The International Experience of VOD

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Exploring new frontiers for VOD development is of great interest to us at Ostmodern, as we look to expand our thinking and take a global approach to digital product design. As Ostmodern’s resident Digital Anthropologist and UX researcher, it is my job to learn about the different ways video content is consumed in different cultures.

Ost World Map

We're expanding our knowledge of TV viewing worldwide

One of the perks of my job is that I usually have something interesting to talk about when I go to parties. I often follow up on my eloquent opening gambit of “Hi I’m Matt and I’m a Digital Anthropologist currently researching trends in TV consumption” with a random statistic, such as “according to Nielsen, people in Boston stream an average of five minutes of over the top content a day”.

Surprisingly, I still get invites to parties. At a recent gathering, I was chatting to the host about my work, and she pulls out this book called Television as Digital Media. My time spent in academia means I’m always on the look out for a new resources, so naturally my scholar-sense started tingling when I saw the title. Noticing my interest she kindly offered to lend her copy.

Reading through, I came across an essay by cultural studies professor Graeme Turner, which contained this quote:

"the fact is that…“television” involves such varying forms, platforms, and content in its different national and regional locations that it is increasingly implausible for one set of experiences to be regarded as representative."

Turner lays out the case for understanding the global landscape of what he refers to as “post-broadcast television” (VOD and catch-up services to you and me) in terms of the cultural practices of the viewers. This resonates with the way I understand people’s behaviours, including VOD usage, from the anthropological perspective.

The influence of different cultures is underappreciated by too many in the tech industry. The practices of consumption within one’s own culture, which determine the success of certain products, are often taken for granted. Too often companies launch a product into a market they don’t fully understand and wonder why it doesn’t perform as well as they expected. What results is often a lot of head-scratching and soul searching (and occasionally throwing bucket loads of money into promoting the product in the hope that it will improve its fortunes).

Such a top-down approach to design, which imposes a central vision upon a market, fails to account for the cultural needs and specifications of the user and risks alienating them from the product. In order for a product to really succeed, it is important to design from the ground up with a good understanding of the needs of the people it is being built for.

This understanding must go beyond the headline statistics, such as Bostonians watching an average of five minutes OTT content a day, and unpack the cultural contexts around them, as well as being critical of the data itself. That five minutes is comparatively miniscule when you consider that the average Bostonian consumes over four hours of live TV content a day, and can be easily used to dismiss the value of OTT services. However, when you consider that this statistic does not reflect the dedicated user base of OTT customers, using the service to regularly consume their favourite content, and paying for directly for it, the value of OTT services changes.

When designing a product to be used by a group of people, it is essential to understand the cultural contexts which underpin their attitudes and behaviours. In my role as a UX researcher, it is my job to develop a thorough understanding of the cultures we are designing for, so that our creative team of UX architects, designers and developers can create not only the best products, but the right products to fulfil the prospective users’ needs.

We’re always open to finding new sources of information about the places of interest, and would love to hear from anyone who has done research, or knows any good sources on TV viewing around the world, in particular the USA, Australia, Scandinavia, Russia and South East Asia.

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