Enhanced User-Experience – A key differentiator for OTT platforms in 2020?

OTT platforms- better user-interface & user-experience

Media Samosa takes a look at how OTT apps attempt to breakthrough geographical boundaries, be more inclusive of all age groups, and add a social element for interaction through an evolved UI.

Movie releases, IPL 2020, Original content & more, OTT platforms have seen a revolution in the last few months. Statistics too reflect an increase in OTT viewership post the outbreak of the pandemic.

As viewership continues to grow, OTT brands move towards innovation & evolved features to attract more consumers with a better UI. While the lockdown recorded an estimated 3-4 million new viewers across these channels, the resumption of fresh content on Television has made it integral for these platforms to strive harder to continue the momentum if not to add new users.

So, apart from quality and big-budget Originals, what helps OTT platforms differentiate? The key answer is an enhanced & easy-to-use user-interface, giving way to a better user-experience. Media Samosa takes a look at added features being installed by OTT brands and how it helps in the overall distribution strategy.

Going Vernacular with UI

Netflix recently launched its UI in Hindi to help vernacular users discover, access, and enjoy content in a series of languages.

Monika Shergill, VP-Content, Netflix India, explained, “Delivering a great Netflix experience is as important to us as creating great content. We believe the new user interface will make Netflix even more accessible and better suit members who prefer Hindi,” said,

Netflix Hindi interface OTT players

 

Continuing with its strategy, the platform has also included features such as Smart Downloads, parental controls, and the Top 10 row.

Some of the regional players too, provide native language options. For example, Hoichoi’s – a Bengali OTT platform user-interface is available in both, English & Bengali for its target audience.

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Accessibility Across Devices

With the advent of Smart TVs and the ever-increasing mobile device penetration in Tier II & III cities, the streaming platforms are making simultaneous viewing more accessible. In fact data suggests that most users are usually using two screens at the same time – say Television & mobile or laptop & mobile.

To accommodate this Prime Video India members can watch content on the app on their smart TVs, mobile devices, Fire TV, Fire TV stick, Fire tablets, and more. In the app, members can download content on multiple devices at no additional cost. Prime has not specified the number of people who can use one account – downloads however, are limited to 2-3 users.

Similarly, Netflix, Disney+Hotstar, SonyLiv, and Hulu too have multiple users/device plans – however, these are more expensive than Prime Video.

Community Viewing Experience

Despite Live sports making a comeback, people continue to maintain social distancing. With restrictions on public gatherings, in-stadium experiences for the fans are disrupted. With digital being an alterante to create immersive experiences, Disney+Hotstar added a new feature to its existing interactive emoji stream of ‘Watch’N Play’ social feed with the start of Dream11 IPL 2020.

There are various other features including Hotshots – selfie videos, Duets, and more. The idea is to give users the option to discuss the match in real time supporting their team & adding a social element.

Uday Shankar, President, The Walt Disney Company APAC & Chairman, Star & Disney India, highlighted, “Our use of technology in presenting this immersive experience will not only set a global benchmark but also redefine the way we watch and enjoy sports in the coming years.”

Not far behind was the introduction of the ‘Netflix Party’ in India. The co-viewing feature requires a chrome extension that generates a shareable link to invite friends to open at the exact content that the viewer is watching. The extension also has a group chat feature for on-screen conversations; t he users can pause, rewind or forward at the same time.

 

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Amazon Prime also launched the ‘watch party’ in the U.S while Hulu continues to test and endorse the feature with even branded experiences.

Also read: Interview: It is not Television vs OTT but how both can…

Content for All – Kids’ content, Originals & More

Right from vernacular content to kids content – OTT players have been adding more diversity, variety, and colour to the mix.

Eros Prime for instance caters to 10+ languages. “With acquisitions, emergence of Eros Prime & getting into English content, exploring as many other languages as possible, we aim to ensure that we have that presence across the globe. Similarly, we want to capture varied demographics & geographies in India,” Ridhima Lulla, CCO, Eros Group told Media Samosa in an earlier conversation.

Zee5 on the other hand created an ecosystem for kids that includes OTT & social elements. In an earlier conversation with Social Samosa, Aparna Acharekar, Programming Head, ZEE5, shared how ZEE5 Kids was created as a destination for kids, mothers, and educators. It features 4000+ hours of content in addition to UGC, Karaoke, Audiobooks, and other such activities.

VOOT Kids and broadcasters (Nickelodeon and Sonic) geared up with a robust content line-up to engage kids during the same time.

Further, Kids-friendly content with parental controls such as lock features help manage the OTT profiles and pave way for a user-friendly interface.

Eros Now Quickies- OTT Platforms
Eros Now Quickies

 

OTT apps are also increasing focus on short-format content. Eros Now has created an IP called Quickies which offers short form entertainment content. ZEE5 on the other hand launched a shortform video app, HiPi. The app came after the ban of TikTok followed by the Indo-Chinese tensions, however helps the OTT platform establish a foot in the short form video market.

Another trend that surfaced through all OTT platforms was the demand to float more original content series. While brands like SonyLIV launched their apps with reportedly enhanced user-experience and brand identity, a lot of others brought forth original content on comedy & family viewing such as on ZEE5, some focussed on thrill & mystery genre to entice audiences like ALTBalaji & Eros. VOOT from Viacom18 focused on reality shows & more like streaming Bigg Boss while regional players like Hoichoi is gearing up with the next seasons of its original series like ‘Tansener Tanpura in the coming months.

Mergers & Acquisitions

Time and again, OTT players have come together to bring a better viewing experience for the audience. Be it the merger of ZEE5 & AltBalaji, or the collaborations of MX Player & SonyLIV, or Netflix Streaming partnerships, these brands go all out to present varied content and better experience for the viewers.

OTT platforms also create content distribution partnerships with telecom networks. These distribution deals help the OTT players recover the cost of content which are usually high in terms of cost per episode for Originals in addition to app upkeep.

Optimized/Personalized Navigation

Netflix seems to lead the way on the subject. With a strategic machine-learning algorithm for optimized user-experience, the platform brings filtered and relevant content for its viewers. It includes personalized recommendations & search results.

 

Prime Video India also claims to bring content suited to every mood of its users based on its machine-learning capabilities and other features.

 

OTT platforms even have voice search options for user-friendly navigation on their interface.

Gamification 

From ZEE5’s Dadagiri series to Disney+Hotstar’s IPL features, OTT platforms continue to experiment with gamification. Further, many brands try to combine gamification & newer content-formats for innovation. For example, ‘Epic On’ brought forth graphic motion comics, podcasts and audiobooks, e-books, gaming, trivia, and more as newer content formats.

Image: Source

 

To sum it up

Below are a few features that have helped OTT app take the next step to graduate from a youth only platform to make it more age inclusive, geography inclusive, and interactive.

  • Adaptable UX for multiple devices
  • Gamification to increase interactions
  • Short videos, Selfies, Video Profiles, Trivia, Quizzes etc
  • Community viewing experiences
  • Interface animations such as emoticons
  • AR & VR integrations
  • Voice user interface

 

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Aishwarrya Chakraverty
A storyteller and a narrator by heart, vocalist by genes and a thesaurus-bee. Also, an explorer, traveler, and trekker, Aishwarrya has myriads of interests with love for music and movies. Writing is not just a hobby but her first love with a Facebook page on perspectives, channelizing the passion. Got her research paper published with IGI Global US on music. A maverick by nature and a feminist by choice, to challenge stereotypes.

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