OTT refers to over-the-top and it's a term used in the media industry to explain video content that is available on the internet by a streaming service directly to the consumer.
The OTT term is most commonly used for streaming video, but it also applies to streaming music and voice calling apps provided over the internet.
An important aspect, hence the name OTT - is that it bypasses all the "normal" distributors, and goes directly to the consumer. Over-the-top plays on the analogy of bypassing the traditional Set-Top-box (STB).
For broadcasters and content creators, a OTT platform offers a direct relationship with consumers outside of the traditional cable TV universe, enabling a more personalized TV experience as the actual viewing patterns can be better tracked.
To give you a great overview of OTT, this blog will discuss the following:
Today there are a lot of OTT platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Amazon Prime, in addition to the national broadcasters and local streaming services in your country. The common denominator for OTT platforms is that video content is available anywhere, at any time, on any device, for the end consumers. The services are usually funded using monetisation modules like AVOD, SVOD and TVOD.
Many traditional linear broadcasters, local and national all over the world, have also created digital channels, or OTT services with channels. With this, it is possible to reach audiences on the move or who may engage with the content on a laptop or mobile device instead of on television.
Running an OTT platform can be a complex process as it involves several components. From a high-level view, someone looking to buy an OTT platform usually needs the following components:
Take a look at the Weighting Model featured in this blog to gain a better understanding of how to determine which aspects of setting up or upgrading your streaming service are worth allocating your budget towards.
In order to access your video files and make them available for user playback, the videos need to be hosted somewhere and transcoded. Video hosting is the concept of uploading your video content to a server for it to be available online, while video transcoding makes sure that the video files are accessible and packaged in the right formats for the correct devices.
With VIA Orchestrate we enable users to retrieve content files, transcode them and package them up into a range of formats suited for your viewer devices and in different bitrates.
CDN, short for the content delivery network, is a term used to describe server infrastructure that is geographically spread all over the world to speed up the transfer of content over the internet.
In order for a streaming service to work smoothly, it's vital to have a CDN provider that is close to the users, so that videos are loaded faster.
AWS Cloudfront, Akamai, Lumen and Fastly to name but a few. Many of the larger OTT providers and digital content providers will have several CDNs, either to tune performance in certain areas so that viewers get better experiences, less latency, interruption and judder in their digital stream. In addition, several CDNs create resilience and redundancy backup in case of network interruption or data transfer issues.
An important aspect of a CDN is content protection. Content protection can cover several areas. Starting with geo-blocking and location restrictions. There are both simple and advanced ways for OTT providers to restrict access to content based on a viewer's physical location. This can be achieved at the continent, country and even local level. Solutions range from basic protection to more sophisticated content that can help restrict content from people trying to bypass geo-blocking rules by using services such as VPNs. Advanced solutions like Maxmind are available.
Content protection is a hot topic. Content providers and companies running OTT services need to know that only people who are paying for the content, gain access to the content. Content protection is a complicated area and can include protection against hackers and people trying to interrupt and capture live streams for sporting and other events, or trying to re-distribute content without the proper licensing arrangements.
DRM, short for Digital Rights Management, is a technology used to control and manage access to copyrighted video content. DRM encrypts your files and protects your files from copyright infringement.
In addition to the above types of protection, many OTT services need to adhere to rules defined by the content creator or owner, such as a maximum limit of concurrent streams that can be viewed at the same time from the same user account or the number of devices that can be associated with an account at any one time.
A Video CMS plays a crucial part in running an OTT platform. A video content management system allows editorial teams to manage video assets by adding metadata and structuring content into categories that will be displayed on the front-end applications for the streaming services.
The video CMS plays an important role in the end-to-end OTT workflow, providing status overviews of workflows and integrating various vendors throughout the value chain. If you want to dive into what a video CMS is, we have made a great overview of it in this article addressing the scope of an OTT Video CMS, and why you need one.
When you are running a streaming service, you want to generate revenue from the content you are serving. Hence, you need a tool that can monetize your video content. Monetizing your video content means that you make end-users pay, usually a monthly subscription, in order to access your content. There are several monetization modules to choose from like AVOD, SVOD or TVOD.
In the streaming world, “Front-End” is a broad term that covers everything from web portals, IPTV Apps to traditional Mobile Apps (iOS & Android).
Front-ends are a crucial part of any OTT service and must be easily accessible and engaging for the end-user. Front-ends consist of many functions but the primary functions are content visualisation (creative options to display content to end-users in an engaging and visually appealing structure), payment gateways and a video player.
In choosing a front-end partner, an OTT service must consider the following factors:
Examples of front-end providers are:
To create a great viewing experience for the users, content recommendations should be included. If a user is given too much choice, making a decision on what content to watch can be a tiering process. The last thing you want is to lose subscribers due to the abundance of choice.
The best content recommendations allow you to tailor your content to the end-users preferences or you can create lists that contain the "most-watched content", "the latest content" and similar.
Understanding what is happening on your OTT platform is the key to success. Analytics can help in many ways. One of the key elements of a successful OTT platform is the audience experience, and trending in the OTT tech ecosystem right now, are a bunch of companies specialising in-stream analytics.
This means measuring latency and the quality of the stream to end-users. Videos should start on the viewer´s screen as quickly as possible after play is pressed or the content is unpaused. The stream should always be of the highest possible quality or bitrate to ensure your audience enjoys the content at its best.
As well as the operational analytics, for stream quality and technical success, analytics can be used to understand viewer behaviour, demands on content, the popularity of catalogue items and audience segmentation and analytics to support making good recommendations.
As an optional component to our video CMS, we offer VIA Data which provides a set of data, from player stats, to website analytics and app information. Having data from your streaming services, helps you build a clearer picture of your audience, enabling you to develop insights and measure your service's success.
The biggest challenge and opportunity for OTT platforms is quite simply the same market trend. The explosive growth in streaming entertainment services has led to a massive increase in the consumption of content, on so many platforms and devices.
As OTT consumption moves to take over linear, and households become accustomed to having subscriptions to several OTT content streaming services, there is a growing available audience and an appetite for content to meet in the market. However, this opportunity brings many challenges. The competition for eyeballs is hot, and viewer loyalty is a thing of the past, with many subscribers switching services frequently.
This means that there is increased competition to get the content that will capture your audiences, in addition to the demand for bigger marketing spending to attract viewers and a lot of pressure for engagement that helps to win and retain customers.
This makes it much harder for new services to gain market share, and harder for existing OTT providers to make the revenue per viewer that they are accustomed to.
Depending on the amount of end-user traffic, geographical locations you want to stream content to or how you want to monetize your video library, you decide what components and functionalities you need. In the OTT industry, there is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution. However, finding the right partners and components does not have to be a difficult task. In Vimond we create different packages that are tailored to your needs. If you have a preferred choice of vendors and components - we are either pre-integrated already, or it is easy for you to do the integrations yourself. It is not necessary for us to be in control of all components. Essentially we are here to act as the core where you manage all metadata and workflows related to your content.
As an OTT platform provider, in Vimond we help broadcasters, media organizations and other content right-holders to ingest, manage and distribute content to their streaming services.
So, what's next for the OTT industry? Even though we can't predict the future, we can make some assumptions.
First of all, the OTT industry will see a continued consolidation of brands and properties. This will spur a great rebundling.
As part of the great rebundling the OTT industry will see the emergence of super aggregators who offer simplified content selection across properties and brands. With a la carte menus of add-on brands.
Potentially, there will be a simplified way to display content across brands and services which will create a default gateway to premium video.
eSports and live streaming gaming will continue to be growth areas, fueled by low latency and interactivity. A few serious competitors to Twitch and the Socials will emerge.
Major OTT providers will diversify into gaming to look more attractive to shareholders.
Legalized gambling with low latency streaming can potentially accelerate the growth of new sports streaming services with enhanced interactivity. Immersive experiences will be emphasized, and sports will be a big driver of this type of viewing.
OTA, cable, and satellite TV will be replaced in the short term by FAST as the demand for linear TV declines. FAST refers to Free Advertising Supported TV. That is a channel or content-on-demand service that is funded by advertising that is presented to viewers. A FAST monetisation approach can easily be achieved with our monetisation tool VIA monetise.
OTT news services will grow, perhaps rebranded as political entertainment, but will increase in number and niche focus to specific agendas. New technologies will be applied to news content to counter-propaganda. There are huge regional differences and legislation with regards to news content which may mean this is a more US centric assumption.
EU legislation will lead to more locally produced content for streaming services. This could also lead to the consolidation of European broadcasters into larger regional entities to compete with the major media content owners with the premium IP and titles.
The traditional media industry, and vendors, will ultimately see a contraction as technologies become increasingly commoditized software. Further, globalization could increase the dominance of specific major media brands eating up local or regional players. However, the increased tribalization can lead to new niches and often localized services.
We hope you found this article an interesting read! Don’t hesitate if you want to get in touch with us or have any questions.