OTT - is it over the top or business as usual


Bruce Devlin TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online

OTT is a term that is casually bandied about as though everyone knows what it is, but is there really a single definition? Hopefully this little guide will have you speaking the jargon like a native!

OTT stands for Over The Top. If you're into linguistics, then the first question that comes to mind is "What are A & B in the sentence: A is going over the top of B". The traditional answer is that for broadcast is that in OTT, "content" is going over the top of the "pay-tv supply chain". In other words, if you go home and turn on your laptop / phone / tablet / chromecast / raspberry pi and connect to some content without going via a traditional cable company / satellite distribution operator / broadcaster then you are getting your content "Over The Top".

So that makes sense, but hang on a second. That seems to make OTT all about the economics of the receiving device and not really about technology. To a large extent that's true. We live in a world where the cost of buying an internet enabled video display device is very small. Whether it's a Roku or a Chromecast or Apple TC or a PiCast or a SmartTV, essentially there is a generic processor somewhere near your screen that is able navigate web pages or display an app and ultimately connect the screen to a stream of pixels and audio samples.

Don't get me wrong there is a lot of technology in the chain, but the big disruption is essentially commercial and legal. Back in the old days (2009) there was a fairly long commercial and legal chain of suppliers and aggregators of content between the selections available to you on your button-rich remote control and the source of that content. It used to be in everyone's interest to keep you within the "walled garden" of content for each discrete delivery mechanism. You probably remember having a set top box for digital terrestrial and another for cable and probably 2 different ones for satellite and possibly a PVR box as well. That meant 3 or 4 or 5 consumer contracts that you had signed and switching between services was often a painful experience on your early generation flat screen TV with insufficient HDMI or VGA sockets.

Fast forward 7 years and an OTT receiver can connect over the general purpose internet to a huge variety of sources without having to do anything more complex that press the correct pretty icon on your phone a couple of times. As a consumer the complexity of the service discovery and connection and CDN buffering is (mostly) hidden from you. You press the BBC's iPlayer icon and repeats of Top Gear are instantly available to you regardless of the device that you're using and regardless of who is providing your internet connection. The data pipe and the content provider are disconnected.

So does that make Netflix an OTT provider or an Internet SVOD provider (Subscription VOD). When Netflix launched they were definitely classed as OTT because a US cable consumer could watch the same movie over their cable internet for a smaller price than they could watch the same movie from the same cable channel on the same screen - even though the content was coming down the same bit of wire. But at the same time Netflix is also an SVOD provider because you need to subscribe to legally access the Video On Demand content.

The truth is that streaming technologies and encryption with rights access will continue to dictate how content can be exploited and the economics of adverts / no adverts will appeal to different demographics of consumers. Mix in the geographic availability of satellite, cable, wired internet, mobile internet along with the geographic distribution of a population and it's difficult to categorise from a technology perspective exactly what is an OTT operator and what isn't.

At the end of the day, viewers appear to be voting with their spending power and broadcasters as well as content brands are responding by making content available on the internet for the new generation of devices to stream. Sometimes the content is free, sometimes it is geo-locked, sometimes it is behind a paywall and sometimes it is just too popular and the internet breaks. In 2015 in the UK, the most popular BBC iPlayer shows still only accounted for 2% of total viewing. A small number in real terms, but the rate of growth is such that the UK government are considering laws to require the purchase of a TV license fee to use the broadcasters iPlayer service.

Today's reality is that the economic value chain between camera and screen is still in flux. OTT is not the end of the innovation. In my opinion, it's just the beginning.


Tags: iss115 | ott | over the top | class | mr mxf | Bruce Devlin
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • Safer OTT and TV Platforms from Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2017

    Safer OTT and TV Platforms from Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2017

  • Smarter OTT and TV Platforms from Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2017

    Smarter OTT and TV Platforms from Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2017

  • Scott Hill uses EditShare: Lightworks at NAB 2013

    Scott Hill uses EditShare: Lightworks at NAB 2013

  • Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2016

    Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2016

  • Prime Focus Technologies at IBC 2016

    Prime Focus Technologies at IBC 2016

  • Kino Flo at NAB 2016

    Kino Flo at NAB 2016

  • Comigo at IBC 2015

    Comigo at IBC 2015

  • EBS at IBC 2015

    EBS at IBC 2015

  • Volicon at IBC 2015

    Volicon at IBC 2015

  • Thomson Video Networks at IBC 2014

    Thomson Video Networks at IBC 2014

  • BBright at IBC 2014

    BBright at IBC 2014

  • Visual Unity at IBC 2014

    Visual Unity at IBC 2014

  • Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2014

    Viaccess-Orca at IBC 2014

  • SIS LIVE ManPak and LoStow at IBC 2014

    SIS LIVE ManPak and LoStow at IBC 2014

  • Perception at NAB 2014

    Perception at NAB 2014

  • Visual Unity at NAB 2014

    Visual Unity at NAB 2014

  • ATEME at NAB 2014

    ATEME at NAB 2014

  • TMD talk asset management solutions on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    TMD talk asset management solutions on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Cambridge Imaging Systems on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Cambridge Imaging Systems on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Bridge Technologies QoE Monitoring with Mobile Videowall Display at IBC 2013

    Bridge Technologies QoE Monitoring with Mobile Videowall Display at IBC 2013

  • Bridge Technologies PocketProbe App at NAB 2013

    Bridge Technologies PocketProbe App at NAB 2013

  • Vimond Control Center at NAB 2013

    Vimond Control Center at NAB 2013

  • Telestream Vantage v5 at NAB 2013

    Telestream Vantage v5 at NAB 2013

  • Tariam Tooway stand at BVE 2013

    Tariam Tooway stand at BVE 2013

  • Classic tubes reinvented by Kino Flo at IBC 2018

    Classic tubes reinvented by Kino Flo at IBC 2018

  • Winner of the LP54 Miller Classic

    Winner of the LP54 Miller Classic


Related Shows
  • Show 26 - 20th November 2013

    Show 26 - 20th November 2013


Articles
AI in Media and Entertainment
David Candler Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a term appearing everywhere these days. What is happening in media and entertainment (M&E) that makes the industry ripe for AI? In other words, why does the M&E industry need AI?
Tags: iss134 | AI | wazee | David Candler
Contributing Author David Candler Click to read or download PDF
An Obituary to Timecode
Bruce Devlin - new A stoic and persistent character that stubbornly refused to change with the times, Timecode has finally passed on, but no-one has noticed. A long-lasting industry veteran, Timecode was brought into this world at an uncertain date in the late 1960s due to the needs of analogue tape workflows and the demand for synchronisation between audio and video devices. A joint activity between SMPTE and the EBU led to the work on Time and Control codes starting its journey to standardisation in the early 1970s.
Tags: iss134 | timecode | smpte | ebu | edit | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read
Giving Welsh sport a global audience
Adam Amor From the Ospreys Rugby Union team, to the Football Association of Wales, as well as national cycling, swimming and boxing coverage, Port Talbot based Buffoon Film and Media has been heavily involved in putting Welsh sports on the world stage.
Tags: iss134 | blackmagic | atem | buffoon | micro studio camera | Adam Amor
Contributing Author Adam Amor Click to read or download PDF
Keeping it remotely real
Reuben Such Everyone wants to do more with less. Always have, although it could be argued that doing more with more is something to aspire to, not many have that luxury. So let’s stick with the prevailing winds of doing more with less, and not just doing more, but doing it remotely, particularly in terms of production. Remote production, in particular, is getting a lot of attention in the field these days, but not so much in terms of the remote operation of fixed studios.
Tags: iss134 | remote control | IPE | IDS | Reuben Such
Contributing Author Reuben Such Click to read or download PDF
Accelerated Workflows with eGPU
Mike Griggs From the UK’s National Trust to magazine publishers to manufacturers, digital content creator Mike Griggs has a wide and varied portfolio of clients for whom he creates 3D art, motion graphics and multimedia exhibits. A typical day might involve sampling birdsong near Virginia Woolf’s country estate or creating 3D animations for VR. To keep on top of these demands, Griggs wanted to take the full power of the GPU computing revolution on the road.
Tags: iss134 | sonnet | egpu | amd | post production | editing | Mike Griggs
Contributing Author Mike Griggs Click to read or download PDF