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Fighting OTT Subscription Fatigue with Killer User Experience

In today’s online media and entertainment industry, one business model is booming—the subscription model. Seemingly, all our entertainment needs, from movies to music and games, can be accessed through an online subscription. Americans alone can choose from a growing list of over 300 streaming services. And that’s only going to amplify in the future.

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While the boom in subscription services has revolutionized the industry, there’s a consequence to all these options: many consumers are feeling overwhelmed causing what has been called “subscription fatigue.”

By definition, Subscription Fatigue is when streaming service consumers feel underwhelmed, tired and frustrated with TV and movie streaming options.

According to Deloitte’s annual Digital Media Trends Survey, almost half (47%) of U.S consumers are aggravated by the sheer number of subscription services they need in order to access the content they want. Adding to the headache, 57% feel ripped off when their favorite show suddenly disappears due to a battle over content rights.

The rapid proliferation of streaming services, in particular, has resulted in a fragmented market that’s frustrating consumers. As heavyweights like Disney and WarnerMedia move into the market, they’re no longer happy to lease their content to third-party streamers.

Disney, for instance, has pulled all the Marvel movies from Netflix, while WarnerMedia is threatening to reclaim Friends. It seems consumers can no longer get their entertainment fix from one or two subscription services and they’re feeling the pinch.

So, as an OTT provider, how can you remain competitive in this overcrowded market with so much subscription fatigue running amok?

Fight subscriber fatigue by creating the UX subscribers expect

While there have been some unfavorable reactions to the explosion of subscription services, OTT providers can expect consumers to grow accustomed to these changes, provided they receive high-quality entertainment experiences. Of course, the primary reason consumers subscribe to a particular streaming service is to access the content they can’t find anywhere else.

In 2018, 57% of paid streaming video users said they subscribed to access original content. This number is even higher among millennials, at 71%, according to Zuora’s “The End of Ownership” international survey. But there’s a crunch. Since every Tom, Dick, and Harry is producing original content, it’s no longer the monster differentiator it once was.

In fact, according to Digital TV Europe’s recent survey of 140 OTT industry executives across 49 countries, elements of the user experience and the user interface are seen as more important than the choice of content on offer. Nearly 85% of respondents rated the quality of experience as ‘very important’. Meanwhile, under half rated a unique range of content as ‘very important’.

Creating a user experience (UX) that builds a one-to-one connection between the brand and consumer will be the way forward for OTT providers. User experience (UX) design is the process of enhancing consumer satisfaction by identifying and solving problems that a user encounters. It goes beyond aesthetics to address the needs of each individual.

Below we delve into how OTT providers can overcome subscriber fatigue with stellar user experience.

1. Data-Driven Recommendations – Numbers don’t lie

To overcome subscriber fatigue, service providers must offer a unique viewing experience tailored to the specific interests and viewing behaviors of each individual. This means delivering highly personalized content recommendations.

In the past, recommendations have been limited to one variable, such as genre. For instance: you watched A so we’ll recommend B. You may have seen these in action on YouTube in the form of “Up Next” videos, or on Netflix as an entire row of content labeled “Because you watched X”.

While this straightforward method is still viable, top players in OTT are upping the ante with collective-behavior based recommendations. These recommendations analyze global data on viewing behaviors to identify relationships between content based on cast, location, release date, etc.

It requires gathering both quantitative and qualitative data on what, where, when, why, and how viewers are watching content. With a complete picture of the end-user, OTT providers can feed this data into a content recommendation engine, which predicts what a viewer will want to watch in the future using artificial intelligence. Essentially, it tells the OTT app how to merchandise all its content.

Netflix is the best-in-class example of using data to deliver personalized recommendations. In fact, more than 80% of videos watched on Netflix come from recommendations. That’s because the platform’s entire catalog is merchandised to entice the viewer and driven by data.

Keep in mind, however, that personalization also involves how offers are provided in addition to what is offered. Viewers fully expect recommendation engines to be at work behind the scenes, but OTT providers can help boost user experience in additional ways:

  • Experience continuation: Provide users the opportunity to pick up content where they left off, or a quick start option for shows in a series.
  • Wishlist creation: A quick access area where users can save programs for later or pick back up on specific shows that want to revisit.
  • Personal recommendations: Implied recommendations by previous viewing habits alongside clear and obvious recommendations categorically related to what the viewer has shown interest in.

Why does it work?

Personalization goes hand-in-hand with customer satisfaction, which is the greatest weapon OTT providers have in the fight against subscriber fatigue. Why?

Firstly, placing highly relevant content directly in front of your audience streamlines the content discovery process, creating a hassle-free experience. As anyone who’s ever asked the question “what are we watching tonight?” knows – digital audiences don’t have the patience to search through an entire library of content. They’d much prefer to have it shown to them. In fact, according to Netflix, users are only willing to spend 60-90 seconds browsing for content; any longer, and they’ll give up and move on to your competitor.

Secondly, when tailored content is timed right, personal recommendations are appetizers for binge-watching. Again, Netflix knows most people watch more TV over the weekend, thus it strategically places it’s most binge-worthy shows in the front row on Saturdays and Sundays. Because engaged consumers have a higher perceived value of their subscription, TV sprees and movie marathons are their secret sauce in the fight against subscription fatigue.

2. Video Previews – Try before you buy

There’s nothing worse than spending five minutes choosing a movie, only to realize 10 minutes in that it’s not your cup of tea. You’ve wasted 15 minutes, and you’re back to square one. What’s more, to top it off, your popcorn’s gone cold.

This is where video previews can save the day. Video previews are sneak-peeks specifically designed to help users make faster and smarter decisions by quickly showcasing the title’s storyline, characters, and overall tone.

Why does it work?

Research shows that video previews cut down content discovery times and play a major role in combating “browser fatigue” – that is the endless scrolling through thumbnails without ever finding something enticing to watch.

Implementing content discovery solutions that help consumers make snappy decisions should be a priority for OTT providers. According to a report from PwC, 50% of steamers would cancel an OTT service that offered an overwhelming amount of content or a challenging content discovery system.

3. Watch it here, there and everywhere

Entertainment is no longer limited to the living room. Thanks to streaming services, we can now catch up on our favorite TV shows on the train, get all the breaking news on your morning run, and even stream live sports on our desktop computer while we’re meant to be working.

Of course, streaming across multiple devices is dependent on multi-screen functionality. That’s why OTT providers who want to survive subscriber fatigue must ensure their content library is available across all devices including smart TVs, tablets, mobiles, and game consoles.

Related: 6 of the best streaming devices to launch your ott app on

But it’s not only about having access to the same content–viewers also expect the same user experience regardless of the device they’re using. This means OTT providers need to offer a seamless interface with simple navigation, easy search functions, and accessible information across every screen. After all, what’s the point in offering multi-screen functionality, if users can’t find their way around it anyway?

Why does it work?

For starters, a whopping 90% of OTT executives rank the ability to access an identical range of content across multiple devices as ‘very important’ according to Digital TV Europe. But it comes down to giving users what they want.

Peel back the layers, and the rapid success of subscription-based OTT services comes down to one core attribute—convenience. Consumers are drawn to the convenience of accessing their favorite content whenever they want, wherever they want. Take that away, and they may as well return to traditional or pay-TV.

4. Banish buffering or be banished

Lastly, consumers demand high-quality viewing experiences all the time. Consider this: a new subscriber lands on your VoD service thanks to your aggressive marketing campaign. They’re immediately struck by the attractive user interface and simple search function. Finally, it’s time to stream that show they’ve been waiting to watch, but instead, they’re faced with an ever-revolving buffer circle on a depressing black screen. Finally, 10 seconds later the show begins to play only to pause again, and again, and again.

Would you ever return to a service like this?

Unfortunately, binge-worthy content and a beautifully-designed user interface will never be enough to win over consumers who experience buffering or start failure. In fact, 32% of viewers will abandon an OTT service after a poor-quality viewing experience on mobile. To retain your audience and award off subscriber fatigue, it’s vital that OTT providers keep a close eye on their analytics dashboard.

The top four Quality-of-Experience (QoE) metrics you need to monitor are:

  • Rebuffering Ratio
  • Video Startup Time
  • Video Start Failures
  • Video Bitrate

Tracking these metrics in real-time can help OTT providers identify QoE issues early, such as insufficient bandwidth, and help resolve problems before they escalate.

The Frustration Age

Subscriber fatigue is a critical challenge facing OTT providers today as more and more households hit their subscription limits. Original content is no longer enough to get noticed. To remain competitive in today’s overcrowded market, it’s now crucial for service providers to build one-to-one connections with their customers and tailor the entertainment experience to their tastes.

When’s the last time you took a hard look at the user journey of your website or OTT apps? If it’s been awhile, it’s in your best interest to revisit it and make sure you aren’t losing users due to a confusing user experience.

Need an outside perspective? Zemoga’s OTT app solutions range from providing strategic consultation to fully autonomous cross-functional retained teams to individual OTT app experts that can seamlessly integrate into your project team.

We support all major Connected TV and mobile platforms from Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Samsung Tizen, iOS, and Android TV/mobile, and more.

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