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Innovation is essential: It’s time to join the ‘Field of Streams’

Chris Wood, CTO at Spicy Mango
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The future of TV is on demand. OTT is becoming the broadcast mainstream and traditional broadcast feels like it’s approaching its final episodes as consumers increasingly demand video on their time and terms. With the on demand economy tipped to reach $57 billion in 2018, OTT is redefining TV and innovation is essential.

This new approach to TV is being driven by a newly defined demographic – the ‘MilleXZials’. If you’ve never heard of them, you might be surprised: you’re most likely one of the gang. Because according to a 2018 Deloitte report, the fanatical adopters of digital media are not just Gen Z and Millennials, they’re also the 35-51 year olds camped out in Generation X. A collective demand for the TV we want, wherever and whenever we want it, is redefining consumer expectations and forcing traditional broadcasters to rethink their business models.

With subscriptions for streaming services on the up and consumers exerting greater control over the TV they want to watch, traditional broadcasters are poised to join the Field of Streams. Their philosophy is Costner-esque: build it, and they will come. The question is, can they build it?

Video on demand

In the UK, the growth of video streaming services like Netflix and Amazon is forcing the hand of established broadcasters. In the next 12 months Sky plans a roll out of IPTV that will move its services ‘beyond the dish’. The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have been slowly going OTT for quite some time and have recently announced plans to collaborate further. At the same time, on the global stage, media companies like Disney and Discovery are looking to cut out the middle-man and go direct-to-consumer with their own digital streaming services. And it looks like most networks are following suit – a 2018 report by the Diffusion Group predicts that all major TV networks will offer DTC streaming services by 2022.

These are huge strategic decisions that will require both legacy TV companies and media firms to reinvent their business models. But they’ll need to change their delivery models too – and that’s not a simple fix. For the broadcasters it means replacing an ageing video-based infrastructure. For the media companies it means establishing an infrastructure that doesn’t currently exist

A new skill set?

Building a sustainable platform for OTT services is complex, requiring infrastructure, architecture and knowhow that’s unfamiliar to most traditional operators. It also demands expertise across all the multiple components of a diverse end-to-end process, a skill set which many organisations just don’t have in house. The skill mix is challenging CTOs as they look to establish an efficient and sustainable infrastructure for OTT.

To combat this issue, some companies have taken the DIY approach, but this is a huge challenge. Others have contemplated morphing key skill sets into one single role. But the hybrid engineer is a mythical beast: it doesn’t exist because the skill mix is too broad and deep. Some are upskilling with modern tools and techniques, but this is a slow process that can leave gaps in knowledge. Other companies have taken the multi-disciplinary approach; leveraging the skill mix of the various disciplines in their organisation and integrating them to work in collaboration. However, if the collaborative approach isn’t properly thought through – and led by someone who understands and owns the end-to-end process – there’s a risk that strategy isn’t joined up, leading to sub-optimal architecture.

Changing mindsets

As the industry awaits the next generation of talent, a willingness to partner with experts that understand how to build successful video services in the Cloud could be the key to unlocking competitive advantage.

The most progressive organisations are partnering with media technology experts to create the right roadmap for the journey. The best partners will understand the complexities of building service provider grade video platforms. And they’ll have worldwide experience of working with studios, content providers, broadcasters and licensees to establish sustainable integrated architecture for delivering video OTT.

The drivers for change are compelling; consumers’ appetite for watching video on demand over digital and mobile devices is both insatiable and unrelenting. It’s no surprise that traditional players are jettisoning long-standing business models and gearing up to join the world of OTT. Their philosophy is sensible: build it, and they will come. But building it is a whole new ball game. So if you want to attract the MilleXZials, find the right partners and build it properly, you might just hit it out the park.

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