Skinny bundles and virtual MVPDs are an imperfect solution to the desire of consumers to get the content they want at the price they want, while an a la carte online delivery system that perfectly satisfies consumers’ desires has yet to be fully realized.
That was the consensus of panelists at the “Internet TV Packages” panel at the Digital Hollywood conference Oct. 18 in Los Angeles.
“The consumer cares about two things, value and choice,” noted panelist Thomas K. Arnold, publisher of Media Play News. While choice has expanded over the years from only a few networks to an array of cable channels to videocassettes and discs and digital delivery, finding content is getting more complicated.
“The important thing here is curation. The old manual curation by networks is going away,” said panelist and consultant Robin Wilson, director, RW TV. He said the future is one in which consumers can “self-curate” content or in which curation is automated.
While some pundits say only younger consumers are peeling away from traditional viewing, even Baby Boomers, still working and facing a time crunch, are also moving away from appointment TV, said panelist Josette Bonte, managing director, Digital Content Strategies.
“There is definitely a problem to be solved by the industry,” she said. “I would like to have my own skinny bundle.”
“Current skinny bundles are just a patch up job,” Wilson added.
“It’s the same problem that’s always been the problem,” Arnold noted. “These internet services, they’re great for service, but bad for discovery.”
Consumers who are watching subscription services have a hard time breaking out of that silo, Arnold said.
“Your likely going to stay on Netflix or Amazon after watching a show,” he said.
To truly curate your own content can be difficult, he said, noting that his family had to “piece together our own skinny bundle” from offerings on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu to watch an entire series of a show they loved.
He predicted that consumers in the future would be paying more for entertainment but in smaller increments, comparing it to gym memberships that have retained consumers by offering ultra-low prices.
“At $10 a month, people are going to get them all [even niche OTT subscription offerings],” he said. “At $10 a month you’re not going to really notice it.”
Bonte said niche SVOD services “definitely have the chance to complement the bundles.”
Technology — perhaps from Google, Amazon or Roku — will overcome the difficulties of getting to different apps and online services to get content, panelists said.
“The idea of switching from HDMI 1 to HDMI 2 will be as archaic as rewinding the videocassette,” Arnold said.
Device integration with artificial intelligence will also assist in content discovery, Bonte said.
Panelists also pondered the growing competition in the SVOD market led by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, soon to be joined by Disney and WarnerMedia — and the data from SVOD services that is informing what content consumers are fed.
Netflix is “definitely good at use of data” to determine content, Bonte noted. It’s an advantage for the company, Wilson added.
Netflix knows a lot about what consumers are watching, but “they won’t tell us,” Arnold said, adding that research company Parrot Analytics is using social media and other measurements to try to estimate the popularity of SVOD original programs.
One audience member noted that Netflix’s recommendation engine is less than perfect, causing her frustration as it served up the same type of content over and over.
Data targeting with ads, too, needs improving, Wilson noted. The ads served up should be more efficient, “not bombarding” the consumer.
One audience member noted that Rotten Tomatoes, which calculates content ratings based on human reviewers, is one of the most popular content recommendation sites online.
Newfangled content delivery technologies have a way to go, Arnold noted. “People who talk about artificial intelligence forget that first word, artificial,” he said.