Straight Talk – Launching an OTT Service is HARD

March 20, 2017

Blog Over the Top Video Streaming Media Tech TV-Everywhere

If you are a media company, then you know that I speak the truth. By now, dozens of vendors have approached you trying to sell you their magical formula for success, but that isn’t reality. If you are new to the game and investigating this on your own, I am sure you feel overwhelmed. If not, then you’re ahead of the curve.

If you are overwhelmed, don’t feel ashamed!  Float Left has been working with hundreds of brands to launch OTT services since 2010, and we are still discovering how to do it better.

What is OTT?

OTT is an acronym for Over-The-Top. It refers to the use of the Internet to deliver a video service directly to the consumer via an internet-connected device – think Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.. OTT services do not require a cable or satellite subscription, only a high-speed internet connection. In fact, most refer to those adopting this method of consumption as cord-cutters. “Cutting the cord” is a trend that has seen rapid growth over the past five years, and now most media brands are getting on board the OTT express.

Why is it Hard?

We outlined the challenges of launching an OTT service in a previous post, but here are the main areas where publishers struggle:

  • Lack of Quality Content: In today’s world, content is king. If you have amazing content, consumers will actively seek you out and become a loyal customer. Unfortunately, it takes an enormous marketing budget, long-term vision, incredible talent, and a little bit of luck to succeed where many others have failed. But, fear not…with some due diligence and a strategic plan, there is plenty of room to capitalize on the OTT ecosystem and create your own path to success.
  • The Technology: Take Netflix for example. Netflix is an iceberg. On the surface, it appears to be a simple app with a vast array of consumer-friendly, top-shelf content packaged to provide a personal user experience. But beneath the surface, Netflix is a complex coordination of client-server requests, user-interface decisions, behavior and event tracking (Netflix knows what you like), and dozens of other technical things that are out of the scope of this article. This delicate dance of technology is crucial for the performance and success of your service.
  • It Requires a Team of Experts: Anyone with enough time could build a decent app. Building an OTT app is entirely different because it requires a team of domain experts. Most publishers are not focused on the complicated technology of delivering a service. They don’t know what the heck an API, CDN, OVP, MediaRSS, JSON, or MetaData ingestion is – and they don’t want to know. Start throwing around those terms, and they will run for the hills! Historically, publishers are content experts, but they need a partner that understands how to deliver that content to an audience.
  • Content Discovery: Just like in other areas of self-publishing, unless brands have a solid understanding of how to effectively market their service, they’re dead in the water. The OTT consumer is younger, smarter, and much more tech savvy. Lose them once, and it might be impossible to get them back!
  • Competition: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and Amazon are OTT services. When you step into the OTT arena, you’re competing for eyeballs with the big guns. There is plenty of room in the sandbox for everyone, but you need to be smart about your strategy and roadmap for success.

OTT isn’t a Choice Anymore

To be successful in this new era of digital content and technology, I hope you are either in the planning phase for your OTT strategy or are neck deep in development. At this point, hopefully, you are nodding your head in agreement and understand that there is a path forward in the OTT space. If you have not planned your OTT strategy, then you need to start immediately.

The Great News

OTT is the future of Television, and that’s great news! OTT provides quality content for millions of viewers that are looking for alternatives to cable and satellite services. What makes OTT services is the opportunity to provide very niche content to their audience and connect with them directly. If you have made that connection, then you will have loyal viewers for years to come. The opportunity for success is enormous, but it requires carefully planning and strategy at the beginning.

What You Can Do

Relax. You have time to figure this out. The market is huge, and this transformation of TV isn’t going to happen overnight.

Contact a company that has particular experience in LAUNCHING OTT SERVICES, not just app development companies.

Determine your business model – is your content so exclusive and unique that consumers can’t get it anywhere else? If so, you may be able to look at a subscription service. If not, a free service monetized with ads will be your best chance out of the gate to drive revenue.

You don’t know what you don’t know. When speaking with a potential partner, make sure they are leading you and not just asking you to come up with all of the answers. They should be directing you and helping you every step of the way.

We have found success in our ability to connect with each of our partners to build a long-term, successful business plan that navigates the technology and marketing ecosystems in helping to develop a winning app formula.

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