Apple TV

Content discovery a source of frustration for cable subscribers: survey

Only 3% of respondents have actually gone ahead with cancelling cable subscriptions, but more than half said they're giving it serious thought.
September 14, 2015

At the recent fall keynote for Apple, the tech giant unveiled its newest generation of the Apple TV. With its connected TV sales sagging behind competitors Roku, Google and Amazon, Apple is clearly looking to up its game by offering users a voice-controlled recommendation and content aggregation system — all designed to make it easier for users to spend less time searching for programming they want to watch.

The tech upgrades couldn’t have come at a better time, according to new research by the Rovi Corporation, a Santa Clara, CA-based entertainment and tech company which provides cable and video services with recommendation and aggregation solutions.

Rovi’s survey, gathered from 4,000 online respondents (all either pay TV, OTT or SVOD subscribers) in the U.S., Europe and Asia this past summer, as well as 1,500 interviews, found frustration around content discovery on cable TV is one of the biggest incentives to cut the cord.

Among its key findings, the survey found that only 3% of global pay-TV customers had “cut the cord” in favor of OTT or SVOD services. German, French, Chinese and Indian respondents had the lowest rate of cord-cutting, at only 2% each, while U.S. respondents had a 7% cord-cutting rate.

But the same study found 57% of cable TV subscribers surveyed have given “some” to “a lot” of thought to cancelling cable subscriptions.

The biggest driving force behind that consideration was not cost, but discovery of content. Three quarters (73%) of respondents said they were frustrated when they were unable to locate enjoyable content, and respondents reported an average of 19 minutes spent per day searching for something to watch. A third (33%) said they frequently find nothing to watch.

Content discovery and recommendation systems appear to be front of mind for respondents, many of whom reported a willingness to pay more for a cable TV service that provided a better recommendation system, as well as for a voice command feature, which would allow users to simply ask their system something along the lines of, “Show me comedies.”

Specifically, the survey found:

  • 67% of respondents said they were likely to extend, upgrade or sign up with a new TV provider if it offered better search and recommendation services (and 90% of respondents in both China and India felt this way);
  • 51% said they wished their television content provider would make it easier or more effective to search for shows; and
  • 54% of respondents said they would pay the equivalent of $1.99 per month on top of their current cable plans to have access to some sort of voice-command feature.

Michael Hawkey, SVP and GM of discovery at Rovi, said in a statement that pay TV providers should take a cue from web, social media and SVOD services when it comes to providing recommendations and discovery services.

“The ultimate goal for service and content providers should be to connect consumers to the entertainment programming that is most relevant to them at any given moment across a range of devices,” said Hawkey. “Providers need to offer the same level of advanced usability that consumers now expect from any other web, mobile or social media service.”

A voice-command feature is exactly what Apple SVP, internet services Eddie Cue showcased at the Apple keynote in San Francisco on Sept. 9. The new Apple TV devices will be enabled with Apple’s Siri voice command system, which will allow users to ask their Apple TV, “Show me animated kids’ movies from 2015” and see results (aggregated from all the user’s subscription services) on the screen.

In 2014, a separate survey found Apple sold fewer connected TV devices than Roku, Google and Amazon.

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