

  • The average US household operates 12 internet-connectible devices [*].
  • The average OTT user streams content across three devices and uses three different OTT services [*].
  • Consumers average 5 hours and 43 minutes of watching video on TV, TV-connected devices, computers, smartphones, and tablets [*].

These numbers substantiate why 90% of OTT executives rank the ability to access an identical range of content across multiple devices as “very important” [*].

A user should be able to access your OTT app on one device and then seamlessly pick up where they left off on another. Each app should feel similar, as if they’re part of the same family, even if it’s running on a totally different device/platform (while still considering each device’s inherent functionality).

Despite this need, it’s a challenge for brands to create a seamless, consistent app across various devices and platforms on their own. It requires deep knowledge of each device/platform’s specific coding language, native features, OS updates, and more. Most OTT brands just don’t have this talent on their team.

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4. ad free

Unsurprisingly, 48% of subscribers say an ad-free option ranks among their top two considerations for choosing an OTT service [*]. And an ad-free experience remains the top reason 44% of subscribers even sign up for a streaming service [*].

However, to follow the ad-free subscription model of the OTT heavyweights, smaller brands must convince new users that their content is worth the upfront payment. This could prove difficult for lesser-known brands untested by viewers.

This is where a hybrid option comes into play. A freemium model helps introduce your audience to your content library before pressuring them to fork over their hard-earned cash.

By offering both free and paywalled content, you’ll give everyone a taste of what they can expect and familiarize viewers with your (hopefully awesome!) app. Employing a combination of each model will help you reach viewers in different stages of your buyer’s journey.

Your OTT content marketing and engagement efforts will ultimately determine how fast a new viewer moves from the brand awareness or free content stage to becoming a lifetime subscriber.

Remember, 46% of OTT customers admit they’re willing to pay $10/month for ad-free service [*]. So to encourage viewers toward monetization, your content marketing plan must highlight the value in your subscriptions.

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5. content available for download

Over 40% of OTT subscribers have canceled a paid video subscription service because they didn’t use it enough to justify the cost [*]. So making content available for download is one of the best ways to help subscribers “get their money’s worth.”

When it comes time to begin or renew a subscription, 40% of subscribers rank the ability to download content as an extremely/very important factor in their decision-making [*].

Consumers value the convenience of watching their favorite content whenever they want, wherever they want. And OTT consumers are glued to their mobile devices for more than six hours a day, on average, watching more than two hours of video daily [*].

Downloading content on their high-speed network at home prevents buffering/streaming woes on the train during their commute, or at the park when the signal may be less than ideal. It also minimizes the worry of exceeding data plan limits on-the-go.

Not making your content available for download forces viewers back into the living room, where this limitation may be discouraging for heavy mobile app users. Allowing them to take your content with them keeps your viewers engaged and your brand top-of-mind.

6. menu recommendations

Menu recommendations remain one of the top two reasons 38% of OTT subscribers stick with a streaming service [*]. And almost a quarter of viewers canceled a streaming service after watching all the content they initially signed up for [*].

While an intuitive search is necessary for viewers who already know what they want to watch, menu recommendations help those who have no idea.

These recommendations place highly-relevant content directly in front of your audience to streamline the discovery process. This pushes viewers to watch new titles, so they never feel as if they’ve exhausted your content library. And the feeling of always having something to watch may prevent them from experimenting with another service.

More than 80% of videos watched on Netflix actually come from in-app recommendations because they know their users are only willing to spend 60-90 seconds browsing for new content [*][*].

So you may want to 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. Or, check out the future of collective-behavior based recommendations, which analyze global viewing behavior data to gather both quantitative and qualitative metrics for what, where, when, why, and how viewers are watching your content.

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missing the goods your ott subscribers demand? we can help you build them

OTT brands hoping to keep up and compete with the streaming goliaths must invest in creative and technical teams that know how to create user-friendly interfaces with the features subscribers most want.

The ultimate goal is to build a video service that delights users and delivers sustainable revenue. Investing in UX will be your secret weapon to consolidating a firm position in the crowded OTT market.

At Zemoga, our team of OTT developers and designers create rich media experiences that push the envelope of capability and engage viewers across all devices and platforms. We can help build your streaming application from scratch or deploy specialists to work alongside your team.

Don’t just take our word for it; we’ve worked with some of the world’s biggest media companies, including Hulu, Sony, and HBO.

So contact us today, and get ready to build better!


Note: Some of the research and statistics mentioned in this post were published before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Streaming usage has exploded during this time while advertising spend has suffered greatly. That said, some of these statistics or projections may change quickly and are likely to showcase even higher engagement rates across the board for usage, downloads, and other related metrics.

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