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Gideon Summerfield, Product Manager for BBC iPlayer on TV, recently discussed how personalised TV is one of the key challenges for the future of TV. What is the purpose of personalised TV? Personalised TV is supposed to provide curated content that is relevant to each unique person.
Every month more and more TV content is produced, with the flow showing no signs of stopping. Viewers can choose to watch OTT content, catch-up, video on demand, and made-for-web series – not to mention the hundreds of linear channels available.
The explosion of TV content means that viewers are finding it harder than ever to find content that they love. Personalised TV gives significant benefits to TV operators, and helps viewers find the content they want to watch.
Very few viewers are going to search for hours to find the exact programme they want – visiting different websites, scrolling through the TV guide, and channel flipping. TV is inherently a lean-back medium – people want to flip it on, sit back and relax.
This is why personalisation provides the perfect filtering mechanism for TV. Instead of looking for relevant content, viewers are simply offered relevant recommendations and suggestions when they turn on the TV.
Despite the benefits that personalised TV offers to both providers and consumers, there are still many barriers to adoption.
1. Technology: The technology to easily type and enter information on a TV is limited (but changing). Most TV remotes only have a few buttons and no easy way to type. This makes filling out any kind of personal profile tedious.
2. Passivity: Many viewers don’t want to take action when they turn on the TV- they just want lean back and watch.
3. Attitudes: Viewers are less willing to ‘personalise’ their TV service than web or mobile device users.
4. Groups: Watching TV is often a social experience. This means that one viewer’s personalised selection of content may not suit the group of people who are watching that day. Additionally, some viewers may wish to keep their viewing habits private.
5. Privacy: Many European countries have a strong culture of data privacy and attempts to introduce any level of user profiling can result in a negative customer response.
“There are technologies out there that will let you know who is watching.” says Summerfield. “But one thing we do know is that people are very lazy and do not want to engage with the service to the extent of scanning their fingerprints or picking out names from a list of users on screen. That stands in the way of general TV consumption.”
However, these barriers are being steadily lowered as the TV industry works towards making personalised TV a reality.
With the birth of tablets and smartphones, viewers are starting to change the way they watch TV. According to a study released by AC Nielson, 70% of tablet owners and 68% of smartphone owners use their devices while watching television.
This provides the perfect opportunity to develop companion apps that personalise the TV experience. People already actively personalise online profiles and mobile devices, setting up their favourites, sharing with friends, and so on.
Taking this into account, it makes sense to develop personalisation strategies for TV on the “second screen”.
Viewers already enjoy customising these devices, so there is little barrier to the personalisation process. Since these devices are generally only used by a single person, it also side-steps the problem of TV often being a group experience – recommendations can be offered that suit one viewer specifically. And as people start watching more TV directly on their mobiles and tablets, this becomes even more powerful.
Another approach to TV personalisation is to create an implicit profile based on aggregate user behaviour information. This allows the user interface to be personalised with recommendations without knowing exactly who the user is. An additional benefit of this approach is that it never creates a profile based on an individual- avoiding many privacy concerns. This can be used to build personal channels, recommendations, and “for you” interfaces.
This is ideal in a “lean back” environment. Since the viewer doesn’t have to take any action, participation rates are high, even among those who are not tech-savvy.
Clearly there has been an explosion of content over the past few years — a trend that signs of accelerating. In a multi-channel, multi-device world, personalisation will be king. Value will accrue to those that aggregate and filter programming for each person as an individual.
Emma blogs for TV Genius over at the TV Trends Blog. TV Genius is a software company that has specialised in TV content discovery, recommendations, search, and interactive TV guides since 2005.