Many On-Demand Viewers Like Posting Comments – Here’s Why and How to Do It
Among the benefits of IP-based video is rapid innovation. A commenting tool that caters to the highly connected Millennial generation is a case in point.
Many traditional Pay TV operators—cable, satellite and telco—have begun deploying video over their broadband networks. They see full-fledged, IP video as the endgame, achievable over time. Cost reduction and efficiency is one motivation. Competition is another. Meeting the expectations of a younger and changing market is a third.
Today’s OTT video providers already operate within the IP realm. That means they have leveraged a leading benefit of online video: service innovation. The kind of intelligent network and smart features you see in Netflix, YouTube or other OTT services are unattainable outside of an IP network.
But the innovation cycle is far from over. Both pay TV operators who are migrating toward IP and OTT video providers who have already deployed sophisticated neural networks all have room to grow, especially in serving the Millennial market.
Millennial Social Dilemma
Just as video technology has evolved, so too have viewers. In particular, those born and raised at the end of the 20th and start of the 21st Centuries have impacted media consumption patterns.
Sociologists and marketers define this Millennial generation in various ways: by years (roughly 15 to 35), types, behaviour, etc. One relevant differentiator is how this class uses technology. As a rule, Millennials are much more comfortable than their older counterparts with consuming—and creating—online media.
Millennials consume a lot of OTT video. Many are “cord-cutters,” “cord-shavers” and “cord-nevers,” i.e. consumers who either cancelled, reduced or ruled out traditional Pay TV services. They also have a strong tendency to engage and communicate with their peers via social media, creating streams of digital comments and images along the way.
This dual preference for OTT video and social media creates a dilemma. Especially when displayed on mobile devices or PCs, OTT video consumption tends to be a solitary affair. The small form-factor of many devices explains that experience, as does the on-demand nature of most OTT video. Video on-demand (VOD) means watching what you want, when you want—not the same show or film, at the same time as everyone else.
Yet that kind of isolation is at odds with social media. How do you share an experience with friends while watching OTT TV or media, on whatever screen? A more pointed question: How do you create a “live” commenting experience within a VOD service?
Time for Social TV
The question of how to “socialize” TV viewing is nothing new. For years, the TV industry has given viewers SMS voting opportunities and a few niche apps, but little more. Others have pushed the technology envelope, but ahead of expectations. For whatever precise reasons, Social TV has yet to fully bloom.
The chances for success look better today. For one, the Millennial market is ready. A recent study from the Audience Project of our own Nordic region, for instance, indicates that 85 percent of those between 15 and 25 years use other devices while watching TV. Other studies have confirmed that social media and TV viewing, especially for Millennials, is a “both/and” rather than an “either/or” proposition.
In terms of technology, many video service providers have become more adept at building applications. This is the case primarily with OTT video providers, but it could apply to any business that has taken a DevOps and micro-services approach to software development.
A type of service oriented-architecture (SOA), microservices are relatively lightweight, small and independently deployable. Using this model, our team at Vimond has created an OTT app that allows viewers of VOD to comment on content as they watch it, anchoring comments to the moment in a video when they were posted. The result is a conversational-style experience between viewers watching VOD at different times.
The Commenting App
The app enables several use cases. Users can follow, without being followed (as in Twitter) and can set filters to decide which comments to receive in their feed. While some users might focus on close, personal networks, others might augment the experience with comments from influencers, experts or celebrities.
The app’s client lies within a player widget. Our API-based backend allows it to be third-party or mobile or anything that can communicate with HTTP requests. Apart from the client, the app consists of these four parts:
Commenting engine. This includes the service and the database. The service is the ability to comment and link time-stamped comments with an authenticated identity and selected groups. Our database (NoSQL, high-write design) separates users and comments. To concatenate them, we use the Middle-layer. (See below.)
User management. This service stores information about users, reading them from the database. It is designed to integrate with Vimond Platform, Facebook, or other authentication providers to deliver the initial token upon first log-in; the system will return a new token for all following requests.
Analytics. The endpoints of this service include the most commented-upon videos, the most active users, the most interesting parts of a video, etc., displayed as a trend graph. The analytics service could point toward more endpoints, even viewer sentiment, adding business value to content providers that lack these kind of rich metrics.
Middle-layer. This service handles requests that require several interactions, such as fetching comments from a video and information about the user. It resides above the other services, generating responses to the client. It also has some functionality that requires no microservices, or only one service at a time, such as handling integration with third parties.
The Innovation Imperative
Today’s software development practices enable rapid innovation. That is good for the video business because new services can make a provider more competitive, reduce churn and address complex consumer preferences, such as the Millennial market’s simultaneous craving for OTT video and engagement with that content and others via social media. A commenting tool designed for on-demand video can meet that need.
Article Published in SCTE Broadband Journal, February 2017