OTT streaming: Not another app!

These are exciting times for audiences. The last few years have seen the rapid proliferation of low cost streaming devices (Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV etc.), streaming services from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and standalone apps from television networks. A 2017 comScore report on OTT streaming points to a rapid adoption by consumers:


Source: comScore Connected home & OTT Intelligence report 2017



The population of OTT streamers includes cord cutters, cord nevers, and cord shavers – consumers who supplement their existing cable subscription with OTT streaming. In other words, its a mix of people who are fed up of the limitations of pay TV (cord cutters and cord shavers) and people who cannot or will not pay for a cable subscription (cord nevers).


Source: comScore Connected home & OTT Intelligence report 2017



There are problems inherent to the the current OTT streaming landscape which don’t bode well for its future. Some of these problems are carryovers from pay TV, while others are unique to the OTT streaming domain:

So many apps, so little time

OTT streamers are faced with an increasingly long list of apps to choose from – Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, FuboTV (for sports), apps from TV networks – HBO Go, ShowTime, AMC, FX and others. As a viewer, I hate having to launch 3-4 different apps and having to switch between Roku, Chromecast in order to find something to watch. Research shows that 75% of OTT streamers use 3 or less of these streaming services per month.

No personalization

The challenges with content discovery and personalized recommendations are compounded in the OTT streaming world. Every OTT service exists in its own bubble, with no knowledge of the consumer’s viewing habits outside of the service. For example, my Hulu service where I watch The Handmaid’s Tale doesn’t know I also enjoy Game of Thrones via HBO Go and Odd Mom Out on the Bravo Now app.
With this disconnect, viewers are not the only ones who lose out. Advertisers lose out since they are unable to track and target a single consumer across all the devices and services he uses to stream content. Content creators lose out too, since consumer habits from one streaming service are not being used to drive the discovery of niche/long-tail or new content in another streaming service.

Content scattered across services

Content blackouts and network viewing windows mean that often one OTT service will have 5 seasons of a series while the latest season will be available to stream via the network’s app/website. Similarly, the latest installment in a trilogy of movies may be available for purchase on Google Play while the older installments are available via Netflix. Today, consumers are expected to hunt through apps and find out which service has the content they are looking for. This makes for a poor and frustrating experience.

The question is, how long will consumers be willing to deal with these frustrations even though many are paying more  than cable TV for all their OTT services combined ?

Aggregate. Aggregate. Aggregate.

Clearly, what consumers need is a unified experience across OTT streaming services and their pay TV subscription. One single service that:
(a) knows the streaming devices , OTT services, and pay TV subscription the consumer has.
(b) In a few clicks, allows the consumer to find out which streaming service has the movie he wants to watch, for the lowest price.
(c) Keeps track of the consumer’s lists – favorite TV shows and movies, TV shows and movies that the consumer is in the middle of watching.
(d) Provides personalized recommendations for the consumer that span all the OTT services and pay TV subscription the consumer has. Upselling services the consumer does not have should be kept to a minimum.

Sadly, there is no incentive for networks and pay TV operators to create such a service – there is no monetary benefit and such a service would draw eyeballs away from the network’s own website and streaming apps. There are some players in this space such as ReelGood, which are trying to address the pain points discussed in this post. Read the TechCrunch review here.

What’s Ahead

The phrase ‘Content is king’ almost always comes up in every discussion about OTT and pay TV. New types of audiences such as millennials and 1-2 member households have added 2 more factors to the mix – cost effectiveness and ease of use. Pay TV operators have stepped up their game of late by addressing common complaints against pay TV – price and inability to find content – with skinny bundles and better discovery capabilities. Any service, be it pay TV or OTT or a combination thereof, that succeeds in combining access to quality content with ease of use through personalization, offered at a reasonable price will prevail.