At the Digital Entertainment World conference in Los Angeles, my panel discussing the opportunities and strategies for OTT TV. It looks like the ecosystem is maturing, uncovering new opportunities in the process.
On Which TV artifacts won’t make it online
I ask the panelists which TV or video technology, terminology, technique, type of content or service will be extinct by 2025. Richard Ginsburg, GM of UI Centric, thought the DVR was headed the way of the dodo. Tom Ryan, Co-Founder of Pluto.TV, said that bad customer service would vanish (Comcast and Time Warner customers can only hope!) He thought that the dramatically expanded choice online would mean providers would have to do a better job in delivering service to be successful. Malcolm CasSelle, SVP/GM Digital Media at Seachange, thought dumb remote controls would vanish. Amen to that.
Finally, Matt Smith, Chief Evangelist at Anvato, thought the grid guide would disappear. Since Pluto.TV uses a standard grid guide, I looked to Mr. Ryan for comment. He said the company chose a grid guide since they are providing, in effect, linear channels. Providing consumers with a familiar interface to engage with made a lot of sense, so perhaps Mr. Smith may have been a little hasty.
Why OTT is a better platform for video
I asked the panel to name one way that OTT delivery was a better platform for video entertainment. Both Mr. Ryan and Mr. Ginsburg agreed that the web is going to offer a far broader selection of content than is currently available with pay TV platforms. The last 10 years of OTT video has shown that there is a huge diversity of interests, and these can be aggregated together into addressable markets online.
Mr.Smith thought that OTT can deliver better targeted ads. He said that providers can know where someone is, what they are watching and that the Starbucks is just around the corner, and deliver a special coupon for $2 off the tazo tea they like. Mr. CasSelle also thought that OTT delivery allowed a content provider to deliver its content with a single business model. Better still, the model can easily be adjusted to adapt in real-time to the current conditions.
Social as the OTT EPG
Ynon Kreiz, President of Maker Studios, said that “social media is our EPG” earlier in the conference. I asked my panel if he was right, that to a large extent the discovery of OTT content is handled by social media. Malcolm CasSelle said he agreed with the statement, that it’s a very powerful recommendation engine.
He went further to say that there’s a massive, almost endless, stream of social content about media. Aggregating that and attaching it to a video experience enriches the experience itself. This enrichment is often delivered through a second screen, and that his company has found that consumers that use the second screen are much more engaged with the content.
He also thought that social discourse about how people are consuming content also provides valuable feedback to the programmers themselves. This “social EPG” becomes a two way street between content producers and consumers.
On the creation of TV apps
All of the panelists have been involved in the creation of OTT TV apps. For the last few years this has been a nightmare for content providers. Often they have to create many apps to cover all the platforms they wish to reach. I asked the panel if this situation has improved.
Mr. Smith characterized streaming technology as a ball of yarn, saying that content providers still need to worry about on which platforms HLS, flash and smooth streaming will work. He did hold out some hope that DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) would improve that over time.
Mr. Ginsburg said that things were getting easier. With screens sizes in smartphones getting bigger, there are fewer differences between a smartphone and tablet app. Mr. Ryan’s team has just recently created a bunch of versions of the Pluto app, and felt there was still a lot of work to be done in simplifying the process. However, he too was hopeful that the adoption of android TV would ease the burden over time as more vendors adopt it.
Why it matters
The OTT TV ecosystem is maturing fast.
From app development to video streaming formats, the business of delivering to multiple screens is becoming easier.
Social is becoming the default way people discover new media.
Many artifacts of the TV world won’t survive the transition online.