What can OTT learn from TikTok?

Your first thoughts might be that OTT and TikTok are two very different services – they play different roles in people’s lives, on different sized screens and with very different styles and length of content. But might there be some aspects that OTT can learn from such a successful video based service customer experience? Look beyond the dancing memes and the screen being the wrong way round and let’s list the top 5 lessons OTT could learn from TikTok:


The TikTok ‘For You’ home screen


  1. Force immediate learning – even the best algorithms that use all your viewing history can still not work out what mood you are in right now. TikTok can. As soon as you login on, they start looking at how long you engage with each video. If you quickly skip over a few dancing videos but engage with comedy one, then that is a tell tail sign to show you more comedy videos. The layout of the user interface forces that information to be given. You must scroll down to see the next video. The key is not to load the content below until you have this feedback.Netflix could also get this immediate feedback as it plays a video trailer as soon as you load the home page; if you navigate down, it should update the experience to reflect this conscious rejection in that moment (not sure it does though). I was with my in-laws last evening and as much as I would have liked to watch ‘Squid Game’, I was not sure it was for them. That immediate feedback was given by my speedy navigation down the home screen. This Netflix example also shows that forcing this engagement can work on a TV landscape screen as much as for a mobile first service. Perhaps rails/ swim lanes are not the default layout of the future.



  1. Use Immediately Playing Videos not Images – social media, emails, conferences; it has been demonstrated many times over that video is more engaging than images and way more than text. So why are OTT services not using the armoury of trailers and clips they have to bring their navigational experience to life? You can never imagine a TikTok user selecting an image from a bank of rails, then on the next screen, seeing the image again just with more text and being asked if they really want to play it; it’s just not a rich nor immediate enough experience.


  1. Add Social Tools – this is where even I start to realise that I am from an older generation. TikTok has many social tools next to each video notably:
    1. ‘Follow’ (the publisher of the video – normally an individual but also groups and companies)
    2. ‘Like’ (a measure popularity)
    3. ‘Comment’ (actively used)
    4. ‘Send To’ (share to your friends)


There is no reason why trailers on an OTT service can’t have these tools (nice double negative). If a trailer for a reality TV is playing, people should be allowed to share it, comment on it and see just how popular the show is. It all adds to the richness of the experience and build engagement with that content. ‘Follow’ could really work for broadcast channels, sports teams, talent, and even production companies. And remember, all this feedback will feed into the data science to make the predictions even better.


  1. Show the hashtags – you will see from the screenshots above, that #hashtags are all over the lower part of the screen. These are used instead of a detailed description to give user a quick feel for what that content is about. It is hard work to read a whole description but easy to absorb a few well-categorised words. You can also click on the tags to see more videos with that same hashtag and then the whole discovery tab in TikTok is based about these hashtags (see below). OTT services have this information normally called keywords and they should start to surface them to allow for a more immediate and trending experience.

The TikTok ‘Discover’ screen


  1. Unleash People’s Creativity – finally, the real power of TikTok is the sheer joy that many millions of people get from being creative. I am always amazed how unconstrained people are on this platform compared to many more stylised and curated social experiences. Why can’t your OTT platform unleash this creativity? Give people some clips from any reality TV show and watch what they could do with voice overs, music changes, order changing, video overlays etc. Rights holder amongst you will be getting twitchy at this moment but the uplift from a group of people creativity engaging with you content and sharing their output is worth its weight in gold. One of the big trends on TikTiok is ‘switch with’ where half the screen is the original video and the other half is somebody’s face reacting to the video – this would be great for so many trailers.


As you might expect, The Filter can offer OTT platforms much of the above. Whilst we are not UX providers, the data and algorithm that power the experience are all within our current toolset. Our data science models can take in immediate feedback and adapt the subsequent recommendations. We can add all the social metrics you need. Our metadata enhancement means that we can provide the keywords back to clients to surface on their UX.


The Filter prides itself on offering a managed service approach to personalisation. This means that we take the data science models that we have built over the last 15 years and tailor them for each of our clients. This allows us to grow and refine the personalisation with you over time.

Please contact Damien.read@thefilter.com for more information.