Food for thought
Swedish public service broadcaster SVT wanted to its boost audiences for their online service called ‘SVT Play’. Faced with the lowest viewing rates in the history of television and reduced public funding they, like so many public broadcaster’s, needed to explore new ways to fulfil their role as the voice of the nation.
As part of a five man, multi-disciplinary team of Hyper Island students we were hired to present our insights and future vision for the service.
What’s the role of television?
Our team needed to understand first-hand the current experience of Swedish television from the public, both to avoid making design assumptions and to identify areas of opportunity.
From street interviews conducted across Stockholm we struck a reoccurring theme; viewers were using TV for company, for downtime and to relax. Back in the studio we hypothesised this was due to a killer combination of two qualities:
– television’s serendipitous nature
– and its lack of intensive interactivity
We concluded the best solution would leverage these traits.
The art and craft of TV programming
So television has found itself a cosy little spot in our busy lives, but what other factors keeps us watching? In particular, what keeps us watching public services channels?
We established 3 essential ingredients that we believe keep audiences from switching away, or switching off.
Good programming knows how to broadcast information that’s relevant to the nuances of its audience. Usually informed by ratings, but why stop there?
Freed from the need to pander to commercial ratings, public service channels can challenge their audiences’, enabling them to discover issues they might never have actively searched for were it the web.
Good entertainment puts us in a state of flow where we are not thinking about what’s on the other channel. In an era of ‘more choice the better’ we believe too much choice can actually ruin good entertainment.
A classic channel that ‘learns’
Our team’s vision was a simpler more intuitive way for SVT audiences to enjoy TV online.
Our idea was a single channel broadcast continuously like a regular channel, but this channel would slowly and intelligently become more personalised to its viewer’s individual preferences and tempo.
Being online, it could leverage data about viewer’s interests stored on other online platforms and it would also be able to analyse watching timeframes to build preferred viewing cycles linking content to time.
Eventually the channel would feed unique content to a viewer that it knew they would love, along with random items which stretched the boundaries of those preferences. It would require virtually no input, allowing the viewer to keep sitting back and enjoy that little piece of downtime in their busy life.
Handing over control required trust
Our team’s Designer built the interface after we tested several rounds of paper prototypes – during which we learned some valuable home truth’s. The most consequential being that if a viewer is going to surrender the remote control they want reassurance that they will get content they like.
That meant putting the programming schedule front and centre, reassuring them before they’d start watching. The final interface delivered this and tested markedly well.
Sharing the love
This project was commissioned by SVT with the intention of sparking inspiration and debate within their digital service department (SVTi).
My team presented at their head office in Stockholm to senior staff and the response was impressive, even provocative. We were 1 of only 4 (out of 13) teams invited back to re-present to the head of the SVTi department, the CEO of SVT Eva Hamilton and this time the entire digital services department.