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Introducing the ‘fat channel’ – an online service with a huge catalogue that surfaces only a fraction of it

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The analyst firm IHS Markit has introduced the concept of a ‘fat channel’ as a way to characterise online services that curate huge catalogues of content and then surface a modest amount to each individual, based on an understanding of what they like. Dan Cryan, Executive Director, Research and Analysis at IHS Markit, lists Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer as examples of a fat channel (which of course, have nothing to do with traditional broadcast channels).

“Everyone has a different version of Netflix because of the way content is individualised by algorithms,” Cryan pointed out at the IHS Markit Media & Technology Conference last month. “But the volume of content that goes into Netflix is far larger, in aggregate, than with traditional linear TV channels. It is a fat channel that gets stripped down and made manageable by data processing.” iPlayer is becoming the BBC’s direct-to-consumer ‘fat channel’ because of the amount of content that is aggregated in the same place, he added.

Cryan stressed the importance of content marketing in this concept. He described how, if you have a fondness for a particular genre of content or actor, suitable shows are ‘foregrounded’. Content surfacing does not have to involve rocket science: it could involve highlighting content that you have already started watching and can resume – or other shows in a series.

The required combination of data prowess and large catalogues limits the number of media owners who will offer ‘fat channels’ but, as illustrated by iPlayer, this is not a concept that is limited to the international digital-native giants.

Taking a look at the evolving streaming marketplace generally, Cryan noted the importance of local content and how this can be used to grow an OTT service quickly. He gave the example of Hulu Japan, which in 2014 came under the ownership of Nippon TV, at which points its content offer became less American and more localised, resulting in rapid uptake.

He also gave his assessment of the market for virtual Pay TV (online subscription services that aggregate ‘traditional’ channels), concluding that in Europe it is hard to launch these independently of companies who already have content rights (courtesy of a heritage in traditional aggregation) – like Sky and it’s NOW TV Pay Lite offer. Cryan reckons a barrier to entry in the U.S. is the lack of last-mile broadband competition, which makes it easy for existing Pay TV operators who are also broadband providers to offer aggressively priced bundles to counter the attraction of virtual Pay TV.


Learn more about the future of online curation, distribution and aggregation

Videoscape Europe explores the growth opportunities that streaming gives producers, rights holders, curators, distributors and aggregators of quality video entertainment in Europe. This thought-leadership event confronts the challenges facing established media companies in an ‘OTT’ market where the media value-chain is being redrawn. It explores the strategies for success across direct-to-consumer, broadcaster streaming, SVOD, Pay Lite and OTT aggregator services.

For our 2018 conference, we take a special look at two fast-emerging propositions: direct-to-consumer (DTC) content owners (including sports leagues who become producers and retailers), and new-world aggregators (including born online sports services and Pay TV ‘onboarders’ who want to re-aggregate a fragmented apps landscape). You will hear from companies who are pioneering these new models.

Throughout this one-day event there is an emphasis on new market opportunities, evolving distribution relationships, and the strategies that achieve growth and profit. We consider the sustainability of the streaming ecosystem as a whole – and whether revenues generated from back-catalogues and thematic specialisation can pay for the mass duplication of CRM, billing and marketing functions.

You can see the confirmed speakers and agenda here.

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