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Pay-TV user interfaces being outshone by OTT rivals, says report

The rich user interfaces being developed by connected TV manufacturers and online video services such as Netflix are beginning to equal and even surpass those of their pay-TV rivals, claims US firm ABI Research.

The research firm adds that pay-TV companies are hindered by a slow-moving business model and the need to serve less technically-savvy consumers, while their situation is exacerbated by a hardware disadvantage as they rely on ageing set-top boxes.

Meanwhile, consumers are enjoying a wider array of choices than ever when looking for video content, including more channels, video-on-demand (VOD), DVR recordings and online videos.

“To meet this demand, pay-TV operators are adopting search, recommendation, and discovery technologies that can help viewers find the right content at the right time. These systems typically leverage cloud-based technologies to compensate for the older technology in the home,” says Sam Rosen, practice director of TV & video at ABI Research.

The research firm names HBO Go as one online video service that sets the bar high, offering “beautiful graphics, simple navigation and responsiveness”, while Netflix has started to offer multiple user interfaces, including one optimised for children.

Editor’s view: This research notes points to two of the largest online video services in the US as evidence that OTT video services are outshining their pay-TV rivals in terms of UI – although in many parts of the world (including the US) they do not appear to be there quite yet.

Many pay-TV operators can rightly lay claim to having developed more honed, powerful and consistent user interfaces than their OTT peers: Comcast for example has expended enormous amounts of time and effort on its new X1 platform, which will offer users unified search, second-screen interaction, gesture control and a powerful recommendations engine.

UK cableco Virgin Media has been offering a similar lineup of features on a rock-steady UI for a while now thanks to its partnership with TiVo, and would definitely be justified in thinking its user interface is at least the equal of local OTT offerings such as LoveFilm or Netflix.

What do you think? Have OTT video services and connected TV devices finally caught up with the pay-TV crowd in terms of user experience? Give us your thoughts below!

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