Why TV Is Trending Toward Personalized Programming

Jeff Weber, CEO, zone·tv

By:  Jeff Weber, CEO, zone·tv®

Consumer preferences and market forces are upending the television universe as we’ve known it.

Put simply, consumers are overwhelmed with the glut of program choices on “TV” – whether traditionally viewed or streamed – and that means programmers and distributors may have trouble connecting with their audience. More importantly, consumers are so overwhelmed that discovery of shows they would like is being significantly impeded.

When people get overwhelmed with choices, they tend to “go to their corners.”   TV viewing is no different.  The result of the explosion in program options is that “TV” has become more fragmented and individualized.  With rare exceptions, the days of the electronic hearth and the watercooler TV discussion are largely over.

Some 62% of TV consumers find it a “struggle” to discover something to watch, according to a recent PriceWaterhouseCooper Study.

Similarly, half of respondents in a recent Hub Research study agree “there are so many TV programs to choose from it is hard to know where to start.”

So, even though there is far more content – and, I’d argue, far more value — Pay-TV providers have seen their market penetration drop to 79% of U.S. TV homes, vs. 84% in 2014, per Leichtman Research Group findings.   Worse still, researcher TDG forecasts U.S. legacy pay-TV penetration to plunge to 60% by 2030.

This means multi-system operators are working overtime to alter the trends and prevent even deeper video-subscriber losses. Among their tasks is to find fresh ways to convince subscribers their packages indeed provide better value and, importantly, are more convenient.

MVPDs now have to innovate more than ever.

I know.  I was in their shoes when I oversaw content and advertising for AT&T U-verse.

The digital revolution has taught us that consumers embrace personalization, and the recent research bears this out.   Netflix has successfully challenged the existing “TV” ecosystem by recommending content to subscribers based on their viewing habits.

And here’s something else I’ve learned from observing TV-consumption trends:   Consumers, toggling among more and more screens, want their “TV” content aggregated.  The question for our industry is, “What does aggregation look like going forward?”  Because much of where we’re headed flows from that question.

Helping spur the cord-cutting wave is the explosion of increasingly high-quality long-form digital video content available on a variety of platforms.  But discovering this content among the sea of options is the challenge.  A particular consumer’s ideal package of video content, whether digital-first or from a “traditional” TV source, may be out there somewhere; the consumer just has to find it . . . or it has to find the consumer.

What if high-quality digital content – the type of which might be luring subscribers away from MSOs – can be packaged up into an easy-to-use personalized viewing experience consumers can access directly from the electronic program guide?   The convenience and availability of engaging content could provide subscribers with a value proposition that might persuade them to stick with a traditional pay-TV service.   MSOs would be able to open additional revenue streams with minimal risk by diversifying their content offerings and possibly decreasing subscriber loss.

Which takes me to my current role, as CEO of zone·tv®.   We’re already a leading provider of SVOD content; selections of zone·tv’s diverse programming can be seen on AT&T U-verse, Comcast, DIRECTV, CenturyLink, TELUS, Bell Canada, Frontier Communications and other service providers in North America, and soon we will be expanding into Europe as well.

But today, we’re taking the television experience a quantum leap forward with our recent debut of an entirely new form of television programming: zone·tv Dynamic Channels, which will be available via affiliated MVPDs and vMVPDs. This group of 14 individual linear-like TV channels delivers human-curated never-before-seen-on-TV content that is augmented with artificial intelligence, to provide a highly personalized viewing experience.

Twelve of the 14 channels are segmented by age groups and genre to super-serve aficionados of programming about food, gaming, specialty sports, outdoor adventure, kids, entertainment and much more. We have acquired over 70,000 shows never seen on television to create these new channels, each of which offers multiple simultaneous program choices that transform hard-to-find content into easy-to-use, engaging television, accessible via electronic programming guides (EPGs) for easy discovery and with program streams that can change on the fly to super-serve viewer preferences.

The result is the first pay-TV programming to utilize artificial intelligence to enhance a linear-like channel – a new cable/satellite content category that offers a personal user experience blending the convenience of linear viewing with the flexibility of on-demand programming.

And most importantly it is truly dynamic in every sense of the word – for consumers, video producers, and distributors.

Zone·tv Dynamic Channels don’t require any new home hardware. Consumers use their familiar TV remotes and existing set-top boxes to discover shows and enable the breakthrough personalized experience.  Affiliates can easily add new content with no disruption to current channel line-ups.   Since zone·tv is delivered from the cloud, zone·tv manages the feed: there are no bandwidth management issues for service providers or additional CapEx for new channels. Further enhancing the value, affiliates and content providers share in zone·tv’s success through a revenue-sharing model.

The digital revolution brought us on-demand content that allowed consumers to begin to personalize their viewing diet – though with quite a bit of work.   We look forward to welcoming partners and consumers in this new revolution to make TV personalization easy.

Connect with Jeff Weber at NATPE Miami