Broadcast and OTT: The Year of Converged Workflows

The over-the-top (OTT) landscape exploded in 2016. According to SNL Kagan, there are now 978 OTT services in operation worldwide, 182 of which are from North America[1]. It doesn’t take a whole lot of prognostication to see that 2017 is going to be equally transformative. However, in the New Year’s spirit of “predicting the future of the business,” I expect that 2017 will be a year for OTT and Broadcast to learn even more from one another, and work even more closely together.

Streamlined delivery needs a better workflow

Sure, competition for “share of eyeball” is going to remain fierce, but broadcasters and OTT providers are building a new ecosystem of win-win scenarios. Content purveyors are quickly seeing the value in converging broadcast and OTT workflows into a seamless execution that leverages the strengths of each. A good example of this is the work we are performing for an independent cable news network with an audience of approximately 40 million viewers. Multiple vendors were performing the network’s origination, transmission, live linear streaming and video on demand (VOD) asset conversion. The manual intervention needed to bring all the components together was expensive and time-consuming, and assessing problems was a huge challenge. A unified video publishing and management workflow not only improved quality, it also gave the network a better way to monetize content and keep on top of technology improvements.

These benefits are invaluable for an OTT brand, because viewers have been spoiled by the simplicity and quality of the broadcast experience. It’s engrained into how we expect and consume our video, and it remains the bar for which digital video delivery is starting to be judged.

Streamlined workflows cannot be implemented quickly enough, and the pace is only going to accelerate. According to this report by Cisco Systems from last summer, digital video delivery is going to keep growing, comprising over 80% of all IP traffic by the end of the decade. Consumer VOD traffic is projected to nearly double as well. That’s a lot of new eyes to feed, without even considering unknown variables like new devices, advancements in streaming technology, or the untold impacts that consumer virtual reality will have on viewing habits. Implementing a streamlined and converged workflow helps to mitigate current and unforeseen delivery challenges.

Monetization – maximizing every pay window

In addition to the technical benefits of bringing broadcast and OTT together, providers are learning just how profitable this synergy can be. Expect that technology will continue accelerating shifts in viewer behavior, which further challenges the industry to understand what audiences are doing – or how to reach and appeal to someone at a more personal level.

“A more personal level” is a big theme of the OTT story this year. The rapid rise of niche-focus OTT offerings is great for consumers, but for a business that needs to connect and resonate quickly with viewers, it makes for a crowded and noisy marketplace.  Plus, audiences are creatures of habit. No matter how many subscriptions are reaching a viewer’s wallet, the real keepers are delivering experiences that are intuitive, delightful, and easy to integrate into daily life. This is where broadcast and OTT models can learn a lot from each other.

A direct-to-customer (D2C) OTT approach can feel like uncharted territory for broadcasters accustomed to traditional distribution models, but by taking advantage of the technology, process maturity and thought leadership of established OTT players, they can move more swiftly through the learning curve, establish deeper relationships with audiences, and respond to consumer insights with agility. As content providers continue to experiment with OTT monetization models — whether ad-supported, subscription-based, or transactional — they can leapfrog over a multitude of development hurdles and capital costs by leveraging the infrastructure, insights, and experience of proven D2C solutions.

Broadcast and OTT: in it for the long haul

Sharing and collaboration between broadcast leaders and OTT businesses empowers each party to spend more resources on content that viewers will return to – which is the whole point of creating an OTT destination in the first place.  OTT offerings benefit by removing friction and waste from process workflows, and can reach a wider audience with consistent quality of experience. Broadcasters, in turn, benefit from the ability to deliver a wider array of content value and choice, serving the population through a stable platform that’s easy to navigate and pleasant to use – true to broadcast tradition.

2017 may not end up being known as the year of “reaching across the aisle” in all things, but in broadcast and OTT workflows, I predict we will enter 2018 hand-in-hand.

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[1] SNL Kagan, OTT Services & Devices, Global through January 2017