I wrote this post back in 2015 as a use-case for the first global platform for Viacom where I lead the central design team.
Show Me Some Video, Baby
Viacom reaches more than 700 million fans in 180 countries with our networks like MTV, BET, and Comedy Central. The challenge: Deliver a premium video experience that not only feels clean, fast, and unique, but also scales to meet the very different needs of each of the networks in each of the countries, in different platforms beginning with iOS and Android phones and tablets.
What content we could show might be different for each country. Titles, labels, etc. needed to support multiple languages, and all brand assets had to be configurable based on typography and brand colors. Some features may be adopted by some markets and not by others. We were starting with native mobile apps, but needed to develop a visual language that would enable us to extend into web, AppleTV, Roku, and so on.
In collaboration with developers, product managers, and business/marketing folks in Europe, Latin America, and the United States, the New York design team (you can read more about us here) dug in.
After initial sketches and discussions with the team, we started putting together user flows to understand different iterations and move accordingly. Our goal was to design a foundation/MVP on which we could build through lean product development — a key tenet of our culture here at Viacom. Launch and learn.
Looking for an Alternative
Even though the digital/mobile video market is relatively new, we already see a standard structure — the basic grid view with cover art. Unless the user knows exactly what he/she wants to watch, they will browse for an excruciating amount of time before making their selection. It’s a design paradigm borrowed from the old video stores, where we spent many a Friday night staring helplessly at DVD boxes until we gave up and picked “The Godfather” for the thirty-seventh time.
One of our first explorations was the grid view. It was the safe option, but as we continued investigating and iterating ideas, we started seeing a trend. I’m talking about vertical videos. More and more people are shooting videos in portrait mode and many apps are now exploring content in this format. For example, Vessel, Funny or Die, Snapchat and etc… are all capturing experiences in this format.
We saw an experiment being validated, and the idea of having background videos would be a perfect fit for us because we want to put our users in front of video as first experience, we want to trigger user’s curiosity to start watching something that he/she would not even consider if we showed just a cover art.
After few iterations and feedbacks from users, we validated the video background preview and selecting a series thumbnail with one tap to start watching an episode. Performance plays a big role in making the experience a success, so our code-base would also include a brand new video player.
More to Come
Branded as PlayPlex, our iOS app has officially launched in Mexico with MTV. TV Land is the first one to launch in the US, Android, and other networks at home and abroad will follow soon. But that just gets us to the starting line. Exciting times are ahead as we continue to improve the experience by analyzing user behaviors to come up with new features, designs, and extensions of the value proposition that push the limit on digital/mobile video.
You can download the MTV and Comedy Central App if you have an account in Argentina, Brasil, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
If you are in the US, search for TV Land or CMT in the AppStore and Google Play
We are proud to announce that retention rates are among the best we’ve ever seen and V2 of the app launched with the option to watch short-form content.
Thanks to everyone involved on this project, we are excited on where we are heading.