Let’s Talk Pay TV User Experience

Simon Leadlay
Simon Leadlay
pay tv

I joined the team at You.i TV a few months back to head up their Pay TV business development. I’ve been working with Pay TV providers in some form or another for over a decade, but my move to You.i TV wasn’t out of career progression. Rather, it was to find the solution to a problem which has plagued the Pay TV world for far too long: user experience.

Allow me to explain.

The Problem

Several years ago, it seemed like operators would become has-beens in the new world of OTT internet video, and that viewers would abandon their traditional services and receive all of their videos on their tablets or mobile phones over unmanaged networks.

That hasn’t been quite the case.

Yes, cord-cutting is very much a reality but research shows that a vast majority of video is still watched on a large screen in the living room. Most viewers still enjoy their operators’ aggregated packages of high-value content: live sports, trusted news channels, and the best range of high-quality drama and “appointment viewing” TV.

The real problem stems from the user experience.

In the past, operators would stay complacent and leave their STB user interface unchanged for years and years. The result was a janky experience that made viewing content more frustrating than fun.

Compare that to today: viewers know the advantage of watching their favourite content on their preferred device, wherever they may be in the world, and are demanding that as part of the basic offering from any entertainment provider—including the Pay TV operators.

Of course, many operators fully understand this market pressure and have already moved onto this path of improvement. A forward-thinking operator, today is looking to incrementally improve their offering as part of a continuous agile process, with new user interface features, new added-value services, and new approaches to the market being rolled out in an ongoing and dynamic fashion.

And why not? This is how so many online services function these days, and we enjoy their continuous improvements and their new features! Problem solved?

Not exactly. Although many operators have launched applications for consumer devices that offer a full Pay TV service with better user experience, the process has proven to be slow and difficult.

Due to the fragmented nature of the consumer device ecosystem—each device requiring its own know-how and development team—operators have upgraded their service in a piece-by-piece fashion. I’ve spoken to many operators who bemoan having to repeatedly develop the same user-interface feature: once for iOS, once for Android, and then many times again for each of the Smart TV and connected device platforms.

What seems to be the case now is that new apps are sourced from external vendors for next-gen consumer devices, while legacy apps and their set-top box platforms are left behind to languish. This has lead to an overall platform user experience that is mismatched and not able to deliver new features across all platforms at the same time.

This doesn’t satisfy either the viewer’s desire for a seamless user experience nor the operator’s desire to rapidly launch new services to all devices.

In response to this staggered approach, many Pay TV operators are now turning to in-house development resources in order to gain maximum control of their product roadmap. I believe that this can be a very powerful approach, especially when combined with tools that empower an operator’s development team to create new services simultaneously for the full range of STB and consumer device platforms from a single development environment.

The Answer

Which brings me back to my first point of why I joined You.i TV. I was attracted to You.i TV’s flagship product, You.i Engine One: an SDK that enables development teams to build cross-platform user interfaces from a single codebase, either C++ or React Native.

Once I got a closer look, I was impressed by how many boxes You.i Engine One was able to check off.

  • Ability to reach all devices—including legacy set-top boxes
  • Open and welcoming development environment
  • Capacity for high-performance motion graphics
  • Consistent cross-platform user experiences

Best of all, You.i Engine One’s focus on the front-end aligned with my beliefs on Pay TV success. Pay TV operators need to gain independence for their user interface, independence from the underlying devices and any legacy software stacks—allowing new services to be launched at a rapid pace, without worrying about having to upgrade or modify any of the other components in the ecosystem. By owning their own development roadmap, and by investing in tools for multiscreen development, the Pay TV operator can easily succeed in their goal of providing the best viewing experience for their video service.

I’m very excited about the type of cross-platform apps and user experiences that can be built on top of You.i Engine One. It’s a true departure from many previous industry attempts to provide a truly-portable development environment which is productive in its build process and able to produce such good results on every screen.

If what I’m saying here sparks your interest and you’d like to learn more about You.i Engine One, watch our technical overview or get in touch.

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