Say time travel was possible and you go back to 2007. Someone takes out their first iPhone, and you notice something missing. They can't watch that big game live because the WatchESPN app hasn’t…
A lot goes into the making of America’s favorite shows and into bringing viewers the award-winning programming they watch everyday, but cable’s efforts don’t stop there. Behind the scenes, cable programmers put together teams that make it possible for viewers to watch TV on the go—anytime and anywhere—through a subscriber-based app. Ovation, a programming network dedicated to the arts, just came out with their new TV Everywhere app last fall, to the delight of their audience. Will Marks, vice president of business development and digital at the network, shared what goes into launching and continually enhancing their app, Ovation NOW.
"We feel that our audience is on every screen. They [the audience] reach out to us across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. We know they are on all devices, and we wanted to make sure that we were skating to where the puck is," said Marks. "This is a trend that is only growing. We're excited to meet our consumer on any new device they want to play on."
The network partnered with Float Left, a company with experience in building TV apps. They built the front end of the app and worked hand in hand with Adobe Primetime. "That [Adobe's universal, user-friendly login system] has been a wonderful advance for the whole industry, giving everybody a consistent login process," said Marks. He added that the biggest challenge with Ovation’s app comes when the consumer doesn't know their username and password. If they know their cable subscription login credentials, the experience is seamless and consumers are good to go across all devices. For the others, it's a bit more of a learning experience.
To make it a little easier for consumers, the Ovation team put together a comprehensive campaign across on-air and digital properties. They used its Twitter account as a go-to help, coaching and tech center for customers, and continue to run promos consistently through the schedule. "We talk about Ovation NOW as our overarching brand for our out-of-home services. That's been a good way to educate consumers about what these products are and what new devices you can get them on," said Marks.
The feedback the network is getting from viewers has been very telling. For one, the video loads and plays very quickly, removing a point of frustration for the customer. Customers are also taking advantage of catching up on past episodes of their favorite shows, watching five or six in a row. In some parts of the country, Ovation's programming is not in HD yet with some of its providers, but they can now watch shows or movies in HD on their tablet, Apple TV, and Roku. "We hear from them, 'This is awesome, I can finally see Versailles in HD and it looks remarkable.'"
Since the app launched, Marks and his team have seen people go right from the schedule page on the website into watching the live stream. "The flip side to that is we have to be on our game, and constantly make sure the app includes all the different cable providers, all the different changes, just like what you deal with when you log into your bank or your phone plan," said Marks. "We have a lot more tech support to do. It's shared between us and the cable provider or the app store. We have to do more bug fixing."
But Ovation is keen on tackling all the changes and challenges in the industry head-on and coming out with new services and innovative products for its audience. The team is always upgrading and improving the apps across Android, Roku, IOS, and is planning an Amazon Fire rollout later in the year.
"It's the most fun and exciting part of the job, looking at the new platforms and devices and the way consumers are going to want our content," said Marks. "You always have to be looking ahead and not be afraid of all the new platforms, all the new tech. That's the only way you will keep the consumer excited and happy and have great new products and services for them in this space. That's the key to this whole thing."
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