It may surprise you to know that OTT is not such a new development; ever since ESPN360 launched in 2005 there has been an OTT presence. In the years since then the number of OTT providers has continued to grow and today OTT is finally really coming into its own. Providers such as Netflix, Hulu, Starz and Discovery have become familiar names for those people who choose to stream at least some of their viewing content.
The most popular devices for streaming content are smart TVs with game consoles, such as the PS4 and Xbox following closely behind. The more people have access to these devices the more they are likely to use them to watch OTT content; figures suggest that in 2015 the number of people watching between more than 2 and greater than 10 hours of online content each week grew by between 1 and 2%. So, the world of OTT is growing and attracting more viewers. This is a good thing, but it brings its own challenges for OTT providers; these challenges all fall within one area, choice. There is so much choice available to viewers that providers need to find a way to make them stand out from the pack.
The challenge of content
Attracting viewers is not all about content but it is a very important consideration. After all if OTT providers do not provide content that viewers want to watch they are definitely not going to be successful. The greatest opportunities in the area of content lie in the provision of niche offerings. Niche content providers such as Crunchyroll, WWE and Fandor have discovered this and used it to their advantage. So successful is the act of providing niche content that providers like Dramafever and CuriosityStream could potentially cause Netflix’s share of the market to drop by 50% by 2018. That is an incredible statistic when you consider the power of Netflix as a major OTT provider. Success in providing niche content is all about trying to stay away from the generic content that many providers offer and give something different to viewers.
The challenge of content discovery
Gone are the days when browsing through endless channels is something that viewers are willing to do. If people cannot find what they want within a couple of pages of browsing they tend to give up. That is why OTT providers need to meet the challenge by improving their content discovery functionality. They need to employ software that can recognise viewer choices and habits so that the viewer experience can be personalised. Viewers are more likely to stick with a provider that can give them personalised suggestions about what to watch, and make it easier for them to find content that interests them.
The challenge of reaching a global audience
A content provider may not be aiming to reach anyone outside of a certain geographic area but that does not mean that people outside of that area cannot access the content provided. It’s important that providers enable the same customer experience for all viewers, no matter where they are located. CuriosityStream has done this, with its service available worldwide.
The challenge of meeting demand
Often it’s hard to tell what video content will go viral; OTT providers need to be prepared for this reason. There is always the chance that their content will suddenly be inundated with millions of views and they need to have the scale of provision in place to handle the demand. This means having the servers and bandwidth in place to prevent the content from crashing. A good example of a system not being able to cope was when live streaming of the 2014 Academy Awards went down.
The challenge of multi-device viewing
Gone are the days when people used just one device to watch content. Let’s face it, every OTT provider needs to provide their content in a format that is suitable for streaming on devices including smart TVs, smartphones, tablets and game consoles. This can be a coding nightmare, and often the best solution is for a provider to partner with a technology expert in order to provide the same quality content across all devices.
The challenge of the experience
Over the years, people have been used to watching content on a TV screen; most of the time this content is good quality. Anyone viewing OTT content expects this same high level of quality. Of course, issues like blurred images, buffering and taking time to load all have the potential to make OTT viewing a frustrating experience. This is why it’s so important for OTT provider to invest time, money and effort into making sure their content delivers on the viewing experience.
The challenge of viewer retention
One of the biggest challenges facing OTT providers is retaining their viewer base. Aside from providing content that viewers want, two of the biggest considerations in this area are providing video content of high quality and ensuring that advertising content is non-intrusive and that viewers can skip to the video. The presence of intrusive advertising and poor video image quality are two major reasons why viewers avoid certain content, so it’s easy to see why getting these aspects right is so important.
It’s obvious that the OTT market is becoming more and more crowded and that providers need to really deliver if they want to attract and retain viewers. This does not just mean providing great content it means delivering an impressive overall experience. For many providers partnering with an OTT platform is helping them to meet these challenges and deliver content that viewers want to see.