By Anthony Smith-Chaigneau, Senior Product Marketing Director, NAGRA
The TV industry has an obsession with novelty. With every new invention, it races to dismiss the status quo. Now, the traditional user experience is under threat. The growth of STBs, smartphones, smart TVs, streaming devices, games consoles and virtual reality headsets means we now interact with more screens than ever before. And with all that fragmentation, the concept of the user interface (UI) is increasingly forced to adapt to the hardware landscape.
The rise of apps
The rise of apps has sparked an interesting debate about UI design. As technology advances, we have seen TV interfaces increasingly resemble our smartphone screens. With the launch of Apple TV, the electronics giant took the app-based interface mainstream. And, as is often the way when it comes to Apple, others followed under the belief that apps were the future of TV. But as TV executives looked for security in the pursuit of novelty, an important question went unanswered: are apps really the best possible tool to navigate TV?
Whereas young people are used to apps, older generations have been brought up with menu based systems and electronic programme guides (EPGs). While new UIs have shunned the EPG, calling it antiquated, only this month we saw that the most requested update from Sling TV’s customer base was the traditional looking grid guide – so Sling TV brought it back.
The reason for our preference for EPGs may be the burden that apps impose on us. To navigate to your favourite show, you have to know where it lives in the app ecosystem. A simple enough proposition you might think, but imagine this – you want to find a new movie so you turn on your smart TV and open the Netflix app. It’s not there so you switch on your Xbox and check HBO Go. Eventually, you might – or might not – find your movie. The reality is clear: consumers are faced with a dizzying assortment of apps delivered over multiple hardware solutions. Wasn’t life easier when everything was in one place?
The winds of change
The winds of change are blowing through the TV ecosystem. New formats – from YouTube channels to Facebook videos – are changing how and what we watch. In this new era content is everywhere, not just on TV. And this converged media landscape means it's no longer a debate between the EPG and apps. The question is how do pay-TV providers use their content expertise to bring the best of both together?
Companies such as NAGRA are helping pay-TV operators respond. The OpenTV Suite changes the traditional TV formula by making the navigation experience intuitive for both young and old viewers – an all-in-one-place viewing experience that delivers variety and choice via a single UI, with one remote control. And because the solution is cloud-based, the same content and integrated experience is also available on all other screens connected to the service.
The EPG will not disappear. However disruptive apps may be, EPGs continue to hold a major advantage through their established infrastructure and ease-of-use. What matters most is how providers respond to the changing market. The EPG is not in decline but, in an increasingly fragmented market, providers should continue to stand by the EPG model. By doing so, they can strengthen their relationship with a demographic that holds the age-group subscribing to premium pay-TV services, while at the same time deliver new navigation mechanisms that all add to offer a high-quality television experience. The providers that realise the benefits of the past will be the success stories of the next generation.
If you wish to know more about the solutions and services we offer to help service providers deliver to their consumers a compelling, frictionless access to all content on all screens, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.