OTT grows up in 2017
OTT turned a corner with TV viewers in 2016.
HBO Go and CBS All Access, which recently added its Sunday slate of NFL games to its app, have seen increased adoption. DirecTV Now launched and SlingTV is finding its way into more living rooms by offering consumers a cost-effective alternatives to cable. It was a banner year for streaming, evident by the live streaming delivery records set by the US election broadcasts.
If OTT was in its infancy a few years ago, 2016 was its teenage year. And, in 2017, it takes that big plunge into adulthood.
Here are a few things I believe will shape the narrative in 2017:
OTT becomes a true delivery mechanism. OTT delivery (some still call it streaming) is being looked at by massive service providers as a primary vehicle for reaching younger audiences and and a complementary one for reaching adults and “traditional” viewers. And to be clear, I’m not talking about the controversial topic of cord cutting. Here, service providers both big and small are looking to OTT technology and architecture to help deliver their services to audiences who either want smaller, ‘skinny’ bundles of channels or those who may never subscribe to a traditional fixed-line cable or telco line of TV channels. OTT has freed providers to look at video delivery beyond fixed line or trapped within coaxial cable.
Zero rating and its impact. Free is good, right? Everyone likes a free ride. In 2016, we saw a few US telcos say that if you are a customer of both their wireless and television services, you can view your TV on your mobile device for free, where the data to stream the content doesn’t count against your monthly total. But what seems good to the viewer may not be good for competition and business overall, at least according to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is concerned that providers like AT&T and Verizon who create content or provide it in a package may unfairly benefit by having the network through which to deliver it - and that offering even some content free of data charges may hurt digital native OTT platforms like Netflix, Hulu and others. It may take well into 2017 until we know which direction this will take, and how consumers feel about the role of government influencing how much their viewing costs.
Experimentation reigns, so open the lab. NBCU’s SeeSo. Crackle from Sony. Fullscreen from AT&T. Big names in the industry that have seen their lab projects take shape in 2016. Incumbent Hulu is said to be expanding its service to include live TV channels in 2017. Even a rumored YouTube ‘Unplugged’ OTT service, featuring popular mainstream network content, could emerge in 2017. What will work? How will these services monetize, be it via subscription, ad supported or freemium?
It is hard to say what will resonate with audiences - and not all services will survive. Others will be successful enough to help drive the next iterations of viewing experiences on the screens of our choosing. But as the spotlight shines on experimentation in the OTT market, a new golden era of television is upon us and 2017 should be the year we recall significant growth of the medium.