How to Make User Experience Your Key to Winning the OTT Race

24i streaming user experience
(Image credit: 24i)

There’s no doubt that variety is the spice of life. But when it comes to OTT, if you don’t get the user experience (UX) right, variety can also be a source of challenges. Who hasn’t spent an evening aimlessly scrolling through lists of movies and TV shows on an SVOD service only to switch off because they can’t make a decision over what to watch? The problem many OTT services face is making sure their consumers can get to their preferred content without being overwhelmed by choice or blocked by bad user experience.

Overcomplicating user interfaces with sophisticated search options and advanced tech features might lead to the opposite of the desired result. This is especially true for the less tech-savvy audiences who just want to get to their favorite show without the fluff, as well as those viewers that already know exactly what they want to watch and expect to get to it quickly. Keeping the user experience simple and highly relevant can do wonders for customer retention and user engagement.


Research by nScreen Media (opens in new tab) found the two features most likely to drive retention of OTT consumers were:  

  • Proactive notifications (via email, text or on-screen at login) about new content that’s relevant to the user, and
  • The ability to make accurate recommendations of content based on an individual viewer’s preferences.  

Finding something good to watch was highlighted as a key consumer need for almost half of the U.S. consumers surveyed. In other words, while content and value for money continue to be key drivers for customer retention, alerting the user about interesting and relevant content (without bombarding them with only remotely relevant recommendations) can make or break the deal.

For consumers who aren’t sure what they’re looking for, a powerful and intuitive search function is fundamental, but not enough. To guide them through the selection process, the streaming service needs to offer up content in a variety of ways. 

One way to optimize user journeys is to offer a highly curated content library that makes content discovery as easy as possible. If your editorial team is skilled, content can be categorized by language, country and theme or mood as well as genre, enabling viewers to discover similar titles through a more nuanced search capability. 


When crafting user experience, streaming services should keep the technical skills of their target demographic top of mind. Some audiences might find having too many advanced features confusing. Here, usability is key. A good user experience means making it easy for them to sign up, find what they want to watch and get to the show.

While too many options can be a turn-off, personalization can do wonders for less tech-savvy and older audiences, helping to make the user interface work for them. When certain settings are retained for signed-in users, it helps to reduce friction in the UX, build satisfaction and encourage user stickiness—all crucial factors in reducing churn. 


Aside from search and recommendations, there are many other features that can be deployed by a streaming service to improve content discovery. These range from favorites and ratings to profiles for different users within the household that ensure parents aren’t endlessly bombarded with cartoon recommendations. Even once the content selection has been made, there are many more ways in which the user experience can build or break user engagement. 

The choice of how to watch—with or without ads, TVOD or SVOD—needs to be obvious and easy to make. Registration and purchase flows need to be intuitive and as frictionless as possible. Users should be able to pause on one device and seamlessly resume playback on another device from the exact point where they left off. 

To ensure they keep up with their customer’s preferences, streaming services need to ensure their technology stack can respond to changing customer expectations. Access to actionable user engagement data is essential to keeping users engaged with the platform because it enables informed decisions about the feature set needed to drive customer satisfaction and retention.


Great user experience is almost invisible to the average consumer who simply finds and enjoys the content they love. It’s when user experience goes bad that consumers really take notice. A frustrating search experience or issues with streaming can be detrimental when it comes to customer retention.

That’s why successful streaming services put so much effort into ensuring high performance from the app and seamless video delivery at the best possible quality. Technical performance has a positive impact on customer engagement. Good video delivery means the content is starting faster. 

This improves other metrics like dwell times and time spent watching. When it comes to app performance, data is a streaming service’s best friend. Keeping a constant eye on the metrics and making sure that your apps work like a well-oiled machine pays great dividends.


In a streaming world dominated by the likes of Netflix and the other big players, it’s easy for the smaller or more niche streaming services to feel they can’t possibly compete on the user experience front. Netflix does set the bar high, thanks to its capital, skillset and expertise, which smaller players can’t hope to match. 

However, user experience is not one-size-fits-all. Streaming services can thrive alongside the likes of Netflix, by delivering a good-performing and always-improving, simple but elegant user experience that is tailored to their audience needs. In an OTT world driven by consumer expectations, choosing the right end-to-end OTT solution with a set of high-quality white label applications means you can hit-the-ground running with an excellent UX. To achieve competitive advantage, streaming providers need expert partners to help them adapt and improve their user experience so it unlocks new opportunities and paves the way to OTT success.

Linda Abrams is head of Business Development, N. America at 24i (opens in new tab).