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Man with headphones searches for shows on tablet device: cross-platform program

Cross-Platform Program Search Can Put Local TV Front and Center

November 1st, 2017   ||    by John R. Osborn   ||    No Comments

The rise of streaming video services has—unfortunately—not been accompanied by a kind of cross-platform program search that would let viewers easily discover content across broadcast, cable, satellite, and over-the-top (OTT) and streaming video services. Ten years ago, TV distribution came through cable and satellite multi-channel video programming distributors (MVPDs), which became the organizing entities for the growing number of programs available to the 88 percent of US households that were connected.

It seems the next generation of viewers will access television content very differently. MediaPost cites TiVo research claiming that 55 percent of US millennials would “pay” to simply search across all platforms. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those millennials are also the quickest audience to abandon a program because it’s hard to find.

Wired explains the challenge like this: “The single worst thing about the streaming era is knowing what you want to watch, and not knowing where it is.” Here’s how the current state of cross-platform program search shakes out.

Online Search Sites and Mobile Program Apps

TVGuide.com has separate search areas for TV listings and streaming (and separate splits there for TV and movies). The Yahoo Mobile Video Guide left me hanging when I searched for three different shows across platforms on my new Android device. Fan.tv was closest to delivering cross-platform search quickly and in a user-friendly format, with links to where you can view each show.

Unfortunately, none of these top apps or online sites are functioning yet at a comprehensive level.

OTT and MVPD: From Satellite to Streaming

CNET rates Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Nvidia Shield highest among streaming devices. These offer streaming-only channels and, increasingly, local TV channels. This is important, as local TV stations must ensure they’re present and findable within all OTT ecosystems. TiVo promotes its well-reviewed consumer interface as including MVPD services connected through the TiVo Bolt hardware available to subscribers.

Spectrum TV and Comcast Xfinity have partnered with Roku, setting up subscriber channels within the OTT platform. Look for these kinds of relationships to expand to other MVPD providers and OTT services in the coming year.

In short, all content providers want to be findable on both OTT and MVPD distribution platforms.

What Should Local TV Do Now?

As mentioned above, local TV must continue building its availability on new distribution platforms, essentially taking advantage of the cord-cutting trend. A local TV station or group can also position itself well for cross-platform program search by:

  • Ensuring all device/service/distribution partners—new and old—focus on search. The local TV group should get involved in an advisory capacity with these partners, and program-schedule data (for both live and on-demand programming) should be both available and optimized for search.
  • Ensuring search optimization includes voice search, which all distributors will soon have in place.
  • Promoting station viewing to regional OTT users through OTT and online marketing across all the TV program search outlets described above.

The value of local TV has been established as the best feature of pay TV, according to a consumer survey cited in MediaPost, and “localism is the single most-cited attribute.” With the free cost of broadcast TV and the removal of buying complexities through automation, local television will offer a strong value proposition in the new age of television and video. It just needs to be found.

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