Misunderstanding The Backwards EPG

At the launch of the new SkyQ system recently, there was one feature (or lack of it) which struck us odd.  The proposed system currently doesn’t have a backwards EPG, or any deep integration with catch-up from linear broadcast.  When we asked why, we were told that ‘our consumer research shows that only a small number of people use them to access catch-up’.  We would make three points:
– You can’t disadvantage any users, however small the user base
– Current backwards EPGs aren’t good enough to use as a research benchmark
– It sounds like the research was asking the wrong question

Don’t disadvantage any users
A small point but it is a basic rule of interface design that you don’t remove or restrict functionality if only a small number of people use it.  If only 10% of people use the current EPGs to access catch-up, then not putting one in a new system denies at least 10% of your customer base a function they would use.  However, as we will discuss below, we don’t believe the 10% research.

Current backwards EPGs aren’t good enough
Any consumer research that is based on working with users of the current crop of backwards EPGs is bound to fail as the current versions (with one exception) aren’t good enough to be considered models to copy or for their user research to be useful.  It is no wonder that research using these current models shows low use of the catch-up link.  They are too poor to use.

There are three very different types of backwards EPG on the market.  Virgin, YouView and Freeview Play offer what could be defined as 1st generation backwards EPGs in that they allow a consumer to track left and find catch-up content.  As an aspiration this is good, but consumers tell us that the most important time for a backwards link to catch-up is the preceding two hours (anything earlier than that and its easier to go to ‘Search’ or the catch-up menu).  However, both Tivo, YouView and FreeviewPlay often fail in that they often don’t work for up to an hour after broadcast (for Virgin, its often longer).  This creates a ‘dead-zone’ that kills all value in the backwards function.  Viewers find the programme they want doesn’t work and they end up having to scan around just to find a programme that does. It is no surprise that many give up on the function.

Freesat Freetime can be categorised as a 2nd generation backwards function in that it only shows catch-up programmes that are ready to play. This doesn’t solve the problem of programmes not being available in the ‘dead-zone’ of the preceding hour, but it does mean viewers aren’t clicking on programmes that won’t play.  In this limited ambition it is quite successful however, theFreetime  EPG fails on a significant other user case (see ‘You’re asking the wrong question’ below).

Finally, there is the EE set top box – a 3rd generation backwards EPG.  This box has blurred the boundaries of linear and catch-up more than any other and should be the benchmark against which  all the other platforms are measured.   This box uses a very clever PVR to buffer all the main channels onto its hard drive.  This means it can offer true ‘start-over’  so you don’t even have to wait for a show to finish before starting the catch-up version. You can click on a programme that is half-way through, and start from the beginning. This completely blurs the distinction between programmes on ‘now’ and those that just finished.  A viewer can move seamlessly forward and back in time.  Our research shows that consumer absolutely love the freedom this delivers and use it to access catch-up far more than previous boxes.  Very often they are unaware that they have drifted back into catch up – they think they are just watching telly.   The Sky box needed to be at least as good as this to be even in consideration as an advanced box.

… read on at decipherconsultancy.wordpress.com

Originally posted by Nigel Walley at Decipher ‘Off Air’
29th November 2015