Andrew  Burke

A Defining Moment for OTT Television?

So here is a challenge. Imagine you are entering into a lift and a fellow traveller strikes up a conversation as you ascend skyward. 'What do you do'? he asks, 'I am in OTT' you proudly respond. 'What is OTT?' he probes. So now you have six floors to go, about 30 seconds of talk time left and your professional reputation to defend. What do you say?

what is OTT TVDo you talk about the technology? About the content? Reference a website your companion might already use? Enthuse about applications, widgets, catch-up TV, music, search, recommendations, on demand games, social media, UGC/PGC or home media hubs? Let’s face it, most of us will need to be riding up the Empire State Building to deliver even a semi-coherent description of the power of OTT and still wouldn’t have critiqued the choice of devices that can handle OTT.

In my view, it is the challenge of defining OTT consistently to consumers that will either make or break its commercial success. Not the device technology, not the content, not the licensing issue, not the network capacity, not the standards but the ability to define and deliver against a mass market expectation of OTT.

I do applaud Youview’s attempt to brand a common hybrid/OTT experience in the UK market but of course it is failing to actually launch anything to cement that experience in the consumers mind. Similarly, a number of pundits are using Smart TV as a descriptor but that is being used to refer to TVs, set-top boxes, tablets and mobile phones. The user experience also spans a simple widget on an early TV through to a powerful media centre acting as a hub to play all possible types of media from all possible media sources.

Or do we define OTT not in terms of features and functions but as an experience, a religion, an aspiration, freedom, liberty, empowerment, rebellion, and self-realisation? A grander mission to break the control of our archaic TV providers and establish a new libertarian regime of information and entertainment from all to all? Lovely idea and sometimes I do think we are defining a new world order but I would suspect that the masses aren’t feeling overly repressed by their current TV service!

Let me proffer a solution to this conundrum. First of all we are simply offering enhanced TV. Just like DVR, HD and 3D. Second we should focus on the most valuable enhancement OTT can offer and that must be catch-up TV. Third we should think the best ‘televisual’ way of presenting that enhancement to customers which has to be the backward EPG. So for me, OTT is about presenting broadcast content from the cloud in the most customer friendly way. From that functional ‘anchor’, we can then add all of the wonderful enhancements that an internet connection can deliver. But these are just marketing noise. Noise that has the potential to confuse, distract and deflect. Let the history books define the evolution of TV to be analogue to video recorders to digital to DVR to high definition to 3D to catch-up TV. It is a branding that does what it says on the tin, one that people can immediately see value in and one that does not contain three letter acronyms! Well done Virgin Media who are doing exactly that with these next gen TiVo units. From a purest point of view, not that latest technology, not the most comprehensive feature set but a proper, usable, customer-friendly backward EPG.

I’m not saying that the backward EPG must solely reside on the television or set-top box. It could equally be on a second screen with content ‘thrown’ onto the TV. It doesn’t have to appear as a grid (sorry Rovi) or be two dimensional as the vast majority are today. It can be contextual and linked to the related long tail content. It could spawn apps that are synchronised with the content being watched. It could contain recommendations from family and friends on what to watch. But most of all it takes a consistent, editorialised and embedded paradigm and enhances that with OTT-powered catch-up TV content. That is what will excite the masses to spend their hard-earned cash on OTT-powered features. That is what our industry can hang lots of innovative new services on. That is what providers should embrace to retain and grow their customer base. And that is what I could easily describe in the few floors I have left in my journey in that metaphorical lift.

Is that what you think? As always, let me know…..


Posted by steve, 16 August 2011

Is any one making any money at this and if so how ........... it must just be by subscription as the advertising model will not work

Posted by Hendrik F. Hendriks, 17 August 2011

What would you have explained - living in 1994 - being in the World Wide Web business? Anything in it about Social Media, or music / video distribution or telephone - or even using the web to e-market any goods?

OTT = delivering the TV experience over the public internet. Period. Maybe with some enhancements to the normal TV experience people are used to. Internet is a copycat. First it copies real life products - then these products get enhanced and finally virally spread.

Posted by Mike G, 17 August 2011

I would also include the cellular network in this definition or more generally, "The delivery of TV services over someone else's network including broadband Internet and 4G/LTE."

Posted by steve symonds, 19 August 2011

This is way confusing, IMO. Look, defining OTT is very simple. "Bring Your Own Broadband ISP", period. Are you a subscriber to Virgin but also to Love Films? Are you a subscriber of Comcast's but also get Netflix? etc. etc. etc.? Are you a subscriber to Cablevision but also to Hulu? Then you are an OTT subscriber! Conversely, if you subscribe to Comcast...but not to Netflix (or soon-to-be competitors)? You are not an OTT subscriber (but you may be getting TV Everywhere services from your Operator). All this other mumbo-jumbo about catch-up TV, EPG's, etc. is irrelevant to defining OTT.

Posted by Yogesh Desai, 4 September 2011

Only need one floor - it's all about more choice and options - modern world mantra! Can give you a 3000 floor answer if you like?


Andrew  Burke Chrisp Thinking Andrew Burke
Company: Chrisp Thinking
I am currently Chairman of Crisp Thinking, Non-Executive Director of StaffShare Ltd and a partner at Snowy Road Ventures. Previously, I was CEO of Amino Technologies plc after being a non-exec director at Amino and Rawflow Read Andrew 's full bio

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