It’s a part of every living room, every phone, and has changed our viewing habits, but its name isn’t widely known. We’re referring to over-the-top media services, aka OTT.
It’s becoming clearer that OTT is not just the future of content, it has already arrived. According to the 2019 Consumer OTT Report:
- 52% of American adults use at least one OTT service.
- The average OTT user streams more than two hours of content every day.
- Millennials watch twice as much OTT content than live TV.
As technology improves and the number of OTT services increases, these statistics will as well. We are entering a new age of media, where “appointment watching” has been replaced by “on demand”, so how did this happen, and where do we go from here?
A Brief History of OTT
The world’s first live streaming event occurred on Septemeber 5, 1995. It was a live radio broadcast of a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees hosted by ESPN SportsZone. From the lines of a 56k modem, a new era of media had begun.
Since that day, interest in streaming media had grown. An idea fostered in the early days of the internet was slowly evolving through a variety of platforms (RealNetworks, Window’s media, Macromedia, Flash Player) on your PC while offerings like TiVo and WebTV provided a glimpse into what the future of television could look like.
Time and technology moved forward to 2007 when technology was developed that would change the industry, HTTP-based adaptive streaming. This was a seismic discovery since it enabled streaming media to be sent over a content delivery network (rather than traditional HTTP). This allowed any streaming media to be distributed all over efficiently without worrying about any buffering or connectivity issues.
This technology laid the groundwork for the first mainstream OTT service, Netflix streaming. The rest, as they say, is history.
Where Are We Now?
We’re in an age where OTT has been a technological and cultural phenomenon. The concepts of “cord cutting” and “binge-watching” were born as watchers have embraced the idea of full autonomy in how they consumed their media.
Because of this, there is rarely that large cultural event that we as a society rally around. Game of Thrones is everywhere, yet its season 8 garnered 17.4 million viewers — a massive number today, but a drop in a bucket compared to the top shows of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Our campfires have gotten smaller, more segmented, but what we sacrificed in the community we gain in engagement.
The bulk of those 17.4 million viewers are passionate fans who have a deep connection with the show. This can be seen across the entertainment landscape, the casual viewer is now in the shadow of the “die-hard” and this of great benefit to consumer and creator especially on OTT.
Advertising has been shown to be extremely effective on OTT. 72% of users recall seeing an ad, 66% have learned about a new company or product from an OTT ad, and 40% of users have actually paused their content to purchase or learn more online. This creates an opportunity for the future.
Where Do We Go From Here?
In the future what will be proven is that engagement, not audience size will be king. A dedicated OTT channel of 10,000 viewers could bring as much benefit to advertisers in targeted ads as broader advertising would on a traditional over the air broadcast.
This provides a massive opportunity to content creators big and small. With the capabilities of our smartphones where anyone can create quality, professional-grade content and content logistic systems like MAZ that can distribute that content unto mobile and OTT, we see the content creator being empowered.
We see a future where widespread content won’t be created and distributed by only media companies or publishers. This will be done by the small business trying to promote their service, the congregation trying to spread the word, the individual who has something to share with the masses.
Technology and accessibility are creating a space where any company, any brand, or any person has a seat at the table. If there is content and if there is an audience willing to see it, the smallest brands, organization or individual can compete with brands of any size. The playing field will be more level and in this future, everyone will benefit.