If pay-TV operators had a crystal-ball that would allow them to peek inside customers’ homes, here is what they might see on a typical evening:

Jane arrives home after a long day at work, flops down on the sofa, and starts trawling through an endless number of TV channels, only to feel overwhelmed with the endless variety of available content.

On average, premium cable and satellite packages include hundreds of channels. The challenge that viewers like Jane face is finding a way to easily navigate through available TV programming to find compelling content that is personally appealing.

With hundreds of TV channels to scroll through, today’s program guides aren’t that efficient for engaging viewers with content. Wouldn’t it be time-saving if there was a technology that was intuitive enough to find the best, personalized content for viewers?  Heck yes!  Viewer engagement is critical. Today’s viewers don’t want a static, one-dimensional television experience. They want personalized television content and the ability to interact with content and friends anytime, anywhere, and on any device, much like they are already used to experiencing on other devices like PCs, smartphones, and tablets.

The Case for a Personalized TV Experience

The ability to deliver a personalized television experience is becoming increasingly important. Why? The answer is simple: Personalizing the television experience increases viewer engagement. When viewers are engaged with their service, they watch more content, including paid content like movies. They’re also being exposed to targeted ads and e-commerce. All of these things can boost revenue for operators.

Recent research from Parks Associates indicates that 41% of U.S. broadband households receive personalized video viewing recommendations from at least one source, with online video services Netflix and Hulu being the most common. The Parks Associates study reports that 59% of Hulu Plus customers and 50% of Amazon Prime customers are aware of recommendation features on the respective online video services, while only 15% of AT&T U-verse and 14% of Cablevision subscribers report receiving personalizing recommendations

Making a Personalized TV Experience Happen

Personalizing the TV experience isn’t some distant fantasy. The key for operators is finding solutions with sophisticated metadata and analysis technologies. This will enable operators to recommend TV content that matches their viewers’ individual personalities, previous viewing histories, and interests to increase viewer engagement and improve customer satisfaction. The end goal is of course to increase revenue opportunities.

What’s really cool is that some of the groundwork has already been laid for knowing the likes and dislikes of TV viewers like Jane. Relying on automatic recognition technology that has been pre-integrated in the TV or set-top box, it is possible to predict what type of content to recommend based on the viewer. For example, let’s say the set-top box or TV recognizes that the viewer, Jane, is a middle-aged female who has shown interest in the culinary arts. It would then recommend a list of live relevant programming.

Advertising and e-commerce can have a personal touch too. Based on Jane’s viewing habits, advertisers can target a certain product to her like cooking products. Or if a viewer likes the scarf that Giada Di Laurentiis is wearing in the program she’s watching, she can purchase it directly from an e-commerce area on the TV set rather than their iPhone or iPad. Providing advertisers with the ability to launch micro-targeted campaigns increases the effectiveness of advertising.

Aside from providing viewers with content recommendations, another way to personalize the TV viewing experience is through socialization. Many of today’s TV viewers are on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media applications while simultaneously tuned in to the television screen. So why not give them an easy way to see what their friends are watching, in real time, and chat with them about it? According to recent research from Accenture, “social media users have an average of 3.2 friends who post videos at least once a day; almost four out of 10 consumers post video online via social media; and more than half of consumers would be interested in recommending video to others as part of belonging to a video service.” What does this tell us? Social media simply cannot be ignored. It is deeply ingrained in everything we do nowadays, and therefore it shouldn’t be separate from the TV experience, it needs to be integrated into the TV experience.

A cloud-based backend solution that gathers and analyzes viewers’ personal and social data will enable a delivery of the most relevant content to each individual viewer.

Social media works! Recent research from Nielsen states that in 29% of cases, Twitter chatter causes an increase in live TV viewership.

That middle-aged television viewer who was recommended the latest food network program? She can now recommend what she’s watching to friends, invite friends to watch the TV program together, chat, communicate, and interact about it. And vice versa. It’s all about connecting more viewers with more content, especially content that is of interest to them.

Now is the Time

The benefits for TV viewers are obvious. Viewers are finding the content they like faster, so they’re watching more TV, they’re ordering more VOD offerings, and they’re happier with their service operator.

And the benefits for operators aren’t so bad either… Increased viewer satisfaction and engagement means less subscriber churn, more premium content ordered, and subscribers who are actively talking to friends about the service, in turn, bringing about potential new business.

Everything that consumers do today on devices is personalized, from the applications they engage with on their iPads to the customized content on their Facebook news feed. So can all operators make sure that the TV experience is personal as well? Yes! The good news is there is already the technology available and in use, that allows operators to deliver a television experience that is personalized, social, and interactive – one that really puts their customers in the center of the experience.

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