By Barry Flynn, Contributing Editor
The future of the OTT market is fragmented, with services continuing to enshrine a clear distinction between both SVOD and catch-up TV services, as well as between long- and short-form content. That, at least, was the consensus of panellists speaking at the end of the â€˜Challengersâ€™ session on the afternoon of Day One of the Connected TV Summit in London.
David Ball, working in business development at the BBCâ€™s TV platforms unit, said that Netflix occupied the position it did in the online video marketplace because â€œthey understand what they are. They are a very thin spectrum in the broader picture of content. They do dramas. They do documentaries. They do comedies. All of which is very PVR’d, very viewed on-demand content. They don’t do sports. They don’t do live. They don’t do entertainment shows.â€
Ball argued that therefore â€œwe’re talking about very different things here when we talk about SVOD and then taking broadcast services online. [â€¦] One is presenting a library of stuff and one is curating a service for people to make their lives richer.â€
This in turn signified that, â€œIrrespective of how things are delivered, whether it’s live through iPlayer, or through ITV hub, or you’re watching a box set through Netflix, the market’s going to separate and people are going to need those zeitgeist Saturday night shows. They’re going to need sports. They’re going to need to watch EastEnders within 24 hours of it being transmitted. I don’t think it’s just going to be SVOD for the future,â€ he concluded.
Fellow panellist Kai-Christian Borchers, Founder and Managing Director of German TV consultancy 3 Screen Solutions, agreed. â€œI think there will be specific shows that are totally suitable to be broadcasted, and are ready for television and they will probably stay there, and there are other shows, and other types of content that will be more suitable for VOD and TVOD, or SVOD viewing. [â€¦] I think it is going to be a mix.â€
There was also general scepticism about the proposition that online video services such as Netflix and Amazon might want to invest in premium sports content. Ball pointed out that the multi-billion-pound costs of the UK Premier League vastly exceeded the amount that Netflix had invested in its hit drama series House of Cards.
Panellist David Mowrey, Vice President of Product Management at IBM-owned multiscreen platform provider Clearleap, noted that â€œit takes a very powerful ecosystem, across devices, across user base, across other monetization vehicles, to be able to justify a cost like that. That’s why not very many companies can actually pull that off. There’s only a few that have the distribution, the user base, to be able to justify that kind of cost and purchase.â€
For his part, Matt Ring, TV and Broadband Vertical Lead at Facebook, said that it also was unlikely that much long-form content would be featured on his social media platform. â€œIn some instances, people are watching long form content on Facebook,â€ he said, â€œbut the reality is, if you think about how you use Facebook, the average person comes back 14, 15 times a day. You’re dripping in and out. You’re flicking through your news feed. It’s usually moments in between doing something else. [â€¦] We typically see at macro-level that short-form content is what people want to experience on Facebook.â€
However, the consumption habits of millenials â€“ which are believed to include a preference for consuming short-form content â€“ were unlikely to persist into old age, noted Ball. Figures from UK TV audience research agency BARB showed that â€œthrough someone’s life, starting at age zero and going to age 70, their viewing tracks a path whereby they watch a lot when they’re a kid. Then it goes down when they become a young adult, and they go out, and they do fun things, and they go to the pub. Then they have three kids and sit in and watch TV all night until they retire.â€ Ball said the numbers heâ€™d seen showed this viewing cycle was typical of each successive generation.