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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 21, 2013

What's on Tonight? Many Pay-TV Subscribers Want Better Answers

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

With the growth of online video services – Netflix, Hulu (News - Alert) Plus and YouTube topping the list – making its presence known throughout the home entertainment market, pay-TV services are scrambling to find ways to keep the customers they already have while trying valiantly to recover some of the lost. A recent survey from Veveo, meanwhile, revealed exactly what many users want: better content discovery.

The Veveo survey showed, among other things, that pay-TV service subscribers consider their supplied content discovery tools – generally the search function – to be mostly inadequate. What's more, pay-TV services also aren't keeping up in terms of accommodating the connections that subscribers desire, like social media and mobile technology. Perhaps most distressing of all in this revelation, at least from the perspective of pay-TV providers, is that sub-optimal search functions are costing providers revenue opportunities and potentially even costing them revenue outright, as over 85 percent of subscribers simply turn off the television if they have not found anything worth watching at least some of the time.

That's a telling number right there, but the study's hits just kept on coming. Over 60 percent of users spend at least 10 minutes a day just trying to find something, and over 10 percent think that a lot of time is being spent just trying to find something on to watch.

Product features actually account for the second largest reason why customers leave, right behind price. Additionally, 75 percent of respondents would rather be able to find things to watch on television than have things recommended to them, and a majority – 60 percent – of respondents are eager to use voice commands in terms of searching out content. The company that's first to bring out such technology, meanwhile, will likely enjoy a substantial boost to profits, as over 70 percent of those polled in a focus group noted that conversational interface systems would be enough to at least make said respondents consider changing providers outright, a move that would likely net more subscribers to a company's overall coffers.

The results of this study make it pretty clear: customers simply want more out of pay-TV services. Better search functions, more connectivity, and a better ability to find what customers want to watch is going to go a long way in terms of meeting subscribers’ desires. But, less known is just how far pay-TV firms are willing to go in terms of providing these services. After all, consumers are sort of asking for quite a bit here, including systems that commonly aren't included in most pay-TV packages. While an integration with PCs and mobile devices would likely go a long way in terms of bridging that gap – a simple app coupled with a remote dongle would probably deliver many of the services that customers want – the point remains to be seen if pay-TV firms will deliver or will instead stand on the content advantages that such firms already enjoy.

With users steadily throwing aside pay-TV for online alternatives, and with those users who are sticking around growing increasingly dissatisfied, it may be a dark day to come in the not too distant future for pay-TV services. But with a clear mandate laid before these firms, it may be that pay-TV has all the makings of a comeback in store.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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