Industry Voices — Greenblatt: Consumers like Xfinity X1 platform for search

The Xfinity X1 experience is precisely the kind of common platform that subscribers can use to manage multiple content sources. (Comcast)
Industry Voices - Greenblatt

It is interesting to see how the tyranny of choice has evolved. 20th century mindless channel surfing, which consumed countless prime-time hours and put stress on many living-room relationships, has been replaced by the tedious ritual of logging into one over-the-top (OTT) app after another and the endless scroll in search of desired content.
The level of consumer frustration has only gotten worse as use of streaming services skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, while new entrants with compelling content offerings continued to vie for viewers’ time and money. So attractive are the new options that we are rapidly approaching the point where nearly half of the viewing public now subscribes to three or more streaming services.

The growing array of offerings, however, has created a new layer of competition that will be won by those who can intelligently expose consumers to as much relevant content as possible -- across multiple sources -- in the most intuitive and convenient manner possible.

Ironically, this emerging customer experience challenge may provide traditional service providers -- including telcos and cable operators -- with an opportunity to re-introduce themselves to consumers as integrators and arbitrators of entertainment experiences.

Battling content fragmentation

The solution to the content fragmentation problem revolves around intelligent aggregation and federated search. These are the technologies that make it possible for consumers to better manage, from a single platform, content delivered by multiple OTT providers such as Hulu, Netflix, Apple, Amazon and others. 

Beyond the convenience of having everything in one environment, intelligent federated search technology makes it possible for consumers to receive prioritized content recommendations across OTT providers. In so doing, it flips the current content access model. Instead of consumers hunting for TV shows and movies, intelligent federated search enables content to find the consumers who are most likely to be interested in specific entertainment experiences.

This is important for a number of reasons.  

Platforms that control the content ecosystem are in a prime position to comprehensively collect critical data such as what content is being consumed, who is consuming it and how much time is spent consuming content. This is the data that feeds search algorithms used to make content recommendations across the different OTT services. In so doing, the individual streaming providers run the very real risk of being cut out from the consumer data gathering process.

Return of the Cable Guy?

This value proposition is among the most attractive features of Xfinity’s X1 platform initiative from the Comcast Cable group. The X1 experience is precisely the kind of common platform that subscribers can use to manage multiple content sources. The platform has been so well received by customers that other North American cable operators have signed up as syndicated partners, deploying the platform to their own subscribers.

RELATED: Comcast Xfinity X1 gets the Hulu app

It illustrates the rising importance of content aggregation in addressing this emerging area of consumer frustration. As a result, the industry may be ready to witness an interesting reversal of fortune. Service providers are in a position to experience a roaring comeback as aggregators and navigators of content. 

It is a dynamic that could very well place siloed OTT players -- that are perceived by consumers as being difficult or cumbersome to access -- on defensive footing. The reason? While consumers may be fickle about what, how and when they view content, there is one principle to which they have been faithful: Consumers have consistently prioritized convenience over quality.

In short, aggregation and federated search technologies are redefining relationships between consumers and their content providers. For service providers, addressing the fragmentation pain point may be a perfect way to change the current narrative of being just being a “dumb pipe” provider. For OTTs, it will be important to develop a response to consumer frustration with the current landscape of content silos. 

In the long run, those who position themselves as aggregators -- and maximize value and convenience for consumers -- will emerge as strong players in the market.

Ian Greenblatt leads J.D. Power’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Intelligence, including a new IoT sub-practice, and drives market strategy across the rapidly converging landscape, which encompasses the entire communication sector. You can reach him by email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @GreenblattTMT.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceWireless staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceWireless.