Discoverability: TV’s Current Challenge & Opportunity


November 26, 2018

By: Karen Ring, Head of Research at Telaria

As you might know from scanning the TV guide and clicking through seemingly endless video libraries on OTT apps, there is more content across the television landscape than ever before. There are nearly 500 original series across linear and OTT television spectrum, not to mention movies. The impending arrival of new services entering the marketplace (e.g. Disney+, Quibi) will bring even more programming to choose from. This is truly the new golden age of television.

Though there seems to be an endless of supply of programs to watch, consumer time is finite. This dynamic has created the attention economy, a marketplace that uses eyeballs as currency to measure success in the television universe. For CTV platforms, winning in this economy means building viewership to drive more subscribers and more advertisers. So how do viewers discover new programs, and what can networks do to effectively compete in the attention economy?

The fuel for TV entertainment is audiences, whether those engines are ad-supported or not. TV content needs audiences to attract advertisers, or in case of SVOD, to attract new subscribers. In its long history, linear TV has relied on three primary means of attracting viewers: lead-in viewership (viewers of the previous program curious about the next show), TV ads, and good old channel surfing.

But the online VOD environment is different. There is no schedule, so viewers can’t just stick around for the next show. As audiences increasingly watch TV via OTT devices, streaming apps and non-traditional sources, effortlessly moving between channels with a one-button click doesn’t work in an SVOD app world. Content providers can’t rely on people to randomly stumble upon a show and start watching.

So how do viewers discover content on streaming platforms, and how do they decide what they want to watch? Data from our proprietary study in partnership with Adobe Advertising Cloud, “Inside the Minds of Cord-Cutters & Cable-Keepers”, provides some insight into these questions, revealing some key differences by generation.

Watching streaming content is typically described as “intentional” or “purposeful viewing”, i.e. viewers have a specific show in mind when they go into their apps. For the most part that’s true: 60% of of the time, viewers watch specific content or their favorite channels. But that still leaves a fair amount of room for discovery.

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” -Steve Jobs

Viewers seem to like this method of discovery as well. In fact, it is the top source of discovery for SVOD viewers: 64% of SVOD viewers ranked recommendation engines as their main source of new show discovery. Recommendations from friends were a close second, ranking higher than recommendations from family. Critical reviews rounded out the list of influential top sources.


  1.     Recommendations based on previous viewing – 64%
  2.     Recommendations from friends – 60%
  3.     Recommendations from family – 56%
  4.     Reviews – 39%
  5.     TV ads – 27%
  6.     Social media ads – 27%
  7.     Channel listings/Guide – 22%

Connected TV offers a level of personalization not technically available in the linear TV world. With the majority of viewers having no specific program destination in mind, and the number of shows growing at a rapid pace, the challenge of building program audiences has never been greater. Those who make and distribute content are going to have to bring the content to the viewer, rather than the other way around, especially in an OTT world where it’s harder to surf and discover.

Recommendations and targeting are fast becoming the way of the future when it comes to TV-watching habits. It’s up to the industry to get it right as we continue to iterate the TV experience. Those that don’t will foot the costly bill for un-monetized content.

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