Simple can be harder than complex
S05E09: Game of Streams (Simple can be harder than complex)
Our Media Solution Specialist, Magnus Svensson, is sharing his reflections on the online streaming industry in this post. This is part of a monthly series so make sure to follow us here if you don’t want to miss an episode.
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” The words come from Steve Jobs and very important to keep in mind when building a streaming service or a product or service that is used by a streaming service.
Working in the industry for many years I’m still surprised how complex things are done sometimes and a lot of areas would benefit a lot by simplicity.
If you start from a consumer perspective it is today very hard keep track of where to find your content, and what services to sign-up for. I believe that we’re still far away from a global content discovery and search. If we ever get there. But the situation doesn’t get easier with the TV distributors attempt to bundle content in different packages. Telco operators with efforts to bundle traditional linear channels with streaming services in different packages at the same time as device manufactures fighting for the consumers.
It’s not only a technical problem that the different bundles are hard to understand, and the user experience is poor. The content owners and streaming services have their agendas and don’t want to be packaged together without influence and restrictions. Broadcasters and networks only allow certain combinations of channel bundling which leads to limited packages, or huge costly packages. And the streaming services move away from allowing content ingestion in an aggregation service, and in best case only allow what is called deep linking where you get redirected to the streaming service app to consume the content.
These restrictions and limitations make it very hard to create a consumer-friendly aggregation experience with an attractive price. The bundled offerings become impossible to understand for the consumer. For a telco operator it might be much better to simplify the offering and make it easier for the viewers to consume content.
Focus on providing a good internet connection, premium Wi-Fi equipment and easily accessible content. This could be in the form of a streaming device with a FAST service with ad funded playlists, creating the linear experience, complemented with discounted offerings on the major streaming services and preinstalled apps.
Plug and play for the customers and a great offering to the cord-cutters.
Simple, modern, and adequate tech stack
When building a tech stack for a streaming service you need to understand your needs and capabilities. There is no need to build a spaceship if you only need to go to the nearby grocery and you don’t need to reinvent the wheels again.
Very few streaming services have the needs that motivate building the tech stack inhouse. Some larger providers have the scale and need to build the solution using best of breeds components and glue them together. Another reason to build inhouse, still using ready-made components, would be if you come from a legacy background and already have a workflow that needs to be considered. But most of the smaller providers should utilize as big building blocks and turn-key solutions as possible and instead focus on their core business, content.
The priority for the tech choices should be simplicity, both from a technology standpoint as well as business aspects. Look at how other industries build software stacks and use the best patterns. It is possible to build solutions based on scalable, cloud-based API driven products with a usage-based price model. Build for automation and eliminate manual processes and workflows.
The technical challenges for today’s TV services are very similar to social media and gaming and unless you build for flexibility, scale, and economy you will be left behind.
Onboarding and retention
Once you have your service offering, your content, and your tech stack you need to ensure that the service is easy and attractive to use. Most important is the onboarding process as the this is the only part that all your customers will experience. If it’s complicated to sign-up, you will lose a big part of your potential customers already at this stage.
Equally important might be to ensure that the customer feel the freedom to leave whenever they want. The lock-in feeling is another reason not to sign up. It’s the content and service offerings that should make your customers stay, not long subscription terms. By the way, this is why you would need the same flexibility from your tech vendors.
In earlier episodes I have compared a streaming service to a shopping mall, and this is a very good mindset to retain subscribers to your service. Eliminate as many reasons as possible for the customers to leave your service. Entertain the viewers when they arrive by immediately play some content, continuously serve content, and never leave the viewer unattended.
As stated by Steve Jobs, simple could be complex, but once you get there, you can move mountains.
To watch out for the coming months…
The autumn is filled with interesting online conferences and events. During October and November Streaming Forum Connect, Demuxed, Streaming Media West Connect, OTT Executive Summit and many more will take place. A lot of opportunities to be educated and inspired by industry experts.
Magnus Svensson is a Media Solution Specialist and partner at Eyevinn Technology. Eyevinn Technology is the leading independent consulting company specializing in video technology and media distribution.