The New Year is an opportunity for the M&E industry to step back and re-evaluate various strategies for the future. This is especially true in the OTT world. The proliferation of content across an increasingly broad range of devices and direct-to-consumer offerings is one such trend that shows a high potential for growth as we enter a new year. Below are four key strategies that OTT players should consider in 2021 to optimize revenues and realise their market opportunity.
1/ The Game Changer: Sports OTT
The reduction in production and distribution costs driven by technology being available via the cloud has lowered barriers to entry and made D2C propositions a reality. This has meant those sports federations and leagues previously blocked from offering their own OTT service now have a real opportunity to deliver an engaging and immersive solution to their fans.
Sports federations of all sizes are now able to engage with their global fan bases. Historically, this was an issue as it was simply too expensive to host their own content with the exception of a few key games that would be picked up by traditional distribution channels. This resulted in a lot of content never seeing the light of day despite the demand for it by their fans. Now, the joint forces of OTT as a distribution method and the cloud as a technology base means sports federations have the potential to win big!
Not only is it possible for any sport to reach a global audience, it also opens the door for new ways to engage with fans by offering solutions that conflate multiple data sets into a single app, continue the experience beyond the stadium to the screen and build relationships and understanding of fan behaviour beyond the confines of existing platforms, such as YouTube. In essence, this allows sports organisations to create their very own Home of Sport – and with there being as many OTT sports racers as there are races, there are now many ways to get a service to market.
2/ Man vs. Machine – Viewer Recommendations
The industry continues to work on developing personalisation and recommendations that actually drive consumer happiness and ultimately monetisation. With Netflix currently testing its own linear experience based on recommended SVOD content, things are getting interesting.
The goal is a straightforward concept – show the viewer what, where and when they want it. While this might seem simple it is actually a much more complicated conversation. The industry has worked to personalise content for the viewer through recommendations via basic algorithms that are editorially driven, such as the genre of the content or the actor featured. Unfortunately, human behaviour changes on a daily – if not hourly – basis. Just because a viewer watched a football match on Monday, it does not mean they want to be inundated with numerous sports-related content for the rest of the week. This makes training AI and machine learning technologies to understand consumer behaviour extremely difficult.
What is promising for the future is the prospect of advanced AI that truly understands an OTT viewer’s behaviour. When done correctly, these technologies would spot nuances in data sets that you would not see if using a straightforward dashboard. This approach has more to offer the OTT market than any of the traditional recommendation and personalization manoeuvres we’ve seen to date.
3/ Less is More – Optimising UX Features:
When it comes to user experience (UX) features – and as a result user happiness – navigation and simplicity is key. As consumers buy-in to the various OTT offerings available to them, the ability to navigate the numerous platforms and ensure the customer can easily find what they want is core to success. Contrary to popular belief, more is not better. Too many features within the UX might sound like a great value-add for viewers, but in reality, they just complicate and ultimately ruin the experience.
This is especially true with sports OTT and fan engagement. Fans know how they want to interact with content – they do not need to be told. Fundamentally, viewers just want to get to the content they want quickly, easily and without a lot of effort. Don’t tell them what they want, but give them simple tools so that they can shape the experience to their likes and needs.
4/ Content and Service Protection – A Comprehensive Approach
When it comes to the media industry, you are only as good as the content you can provide. This why it is imperative to have a strong, full-service content and service protection strategy in place. By nature, the proliferation of OTT means more streams, more networks and more devices. Piracy is no longer a linear path to protect. It is a complicated maze with numerous attack points for pirates to exploit. This is why a comprehensive content and service protection approach is needed.
The industry is slowly aligning with different groups and players coming together to do their part to protect valuable content. This includes implementing the right active streaming protection approach across the entire value chain. This might start with a need to show compliance through solutions such as forensic watermarking or multi-DRM. At the same time a centralised security platform can ensure a full set of capabilities across both broadcast and IP networks that can protect against various threats.
To further protect the service, operators could also integrate anti-piracy services to respond to illicit service usage and take action to mitigate against the risk of loss, such as takedowns and advisory messages to the end device. And, to ensure the best business decisions are being made, AI and machine learning analytics tools can be added to effectively inform business stakeholders at both executive and operational levels to ensure the entire chain is secure.
With so much innovation and opportunity available in the industry, it is truly exciting times to be in the OTT space. By reviewing the four strategies listed above, you can be well-informed and well-positioned for success in 2021 and beyond.