Qualitative consumer research, conducted by Evolution Digital, a provider of integrated IP Hybrid devices and IP Video solutions for the global cable industry, shows that pay-TV subscribers are eager for a new way to have access to both traditional cable TV channels and popular OTT services, and want cable set-top box technology to simplify their searching and viewing experiences. The research also confirmed cable subscribers are frustrated with set-top box rental fees and being forced into programming packages that include channels they have no interest in.
The proprietary research was conducted to gauge reaction to Evolution Digital’s new eBOX IP Hybrid Set-Top Box that seamlessly integrates linear cable channels with OTT services, as well as provides universal search capability across all content through a simple user interface developed by TiVo. Evolution Digital hosted four focus groups in Des Moines, Iowa and Cleveland testing both cable subscribers and former subscribers (cord cutters) to gain insight into various pay-TV concepts and trends.
Searching TV Shows
Both cable subscribers and cord cutters reported frustrations with search functionality for TV shows and movies on cable services using legacy set-top boxes. Most respondents reported that they spend a lot of time with current equipment attempting to find content they want to watch. Respondents also emphasized that this issue is important and valuable for cable operators to pay attention to related to retaining current customers.
Consumers cited that OTT services do a better job of organising content and providing recommendations for programmes that they may want to watch. But they often get lost in trying to find something to watch due to the large amount of content and will often switch back to cable to more easily flip through channels.
Focus group participants reacted favourably to the universal search capability on Evolution Digital’s eBOX, powered by TiVo, which allows viewers to seamlessly search programs across live, traditional cable TV channels and OTT services. Consumers noted that one of the biggest advantages of eBOX is that the device lists all locations a particular show is available and lets the viewer determine which service to watch, making binge-watching and catch-up viewing easier than ever.
Switching Inputs and Remotes
Most cable subscribers today access OTT services from multiple third-party devices connected to their primary household television. Viewers expressed frustration that they must switch TV inputs and remotes in order to access streaming services from their televisions. This was most notable in viewers ages 40 or older.
Respondents cited this as a major and important hurdle for cable companies to overcome and expressed strong interest in having a single set-top box that integrates major OTT streaming services with traditional cable channels with one connection to the TV and one user-friendly remote control.
Evolution Digital’s eBOX, powered by TiVo, was well-received by the focus groups as an easy-to-use platform with the ability to switch content providers (i.e. cable, Netflix and Hulu), without having to change input sources and remotes. Additionally, the streamlined remote was considered ergonomic, small and lightweight with clearly identified buttons to avoid confusion.
Set-top Box Pricing
One of the largest overall complaints from all respondents was the cost associated with leasing a set-top box. Notably, 78 per cent of cord cutters stated they would consider returning to cable if they could purchase the new eBOX outright, rather than having a monthly fee. The group of cord cutters also expressed interest in returning to cable if they could customise a ‘skinny bundle’ of programming services and have access to OTT services available through eBOX.
“The results of the research validated our assumptions we used to develop eBOX and confirmed that cable subscribers want an easy and simple way to enjoy their favourite content,” said Tom Bracken, Evolution Digital’s vice president of marketing. “These consumer research findings affirm that Evolution Digital’s forward-looking technologies provide cable operators the tools to retain subscribers and recapture cord cutters. With increasing competition from OTT services, the cable industry needs to stay abreast of consumer desires and respond by providing new equipment and business models. We will continue to be a leading resource for operators to embrace change, transition to IP distribution and deliver a better experience for their customers.”