When HBO recently announced that it will be launching its very own OTT (Over-the-top content) service, the whole media industry was shaken up. As one of the major players in the content provider world with such hits as Game of Thrones, Girls, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire and True Detective, its decision to forgo the cable networks and straight to the Internet for distribution has a significant implication. It’s the cord-cutters’ dream come true and a slap in the face for the cable providers.
But beyond these business implications, there are also many technological possibilities. With this video streaming scenario, HBO, and others like CBS All Access and Lionsgate, can now explore new ways to engage its viewers in immersive and interactive ways that were not possible on the cable networks.
The Internet platform allows for the viewers to interact with the content and other viewers in real-time. So whether it’s live or on-demand content, the viewers can engage with it like never before. It’s true that people still enjoy the “lean-back” experience of simply tuning in to a show and watching it. But the up-and-coming Gen Z’ers are more likely to want to interact with their shows. Their lifestyle is very much gamified, so the content consumption being gamified, that is interactive and experiential, would be a logical step to attract this next generation of viewers.
So, what would these interactions or experiences look like?
It could be as simple as a social viewing environment, somewhat similar to Mystery Science Theater 3000. People can log in and invite others to watch the same show and chat together online. A great example would be one of our top clients SimulTV.
Or, it can be a UGC (user-generated content) solution. Imagine watching Game of Thrones, and you love the moment that you’re watching right now. So, you simply click on a button next to the video player, and it automatically captures the last 10 seconds of the show and provides a space to add your own comment. It then packages it in a fun video clip that you can share on your social media.
Or, how about a live interactive game show where the online viewers can chime in and even play the game with the in-studio contestants? And what if the randomly chosen online viewers can remotely control some of the physical elements of the game, e.g. spinning a prize wheel, launching game pieces, etc. You can even have a surprise celebrity player come on via the web and participate in the game. It would be easier to get these celebrities since they are “appearing remotely”, making it easy on their busy schedules.
These are just very basic and simple examples for experiential content. The interactivity can be as simple or elaborate as the imagination of the creatives behind it. The bottom line is that the OTT content can be so much more engaging than what’s available now on your TV.
Going OTT is just the beginning. Various emerging web technologies will undoubtedly transform the OTT content into the “21st century content for the 21st century viewers”.