Talk to any budding – or existing – OTT service provider and their aim are surely to provide a brilliant product, a brilliant user experience, for their viewers.
“As a principle, we wanted a simple, elegant experience,” said Michael Paull, Disney’s streaming services president, on the launch of Disney+ in the US in 2019.
BBC iPlayer’s Head of Product, Neil Hall, commenting on changes to the service on Smart TVs in 2021, explained that,
“It’s important to us that any changes we make to iPlayer work for everyone, so our new menu has been usability tested with adults, children, and people with accessibility needs to ensure people can continue to find and explore our many programme genres and channels with ease.”
And for Matt Westrup, SVP Technology & Operations at A+E Networks EMEA, the importance of providing a high-quality service when conceiving the broadcaster’s new Crime + Investigation D2C, was key:
“In the end, [the] product is what we knew that we were going to live and die by because people knew our brand: we weren't new to this, and we couldn't give them an experience that was evidently clunkier than the streaming services that our audience already probably subscribed to. But we couldn't afford how those guys were doing it.”
That last sentiment is particularly instructive. Does a big, or even reasonable, budget always lead to UI / UX excellence?
Short answer: No.
Among the many ways in which Netflix has shaped the market and conditioned viewer expectations, low latency and high performance come near the top of the list. By that standard, Disney+ (with relatively slow load times and no picture-in-picture whilst scrubbing backwards and forwards) and Paramount+ (same but also no fast “play next episode” option), for example, need to do better.
Ultimately, according to Matt Westrup, you may not be able to get everything you want for your budget:
“Price was always going to be a barrier. Like if it got anything beyond this [cost], we weren't even going to consider it because we've got a business case, we've got an investment amount that we want the board to sign off on. There's only going to be a certain amount this business case can possibly afford and therefore what is the best quality product that we could get for that? And you sacrifice; there’s always going to be compromise. Anyone [any solution from any vendor] you choose is likely to be a compromise of something, somewhere. The aim is to reduce the amount of compromise to very small amount.”
A Weighting Model
As someone who may be thinking about creating or upgrading your OTT service, how do you weigh product quality vs. cost?
A simple weighting model was created for three recent D2C projects by Kauser Kanji of VOD Professional which aided in identifying priorities and guiding potential costs when engaging external vendors. It doesn’t address the quality of output (you’ll need to dedicate QA / QoS resources for that) but it at least offers an indication of what might be possible within budget constraints.
The variables are:
- Desired requirement (e.g. customisable layout)
- Phase (Phase 1 – minimum viable product, further phases, N/A or out of scope)
- Level of importance (aka “Weighting” in the image below)
- And whether the vendor can supply out-of-the-box (ergo, it’s part of their core competency), with a pre-integrated partner (slightly harder because you're now possibly dealing with another party) or a non-pre-integrated partner (where you and / or your preferred vendor may need to go through discovery and engagement phases before you feel comfortable enough to work with them)
A similar methodology – applying weighting / importance to calculate a score – can also be applied to other KPIs like a solution’s ability to deal with different content types, customer messaging (or notification) options as well as other integrations.
The model looks something like this and is available for download here.
How to use the Model
- Use Column C in the spreadsheet to add or edit your requirements
- Use Column E to indicate the importance of the requirement (in the current model, 0 = no importance, 3 = most important)
- Use Column F to indicate the maximum score that could be achieved. In the current model, scoring a 3 signifies that the vendor can achieve your desired requirement out of the box whereas a 0 signifies that the requirement can’t be achieved at all (even by using other vendor partners, pre-integrated or not)
- There’s space to compare three vendor solutions in this model but more can be included by copy/pasting further columns
- All the scores assigned in Columns H-U are for illustrative purposes. Do replace them with your own.
This blog marks the third blog post of a five-part series. Keep an eye out for future posts covering the ins and outs of planning and constructing D2C services!