If you're going to attend the massive spectacle that is the NAB Show, you have to focus your attention. It's best to have a clear purpose. I went to the show with a few different angles in mind. One of these was to glean what I could about "OTT" (over-the-top) and bring some (hopefully) useful information back to my colleagues in the Vermont Access Network (VAN), the collection of the 25 community access TV stations that operate in the State. And, boy, was there a lot about OTT at NAB. OTT happens to be one of the big rages in the world of media right now. In short, OTT is video service that a streaming provider sells to consumers - think Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, etc. Why might we in community TV care about OTT? .... Because, in the ever-evolving world of media, we need to hop on board, remain relevant, or else get left behind. Also, when we start talking about our funding structure and the different possible economic models that could fuel our future, we can either view them as threats...or we can start looking at them as opportunities. As an optimist, I like to think about things like this as opportunities; there is a great big (and growing) media landscape out there - and it is vital that public, independent, and community-driven media be a part of it all. We need to start integrating this technology, OTT, into our operations. Exactly how we do that is TBD, but this information can hopefully help get the conversation started. Below are some notes from a seminar I attended on "The 6 Pillars of Successful OTT" with some guys (yes, all men) who are in charge of operations at some of the major players right now.
Seminar: “The 6 Pillars of Successful OTT”
Panelists: Joseph Ambeault, SVP of Product & Tech at Discovery, Dwayne Benefield, head of PlayStation Vue at Sony, Steve Hellmuth, EVP of Media Ops. & Tech for the NBA, and Scott Levine, SVP of Product & Tech at Univision.
1. Content Strategy
- need choice & flexibility (a la carte)
- PlayStation Vue offers a la carte. Keep the consumer engaged - social media is used as a “funnel” to NBA League Pass
2. Video Delivery
- quality will drive success; retention & engagement goes up & down w/ qlty. Need to adjust to platform w/ resolutions, aspect ratios, etc.(TV vs mobile, etc.)
- Must monetize; it’s not cheap to customize content but must do it to maintain quality & retain viewers.
- Allow for downloads on mobile & computer but also need connection thru cable TV. NBA has different tiers which has proven to be successful model (can subscribe to League Pass, Team Pass, Game Pass (buy single game), Game of Week, Micro Pass (last 5 mins of game), or Audio only.
- Must be able to handle purchasing, payment methods, different currencies, etc.
- Be on all devices- esp. Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, PlayStation Vue, Smart TVs, mobile (iOS & Android), and desktop
5. Viewer Experience
- Get them to watch something within :60-:90 or you will lose them; can’t make it complicated.
- Customize the app to extent possible (and remember viewer prefs within app).
- Tailor production elements to popular platforms (NBA League Pass offers special camera angle for mobile, with enhanced graphics & stats - this works well bc. the prefs are saved and viewer can customize his/her own experience).
6. Watch Data
- Univision: “Automate insights into actions”. Ex: data show that usage inc. every month. Actions = added “What’s Next?” to end of each show. Talk to viewers frequently - connect with them , get insights, put into actions.
I also tried to learn about what services are out there that might help us all get our collective feet in the door of OTT:
OTT Services / Products
- Vimeo / Livestream. OTT is a brand new service for them, and I got the feeling it is becoming a major new focus for their business. They are now on several of the big platforms- Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, iOS, Android TV, & XBOX (no PlayStation yet). Basic service is offered at $1 / mo. per subscriber (plus 2.5% +30cent per transaction fee). Branded apps are offered starting at$500 per month (plus 2.5% +30cent per transaction fee). I think the $500 / mo. price point would rule a small station such as ours out, in terms of doing in on our own…but I am intrigued by the notion of a VAN channel / app!
- Tightrope has an OTT service through their VOD server that is in development and soon to be released, which might be an attractive option to community TV stations. They were doing a demo in a hotel suite next to the NAB Show but unfortunately I did not make it over there in time, before they folded up shop. From a personal experience, our small station uses Tightrope's server equipment, including their SX master control / playout server, a digital signage server ("Carousel"), as well as their VOD server, which integrates with our website. It took a lot of customization to get their VOD service integrated with our website how we wanted it, and it’s still not perfect, so I would be interested to see the OTT platform in person and gauge how well it might meet our station's needs.