During the week, I was sent a comical video to watch which depicted zombie-like humans in various scenarios being guided through their daily life by ‘hired help’, as they were too busy to look up from their phones!

Whilst this video was amusing, it reminded me of the significance that smartphones and tablet devices have had on society, and the staggering volume of content now viewed on the go. This was confirmed by Ericsson in their most recent annual Ericsson ConsumerLab TV and Media report, 2017 – published yesterday – which shows that approximately 70% of consumers now watch videos on a smartphone, double the amount from 2012. The report also predicts that by 2020 – in just three years’ time – 50% of all TV and video viewing will take place on a mobile screen (tablets, smartphones and laptops), with the smartphone alone accounting for almost one quarter (that’s an increase of nearly 160% since 2010!).

Our ‘connected’ lives are evolving and our expectations for technology are higher than ever before. Therefore, the industry must respond. Our desire to view content on the go is no great surprise in the fast pace, ‘always on’ world that we currently live in. However, being satisfied with the content we have available to watch, how we find it and access to a truly immersive and personalised experience still seems to be lagging behind.

The array of content on offer is not the topic of dispute here.  What consumers want is the ability to access content on any device, no matter where they are, and for the technology to intelligently understand what they want and personalise their experience.  So why is it that one in eight of us worry that we’ll get lost in the vast amount of available content? And why are we still spending almost 1 hour per day looking for content – a 13 percent increase since last year? (Ericsson ConsumerLab TV and Media Report, 2017).

Fundamental to effective content discovery is enriched metadata.  This is the fuel which powers the content ecosystem. Imagine a world without detailed synopses, film or programme information, cast or crew details, images or trailers. The ability to source, format and deliver deep, broad and rich datasets are necessary to find and personalise the content which audiences are searching for.

At the Leaders in Sport conference, last week, Jamie Hindhaugh, BT Sport’s COO, gave the audience some insight into how BT Sport is transforming viewers’ experiences, but reminded the industry gurus that personalisation can only be enabled through true IP-based delivery. For Pay TV operators, moving to an IPTV/cloud environment makes true multi-screen, TV anywhere easier, whilst also helping them to compete against the OTT players who have historically provided consumers with more intuitive interfaces and therefore potentially more engaging user experiences.

The objective for the industry is to personalize the content discovery journey through the delivery of rich, detailed data provided in the right format to any screen; and this can be realized through cloud based technology.

There are two clear benefits for the industry in getting this right: customers who stay (reduction in churn) and monetization opportunities which boost profits. But this can only be achieved by collecting data about consumers’ behaviour and using that information to deliver targeted content and personalized promotions.

For the consumer, personalization must be coupled with advanced search capabilities. With the average number of used on-demand services having increased from 1.6 in 2013 to 3.8 per person in 2017 (Ericsson ConsumerLab TV and Media Report, 2017), it is now imperative that smart APIs are deployed and collate the results that consumers demand. Current content discovery capabilities are failing to cope with consumers’ demands and use of multiple video services and devices. This could explain why our ConsumerLab report discovered that 70% of consumers now want ‘universal’ search capabilities across all TV and video. This, coupled with intelligent recommendation algorithms, is just a small list which the industry needs to continue to work on. Now is the time for change.

In response to this need for change, we, at Ericsson, launched our content discovery ecosystem earlier this year. Our aim is to bring an extensive universe of high quality, rich TV and movie data sources together with a range of applications and technologies that can help to connect the dots and bring the data to life. We recognise that we can’t do this alone so we’ve enlisted the help of a number of partners who have joined our ecosystem – the likes of IMDb, Guidebox, IVA and XroadMedia to name just a few. Because we believe that collaboration will be key to the industry’s success in solving the content discovery challenge.

There’s no doubt that the “paradox of choice” remains a hurdle for many consumers, especially in an ever-growing universe of content anytime and anywhere. Therefore, it remains the industry’s task to help consumers to overcome this hurdle and in doing so, unlock new and very real opportunities to maximise valuable content rights and grow revenue.

Jennifer Walker, Product Marketing Manager