The User Experience Age - Interactive TV's evolution from technology centric to user centric
In March 1957, after two years of testing, the Portuguese could finally get together in their homes and enjoy a great technological breakthrough. The magic box – the television – was finally a reality in Portugal, 21 years after the first major transmission during the Berlin Olympics.
Since then, the evolution has never stopped nor slowed its pace. Starting from the production of content, the proliferation of channels, operators, digital television and, more recently, from interactive television to user-centric television, the progress has grown ever faster.
It is very satisfactory to look at the evolution of television in Portugal and to recognise that, although we started with a delay of almost 30 years, we have managed to find the resourcefulness, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit to put the Portuguese TV landscape at the forefront, and in many cases, make it a world leader in respect to the innovative and often disruptive quality of the our TV solutions.
Having had the opportunity to interact with experts in the industry, I have realized how the Portuguese vision and implementation of TV solutions have achieved a significant level of admiration and recognition all over the world. Despite the economic challenges and adverse business climate over the past years, especially in Southern Europe, we have been able to rely on the success and accomplishment of all these companies, from television operators to development companies, in making a true difference in an innovative and highly competitive market.
The technology centric approach:
As an example, the “MEO KANAL” which was released in 2012, was the first platform to allow any user to create their own channel by selecting and creating their own content, managing and making it available to groups of friends or to any other user of the MEO service. In an instance, the global paradigm that only large companies and/or large investments could act in the television service area, had been broken.
In September 2012, Vodafone launched an innovative TV trading platform, allowing a simple, fast and safe way to purchase products through the TV set. It was the first shopping market to be available on television with a unique concept of navigation and experience in order to maximize sales and make product purchase simple and fast.
Also in 2012, the cable operator ZON launched its “Time Warp” service, which introduced a radically new idea to the television world. Suddenly it became possible to access almost any content over the last seven days for the vast majority of the available cable channels. This implementation changed the way television was consumed and current figures shows us exactly how large the impact of this innovation has been. Approximately 70% of television consumers are now accessing their favourite content, not when it is being broadcast, but when it is convenient for the user to consume the content.
These are just three of many, many examples of innovations that television operators in Portugal have developed in-house or in partnership with suppliers and that have been recognized internationally.
That these solutions were introduced to the market almost simultaneously, and with a profound impact on the television experience, was clearly not just a coincidence. Rather, it was the result of the high degree of competitiveness between the Portuguese operators and the great effort to which they have gone to ensure that their customers have the best and most innovative interactive solutions available. Since the operators offer virtually the same content, these innovative solutions were intended to be a significant differentiator and to allow the operators to defend or capture market share.
The user centric approach:
At that start of the decade, the idea of technology solutions as a key differentiator had already taken hold, as opposed to having the operators compete with each other purely based on content.
However, now is the time to take the next step in innovation, and move from a technology-centric approach to a user centric approach. Television operators are seemingly already on the right path, pursuing the creation of new television platforms where the user is at the centre of the service offer.
This clearly involves having an in-depth understanding of every user in order to create an individual experience and to ensure that the service has the best overall quality and relevance.
We are entering a new era of User Experience where technology is no longer there to just provide a singular new feature or function, but to enable a whole new eco system of tools, channels, data and interconnectivity to improve the user experience and how content is adapted to the preferences and needs of each user.
In the near future we should expect that the choices, habits and preferences of each user will be key criteria in deciding what, how and when the operators make content available. This will ensure that the user does not need to follow the content, but that the content will follow the user, both in terms of timeline and in terms of the equipment with which the user interacts. In addition, operators will need to increase their focus on monitoring their service in order to guarantee a high quality service.
We are on the threshold to a new experience in watching television, more focused on our choices and habits, and with a higher quality – and as always, with Portugal at the forefront of this exciting innovation trend.