Roman Guasch: ‘Pay TV has a way to go, and it must find the content in favour of user retention’

This Tuesday, October 27th, Dataxis developed a new virtual panel, entitled ‘Content is King; user experience (UX) is the Queen’. The event was sponsored by Zappware and it was held to discuss issues related to the integration of OTT platforms and content discovery in pay TV, and other related topics. The expert executives gathered to star in the panel were Cristian Santana, Zappware’s Head of Business Americas; and Roman Guasch, Senior Director, Business Development at WarnerMedia.

In relation to the ‘streaming war’ that is taking place due to the launch of 2DC OTTs in the US, and later in Latin America, Guasch said that ‘there is a follow-up of the business and the products based on what happens in the US’ . In addition, he reported that ‘if we analyze next year, there will be a transformation of the stage. We are going to look at multiple OTTs and D2C products. Necessarily, to develop a type of business based on this nature, it is necessary to consider a global scale, and that  will also remove some ‘niche’ OTTs or competitors that do not have enough scale to offer this type of services; and this also attracts not only a multiplicity of OTTs, but also the fact of reaching a global audience’. Later, Guasch opined that ‘we are also going to notice a phenomenon that we are already experiencing: there will be an enormous amount of content available, to which each of the OTTs will impregnate their style to offer them; and surely the segmentation of contents will be different than the ones that were known. The content window will also be different. There is going to be a more homogeneous and global offer; and even the cinema will change, after the punishments it suffered during the pandemic’.

‘The main distributors are going to add these platforms in their content. There will not be space for everyone, but there will be a combined offer of services. We are moving towards a future where distribution is going to be extremely important, and the integration of these applications within STBs is going to be a challenge’, said Guasch.

When giving his vision of how operators can win this battle and balancing what the customer can watch and what is possible to offer, Santana opined that ‘there is a battle for the  HDMI 1 control. That is clear. Nobody wants the user to change ports on the TV because they can not get what they want to access. The way in which this whole movement, which has been going on for some years, has started was ‘each one putting their own systems’. They have given us an avalanche of devices that makes the experience very fragmented, because having to be changing ports is not clear for the user. This battle is fierce. Operators have not been left behind and have identified the importance of having a unified and high-quality solution in the user experience, which allows users when they are going to consume video content, to find everything they need in their solution . The user looks for channels and linear content, and also wants to consume content from Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Amazon Prime and others, that the user wants to access in an easy, simple, clear, functional and attractive way. The user does not want problems. You want to watch the content you want, have a clear and easy experience. This is sometimes forgotten in the industry’.

‘The number of applications users access depends on whether the offers are paid, or whether the applications are free. When the offers are paid, more will be added, and the value that the user has to pay will increase. If they are free, the user is more open to using them, as long as they can have a continuous temporary use of the application. One of the main variables to identify this will revolve around what content offer the operator has, and if there is a unified search, which is one of the most important elements: if users have to enter each application to access the content who wants to consume, the fragmented experience is not going to work, and the user will get tired, because there needs to be ease’, added Santana, and then opined that ‘there will not be an operator with more than six or seven paid applications  available in Latin America. There can be a high number, as long as there are free applications and they are integrated. There will be a segment of the population that will have between two and four apps, and another more premium segment, which will have between four and six ‘, he added.

Regarding how the integration of D2C offers will be in this new environment and the role of linear channels, Guasch said that ‘in the short and medium term, linear channels will not disappear, but the system is evolving. Pay and FTA TV have to find their place and their way of evolving, as well as the content they are going to offer. A few years ago, the fight between pay TV operators was based on offering the largest number of channels. Today, that is changing. Everything related to entertainment, such as movies and series, goes towards an on demand model. It is all about finding what kind of content is key for linear channels. There is an increasing consumption based on series and ‘channel zapping’. Channels are a traditional TV concept, and the new packers are OTTs, each with its own style. But pay TV has a way to go, and it must find the content in favour of user retention’.

‘There will be fewer and higher quality channels’, said Guasch. ‘There will be integrations to aggregators and different types of integration. I do not think that, except in exceptional cases, there are no linear channels within on demand structures’, added the executive. ‘Any integration done with an operator’s STB will take time. The operator will choose which applications will be profitable and which will not. This is linked to the business model’, he said afterwards.

‘There has been a need for operators to be super aggregators, but there has been a very slow movement on the part of B2Cs in how much they trust and how many tools they want to give to operators’, Santana said. ‘At a technical level, we are able to access any of the metadatas, or integrate any of these applications, as long as they are provided. Many of these barriers will be softened as operators enter this new trend and make the investments they need so that OTT providers have the confidence that this system can give them the statistics they need so that their content every time will be better’, he added.

According to Guasch, ‘when talking about consumption patterns, we believe that, unlike traditional TV, there is an increasing consumption of content made in solitude, and fewer instances where content is watched in groups. The rule of B2C and streaming will be to add subscribers, retain subscribers, and try to reduce churn’, he added. He also gave his opinion on the future of mobile screens, and reported that ‘mobile screens are the ones we use the most throughout the day. About 85 times. The smartphone has become the personal entertainment center, but not everything that is produced for mobile screens works. It always depends on the target and the use that you want to give it’, he said.

‘Users look for simplicity and attraction in the consumer experience. They want to be surprised. They look for the available features . Surprise in the user is increasingly difficult to achieve, but it is for the most aggressive companies, which have better solutions’, said Santana. Regarding issues that contribute to a good user experience, Santana listed that “the user guide should not be complex and difficult to use; it must be attractive; it must not have hidden or invisible third-party applications; it should not have a limited search; and we must have a powerful and dynamic back office’. Guasch also emphasized the importance of the first few minutes in the experience.