OTT Better Than Broadcast

Back on the 26th February I attended the Streaming Forum Conference that was co-located with BVE at the ExCel in London. I was there not only to attend the conference, but I was also there to present on the experiences of the last 12 months with respect to UHD HDR to the consumer – more on that for another blog post.

This conference was focused on the question ‘OTT: better than broadcast’, but the biggest reveal was that the meaning of ‘OTT’ has many different interpretations, so much so that it might even be immaterial to the conversation.

When you hear the OTT acronym, you pick up that it is short for ‘Over The Top’ – but what does it mean? Well let us go through some definitions that I heard that day and generally around the media world.

‘OTT means any service that is provided via the open Internet, unrelated to the internet connection service provider’

‘OTT means any service that is billed separately to the internet connection service provider billing’

‘OTT means a video service provider that is wholly provided via unmanaged IP networks’

‘OTT means a direct competitor to Pay TV’

‘OTT means any IP delivered service that is provided as a bundled service with another service’

You can go on and on, but you can see that these definitions are not the same at all, but there is some form of relationship between them – that the service is provided via unmanaged Internet connectivity over IP. This is actually the definition that I believe fits better:

‘OTT is a service that is delivered over unmanaged Internet connectivity over IP’

With this definition, you can see that the question raised at the forum is the wrong question, as we are trying to then figure out if unmanaged IP delivery is better than ‘broadcast’, which in itself has several definitions but for this definition means the delivery via a one way RF based non-IP delivery mechanism like cable or satellite.

The implication of this is that all those reports that compare ‘OTT take up to PayTV’ also become nonsense – after all any video or TV service that you pay for directly or indirectly with cash is actually Pay TV. In that context then Netflix, Amazon etc is Pay TV that just happens to be delivered OTT, and actually not always full service. Full service means providing linear services (‘channels’), on demand, catchup, time-shifting, and place-shifting capabilities.

The comparison reports that compare revenue/performance/profit/subscription figures between OTT and PayTV are then really comparisons between those who are traditional pay TV platforms that largely own entire delivery chain to the consumer (i.e. includes IPTV) and those new wave pay TV platforms who don’t necessarily own the entire delivery chain to the consumer, specifically the distribution network to the consumer consumption point.

This definition makes better sense and I hope becomes the dominant meaning of the phrase as the industry makes the clear transition that is already underway (whether everyone is ready or not) – the IP delivery transition away from RF delivery methods for video/TV.

Ian Nock is the Founder of Fairmile West, which is a Consulting company focused on working in the Consumer Device and Video arena. We work with clients on technology strategy and product delivery through key practices in Consumer Devices and Video Services. If you are interested in learning more about what we do, please do get in touch via our website – Contact us. You can also keep track with what interests us in the industry by following our Link blog at TV Tech News, and you can specifically follow news on Ultra HD via the following link – Ultra HD News.