Industry research shows that smart TV vendors’ attempts to bring interactivity to the TV screen have for the most part been widely unsuccessful.  A recent NPD Connected Intelligence Application & Convergence report found that six out of 10 consumers who own a connected HDTV are accessing over-the-top (OTT) video services through the device. However, beyond OTT video viewing, application usage on the TV screen has been minimal.

Thanks to the recent explosion in second-screen devices, such as smartphones and tablets, the television user experience is dramatically changing. It’s now all around us, whether on the train commuting to work, out for an evening at the football game, or in the comforts of our own living room, we  are watching TV content anytime, anywhere, and on any screen. In addition to the fact that television programming is now viewed everywhere, it’s also becoming increasingly more social and interactive. It has become clear, over time, that consumers no longer want a lean-back viewing experience.

“Smart-TV Effects” study conducted by TOMORROW FOCUS Media network found that more than 25 percent of people own a smart TV, and just under one-third of those who don’t own a smart TV intend to buy one next year. Additionally, we’re seeing that consumers who own smart TVs are increasingly using them to connect to the Internet. A 2014 survey by TFM network found that 25.1 percent of smart TV owners actively use their device to go online compared with 20.4 percent in 2013.

So why are we still lacking interactivity on the television screen?

A major problem is the shortage of available content and poor user experience.
Currently, the apps available for smart TVs are slow; the user is limited in terms of the number of apps that they can receive, with most of the available apps related to gaming; and the apps do not always work.

The question remains: How can pay-TV operators still increase engagement between content and viewers on the television screen?

The answer is, for operators to offer interactivity that is simple and quick for the user, while providing content that is relevant to users’ likes and interests. A cloud-based back-end middleware solution that supports personalization and socialization will provide operators with more control over their service offering, enabling them to enhance the pay-TV user experience.  Implementing WatchApps, will enable operators to roll out interactive applications to viewers based on the content they are viewing, in a simple and non-intrusive way, and to any screen. WatchApps is a contextual and interactive application. It can be overlaid on top of the broadcast stream, providing the TV viewer with an immersive and engaging experience with the content they are watching. WatchApps includes an open SDK designed to simplify the development of HTML 5-based applications. Additionally, the open platform features a personalized Web interface through which operators can fully control and manage customized applications. These can be customized for any type of service (e.g., live TV programs, recorded TV series, VOD, and Internet-based content), in addition to being assigned to a specific group of viewers.

For example, this summer, during the world’s largest football competition in Brazil, a leading pay-TV operator in Germany used WatchApps to increase their viewer interaction dramatically, by delivering a variety of content-aware applications to subscribers on top of the broadcast stream. These included real-time polls, sports statistics, player information, and a trivia game. The results were a true testament to the high impact that using an engagement solution, such as WatchApps, can make to the overall television experience.

More than 30 percent of TV viewers receiving the applications utilized the live sports feed, and almost 15 percent answered polling questions. This demonstrates that television viewers are interested in receiving the same type of interactive experience they are used to on the second screen on their TV set, and more importantly, that operators can easily deliver this type of experience so long as they have a flexible, fully controlled back-end solution in place.

By capturing user insights, TV viewing habits, social behavior, and preferences in real time- WatchApps enables operators to deliver personalized content related to what they’re watching right at the fingertips of viewers. Viewers can effortlessly access Internet-based information related to the content currently being watched, buy merchandise, and chat with friends- all while watching TV programming live.

As viewers stay engaged with the service, they are able to recommend content to friends, participate in e-commerce, and click on targeted advertising. Through personalizing the television viewing experience and increasing viewer engagement via interactive apps like WatchApps, operators can increase subscriber satisfaction while opening up new revenue opportunities. We believe this is the way to embrace “future TV” solutions, and how operators can make interactivity become a reality on the TV screen.

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