How to Overcome Barriers to Personalised TV

Turning on their TV, viewers are greeted by thousands of shows and hundreds of channels. This is an overwhelming level of choice; when viewers watch TV they want to relax. Instead, viewers often end up flipping through hundreds of channels looking for something relevant.

Enter personalised TV.

The idea of personalised TV is to present each viewer with the exact content that suits them- so they aren’t faced with thousands of TV shows and repeats they don’t care about  

Of course, personalised TV gives significant benefits to providers as well.

Personalisation allows providers to offer effective user interfaces and relevant recommendation solutions. By making the content more relevant, the chance that the viewer interacts with the content increases. With accurate relevancy, viewers are more satisfied (and less likely to churn).  Additionally, viewers are more likely to upgrade to premium content that just happens to be exactly what they are looking for.

Barriers to Adoption

But problematically, the lean-back nature of the TV interface means that most viewers are unwilling to take action to personalise their experience.  At the moment, there are several key barriers to adoption:

  1. The technology to easily type and enter information on a TV is limited. Most remote controllers can only interact with the TV on a basic level.
  2. Many viewers don’t want to take action when they turn on the TV- they just want to lean back and passively watch.  Due to this, many operators want to make sure that subscribers have the choice to opt in or opt out of all these features.
  3. Watching TV is often a group 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 from group use.
  4. Many European countries have a strong culture of data privacy and every attempt to introduce any level of user profiling can result in a negative customer response.

So what are the best ways to decrease barriers, while encouraging viewers to personalise their TV experience?

Approaches to TV Personalisation

People already actively personalise online profiles, setting up favourites, sharing with friends, and so on.  For TV this is still a rare consumer behaviour. 

Three trends point to the fact that the second screen (whether it’s a tablet, laptop, or smartphone) could be an easy way to personalise the TV experience.

  1. Smartphones are experiencing accelerating rates of adoption: 22% of consumers already have a smartphone, with this percentage rising to 31% amongst 24-35 year olds.
  2. Tablet adoption is still in the nascent stages with ownership expected to skyrocket in 2011.
  3. A recent study from marketing agency Digital Clarity found that 80% of under-25s used a second screen to communicate with friends while watching TV and 72% used Twitter, Facebook or a mobile app to comment on shows.

Taking this into account, it makes sense to develop personalisation strategies for TV on the “second screen”.

Mobile apps and tablet apps can be developed to act as a personalised extension of the TV experience. Viewers already enjoy personalising these devices, so there is little barrier to the personalisation process. Since these devices are generally only used by the owner, it also side-steps the problem of TV often being a group experience.  This makes it simple to offer personalised VoD store fronts, and recommendations suited to one viewer specifically.

This is a less invasive approach than alternatives like the TV recognizing faces or the remote control recording each family member’s fingerprint.   

In addition to the second screen, 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 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.

More and more, the future of TV looks like it will be personalised. And already dealing with content overload every time they switch on their TV, viewers are more than ready for personalised TV.