By Greg Wester, CMO

Everyone seems to agree that content discovery on TV “sucks”… but what is being ignored is that it’s equally as bad on smartphones! While tech innovations have created TVs and phones that manufacturers have deemed “smart”, both remain relatively dumb to helping us discover content – something we do on each daily.

For television, at least the industry has awakened and realized that:

  • A multi-billion dollar opportunity is at stake.
  • New UI/UX discovery enhancements drive usage, retention, and revenue.
  • The cord cutting trend has disrupted the industry allowing everyone – from hardware makers to OTT players to networks – to compete.

The telecom industry, on the other hand, has been slow to realize that:

  • A multi-billion dollar opportunity is up for grabs in mobile advertising, but content discovery on smartphones hasn’t improved in over a decade.
  • New Ui/UX enhancements on smartphone content discovery isn’t even recognized, let alone adequately researched.
  • We’ve seen OEMs (Bixby and Apple News) and a few others use novel tech to influence discovery, but the pace is lethargic.

Easier, More Compelling, Content Discovery Is Now Expected – On All Devices

Our TV consumption habits have evolved. We no longer use it as Appointment TV – (e.g. “It’s Thursday at 8pm- time to watch Friends!”). Now we want to watch our shows in our own time, wherever we are. That’s why an innovation like Netflix has been a huge disruptor. Smartphones are going through a similar evolution.

While we used to only use our phones when we needed to read about something specific, unlimited data plans have enabled us to enjoy our content in our own time, wherever we are. Which is why the opportunity to create a Netflix-like discovery disruption is still there and ripe for the taking.

TV and Phones: Brothers from Another Mother

Let’s consider the other similarities between TVs and phones when it comes to content discovery. When we turn on our TV, we “discover” the last channel watched. When we unlock our phones, we “discover” the last app used. Neither of those are very effective at giving you what you want. The channel your kid was watching in the afternoon is unlikely what you want to watch in the evening. And the app you were just in is unlikely to give you something new and fresh.

Additionally, content options on both the TV and phone have both multiplied exponentially over the last decade. A proliferation of channels and on-demand video have given us more viewing options than we have time to consume. Which is why it’s not a surprise that 62% of people struggle to find something to watch. At the same time, 55% of people are regularly looking for something new to watch. This is similar to us unlocking our phones 50% of the time with no App in mind (or unlocking our phones and being Appnostic).

Consumer Behavior Drives Disruption: History Will Repeat

These behaviors are why Netflix – and also Tivo, Roku, Amazon and others – have been able to render traditional cable TV as endangered species. Innovators took notice in these consumption patterns and gave the consumer better options than the traditional set-top box was giving them. This is not to say that they are perfect – but they are vastly superior than simply getting the last channel watched or a scrolling guide.

Which is why it’s a head scratcher that not many people have noticed we face the same hurdles on our smartphone interface – the last app used (channel) or a sea of scrolling icons. That won’t last long though. People have noticed that improved content discovery on TVs are critical to driving customer satisfactionand brand loyalty. The same thing is undoubtedly true with smartphones. Carriers and OEMs should take notice, as they should be the ones driving the innovation and disruption. Otherwise, they cede the opportunity to be the “Netflix of the smartphone” to someone else, much like cable operators did years ago.