"What consumers are looking for today is choice, quality and greater flexibility, and these demands are driving new trends that are shaping the future of entertainment." – Chris Jaffe, Vice-President, Product Innovation, Netflix

Long live the television (set)

TV entertainment is an escape from everyday life, and has been the centrepiece of many people’s living rooms for decades. Due to the advancement of mobility, stories can now be unfolded on consumers’ palms via mobile screens. However, this does not signify that the big TV screen is now irrelevant; instead, it is further enhanced with the ability to connect to the Internet, bringing new possibilities to the rectangular screens that consumers are familiar with. APB prompts Chris Jaffe, vice-president of product innovation at Netflix, on how the subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) service is encouraging its subscribers to stay home, sign in and binge on Netflix programming via their TV sets.

In an era where mobile screens are surpassing the amount of TV screens each household might have, Netflix affirms the role of TV in homes, claiming that TV will remain the enduring centrepiece of the consumer’s entertainment experience in a new digital world.

Chris Jaffe, vice-president of product innovation at Netflix, told APB: “TV has been in our lives for 65 years, and the notion of communal storytelling even goes longer than that. In many ways, TV has been the centrepiece of consumers’ homes, and will continue to be.

“But now, with the advent of technologies, TV can be enabled even further — to be personalised, immersive and interactive — with Internet TV. For Netflix, this isn’t anything new to us; we’re just seeing more TV engagement in Asia-Pacific as we realised that TV still endures as the primary viewing device for consumers across Asia-Pacific.”

According to Netflix, its subscribers across the region have been using three to five different Internet-connected devices for their entertainment needs, completing their binges on everything from mobile devices to smart TV sets.

“Certainly, mobile viewing is a very important part of viewing all around the world, and of course, in Asia,” Jaffe continued. “However, we think that there’s a better way for us to think about how consumers want to consume stories. It’s not about viewing on any particular device; it’s about enabling consumers to engage with those stories across any of the devices that they have.”

However, as entertainment shifts online, consumers are discovering that they have more control over their viewing experiences, he said. “What consumers are looking for today is choice, quality and greater flexibility, and these demands are driving new trends that are shaping the future of entertainment.”

Envisioning TV of the future, Jaffe pointed out that the most important aspect for operators is meeting consumers’ expectations. He elaborated: “Everyone in the media and entertainment industry is really at the service of what the consumer wants. Consumers have high degree of expectations around the quality of the stories, the characters, and the accessibility to these stories.

“As we look beyond, I think the future of the media and entertainment industry is really about realising and supporting consumers’ needs.”

While it is clear that no single device dominates the future of entertainment, Jaffe stressed, it is about contextual entertainment where consumers are able to access their favourite shows on any devices they want, in a way that fits with where they are connecting from.

With the pivot towards contextual entertainment, Netflix revealed that streaming on TV devices has grown with 61% of Netflix viewing hours in Asia-Pacific being done through connected TVs. Smart TVs lead the charge as the most popular connected TV device, Netflix added, followed by media streaming devices such as Apple TV, Roku or Chromecast, and game consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation, as well as set-top boxes (STBs).

Particularly across Asia-Pacific, Netflix pointed out that while the majority of membership sign-ups are initially through mobile devices and laptops, consumers then move on to discover the connected TV experience. And within six months, connected TVs become the primary viewing device for 60% of subscribers. These subscribers, according to Netflix, are also spending twice as long watching on their connected TVs as they do on their mobile devices.

Jaffe added: “Netflix continues to innovate on mobile with features such as downloads while managing bandwidth on devices. However, we also want to share more of the story around TV, because we’re seeing more viewing on TV in Asia much like we see in the rest of the world, and this is an area of focused innovation for us.

“It’s an area that we have seen not only innovations from Netflix, but also from device partners and manufacturers, as well as consumer expectations. Consumers want to engage with these stories that they are getting over Internet TV, and they will also want to see them on their devices.”

With the aim to drive audio-visual entertainment experiences right into consumers’ homes, Jaffe explained that Netflix has incorporated technologies such as 4K/Ultra HD (UHD), high dynamic range (HDR), 5.1 surround sound, and Dolby Atmos, in some of its titles. For instance, titles on Netflix that support Dolby Atmos three-dimensional sound include Okja, BLAME!, Death Note, Wheelman, and Marvel’s The Punisher.

He concluded: “Consumers have always enjoyed watching TV, and this won’t change anytime soon. The beauty of connected TVs is that they are able to exploit the best part of the conventional linear TV experience while leveraging all of the benefits of connected technology.

“Netflix is a subscription business, and we need to ensure consumers keep coming back to us and to use our service every day. Hence, our focus is to create a great consumer experience that consumers would want to use and subscribe to. We want to be able to provide great stories for them to choose and consume, wherever they are, and on whatever device they desire.”

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