There is so much focus devoted to time-shifted and on-demand TV, it’s easy to forget that the majority of content viewed by consumers is still courtesy of the linear electronic programming guide. Despite the flurry of announcements about recommendations engines for on-demand libraries, the reality is that cataloging and serving up recommendations based on around 5,000 individual pieces of content that are only updated intermittently is not rocket science. It also only tells half the story of the content value operators are bringing to the home.
Some would say, why bother with live? It’s not a surprising question given there is virtually no live-TV recommendations experience here in North America. In the U.S. and Canada, primary exposure to recommendations is through Netflix. Generally, the recommendations experience involves content suggestions that blend the viewing histories of each member of the household.
It’s understandable why some recommendations engines tend to display just general recommendations and popular content. It is much harder to perform and handle intelligent navigation and personalized recommendations for dynamic, linear EPGs. The sheer scale of the content involved — typically 500 or so channels offering up to 120,000 programs over a two-week period — is daunting. Add to that the fact that content is constantly being updated, which makes it even more challenging. A typical linear EPG catalog is updated every 15 minutes, meaning that the recommendations engine and intelligent navigation system needs to work much harder than in an on-demand environment.
The old adage “you only get one chance to make a first impression” sums up the consumer sentiment toward recommendations. Scalability, flexibility and reliability are critical in a linear EPG environment. If you serve up a poor set of recommendations or fail to provide a set of recommendations instantaneously, the damage is done. The consumer will probably not use the system again, and the opportunity to increase ARPU in this way is greatly diminished. It is essential that the consumer receives accurate and relevant recommendations enhancing and broadening their viewing patterns, thereby increasing customer loyalty and reducing churn. Saving a customer is 100 times more valuable than selling one additional piece of VOD content.
Live television/EPG discovery is an essential tool for service providers looking to recommend content that really connects with consumers, their moods and their individualized tastes. With live EPG capability it is possible to build up multiple viewer profi les based on factors such as time of day, the type of programming and the viewing device being used. It is possible to propose new personalized content that is unique to the content preferences of each individual in the household, regardless of the platform they want to watch. This can be done today to help consumers break free of their individual viewing straight jackets and get more out of their monthly subscription packages.
There is a whole world of great content for consumers to explore from the comfort of their linear EPG, which a powerful, real-time intelligent navigation and personalized recommendation system can help to unlock. Don’t leave all that valuable video programming undervalued just because your customer can’t find it.
Accurate EPG recommendations are fundamental and complement VOD.
Peter Docherty is founder and chief technology officer of ThinkAnalytics.