In a world of rapid change that is the OTT landscape, I can’t help but wonder whether we are set to see a return of the king, the king aggregator.
I have had the pleasure of being in the OTT & connected TV device space for well over 10-years now and like many of us, I am simply trying to keep up with the demand and ever changing landscape. During my time, I have seen various models come and go. Whether it be pure ad-funded, subscriber based, freemium, rev share deals, buy to rent, buy to own or a hybrid of sorts. Some models have been clearly more successful than others and have endured the test of time. Perhaps, it is merely a reflection of how quickly this space is having to move in order to keep up with our own demands and the sheer differences in behavior from one user to the next.
What looks to be on the horizon however, is the possible return of a familiar and formidable leader, the aggregator.
For years the traditional ‘aggregators’ dominated the household entertainment space in most regions. Whether it was the local free-to-air broadcasters or Pay TV operators it of course varied from market to market, but they essentially had the freedom to decide what we watched and when. More importantly, how we watched.
Does anyone still remember the old TV ad break and the need to watch up to 6 back-to-back 30 second commercials several times during your favourite 30-minute TV show? Try explaining that to a five-year-old kid and they will honestly just laugh at your face and respond with a ‘you’re silly daddy’ type response. The introduction of the PVR / DVR broke that model year ago in most cases and we saw users quickly adopt the time-shifted method of consumption. For all intensive purposes, that is now the modus operandi in today’s modern video world. Whether you are still watching ‘traditional’ TV or watching everything on demand and over the top via your favourite app on your own personal device. The days of dictatorships are done.
As a result, we are seeing traditional broadcasters now invest more into the new OTT world order. Once just thought of as simply ‘catch-up TV’ by the traditional TV giants, it is now being heavily marketed by most as ‘on demand’ and we (Accedo) are lucky enough to be helping many to reinvigorate both their user experience and add the new ‘must have’ features. Such as incorporating live streaming of all their TV channels into their apps. As well as significantly improving the ‘onboarding’ and ‘onward journey’ processed for their users to drive greater retention and more frequent consumption. There is no debate that ‘Content is King’, but I would argue that without the continued effort in improving the UX for your people, your kingdom will quickly fall.
The same can be seen with the pure OTT players in the region like Stan, Lightbox and iFlix. However, they don’t have their own castle to retreat back to. Instead, their focus is to attack, disrupt and conquer whatever the cost.
Regardless of which side of the wall you are fighting from, it would seem that everyone is content with going it alone for now. That is, regardless of whether you are a broadcaster, Pay TV operator or pure OTT player, you are investing heavily in your own inventory and looking to seize the land on as many devices as you can alone and as quickly as you can. Or so it would seem. Sure, we are seeing some unite to fight for a common good such as Seven West Media and Foxtel with Presto in Australia and we will see many more partnerships forged.
Ironically, it would make a great TV show in itself. One that I am certainly enjoying both watching and playing a role in. GoT, Vikings or The Last Kingdom eat your heart out.
However, there is only so much ‘viewing time’ available and the need for users to constantly go in and out of different apps across different devices to watch their favourite shows is quickly mimicking days of yesteryear. Flicking through hundreds of TV channels to find something good to watch: ring any bells?
With so many services to choose from and an ever increasing list of challengers to the thrown in every market, there has never been a bigger opportunity for a return of the king. King aggregator.
Unless you are Netflix, your battle is against many similar sized opponents. Each vying for the user spotlight and trying to retain their attention for as long as possible each and every day. We have seen the individual platforms themselves try to become the king, by providing universal search and deep-linking to individual services, but these have been relatively unsuccessful for the most part. The main reason being that not only is there a great dependency on all the content owners providing ongoing access to their metadata, but that universal search on a Smart TV is different and completely separate from the same search functionality on that same users own mobile device.
With so much device fragmentation and users bringing an array of differing devices to consume content with, there really is no chance for this type of disjointed approach of search to succeed. Unless of course you’re Apple.
We have seen everything move to the application layer and so why not see a true universal search feature do the same? Apps are on every device and are by design meant to be platform agnostic. So surely this is the better approach. But again, convincing all content providers (and sometimes competing service providers) to offer up ongoing access to their metadata to complete the function is proving alarmingly difficult.
Bring in the new emperor… the Telco! No other foe has the power nor ability to take this on. In most cases, the telecommunications company owns the billing relationship, has arguably the greatest reach both in terms of an existing subscriber base and cross platform coverage with never-ending new device sales via their plans. For some telco’s such as Telstra in Australia, this isn’t just limited to mobile phone and tablet device either, with their own OTT devices such as Telstra TV (powered by Roku) and the older T-Box and not to mention potential hooks into devices like Foxtel IQ3 that could be leveraged.
We have already seen the likes of Airtel in India jump the gun and adopt this new breed of an aggregator model across a range of OTT devices with their Wynk Movies service. Offering their users with access to a wide range of videos from multiple content providers, inside the one application.
Why bother? You could argue that having a unified search facility is just a nice to have feature for users and not a critical one for them or us. However, you’re forgetting that with greater ease of use and greater accessibility, normally comes greater usage and if you’re a telco looking at the potential for there to be greater consumption of videos across your various networks, that means greater revenues to be had.
Unlike the platform providers where the only profit is really on the initial hard-ware sale and then on the additional sales of games etc. if you’re a game console and so the delivery of a true universal search feature is just a nice have. There is nothing but ongoing wealth to be had if you’re a telco and are able to pull this off.
For content owners like the broadcasters and pure OTT players, you’re only interested in driving repeated video use to increase your ad views or subscriber retention alike and so there is only upside in tying yourselves into an aggregator model. Teaming up with telco’s in any form, also helps you make the jump across to mobile which as we all know is now a must in this connected world.
For users, you just need to go to the one app instead of going in and out of multiple apps to see your favourite shows.
For the telco, you have the choice to either cover the cost of the bandwidth to reward your customer’s loyalty or use it to your advantage to drive that willing user up the levels of data packs you have available or perhaps entice them away from your rivals.
So in this potential new world order it is really a case of us, them & we. A true win, win, win.
I think it’s safe to assume we will see many telcos in APAC take up this opportunity and look to work with the local content providers in each region more pro-actively than perhaps ever to make it work.
Be it with the traditional broadcasters or Pay TV operators, or the pure OTT players or all of them combined. We are set to see even the strangest allies emerge over the coming months and the old aggregator model of yesteryear, reborn.