Looking at the popularity of services such as Hulu and Netflix, it is evident that Over-the-Top (OTT) services are paving the way for the future consumption model of entertainment content. The scheduled programming and 'appointment TV' model of content being offered by traditional broadcasters is slowly becoming more and more unfeasible for modern lifestyle. Who has time to sit down each week at the same time slots to catch their favorite shows anymore?
OTT, which gives the users control over how and when content is consumed, is changing the game and gaining greater prominence. Currently, it complements traditional 'cable subscription' models, as there's a wide audience group who are comfortable with standard TV programming while the younger generation, the more tech-inclined and those frequently on-the-move are appreciating the advantages of OTT services. However its increasing acceptance rate could certainly change the way how the broadcast industry as a whole transforms itself.
At BroadcastAsia 2012, the newfound importance of OTT was evidenced by a specific portion of the showfloor being dedicated to these services.
One evident element at BroadcastAsia's OTT Zone was the fact that it is a group effort. OTT cannot be delivered by a single party. It requires collaboration between content producers, data management specialists, hardware providers and software engineers. We were given a taste of what the end results could be during the BroadcastAsia 2012 Preview where ESV showed off C-Cast and C-Sync, the OTT fruit of their collaboration with Sony and many others.
On the day of the actual event, we were actually able to witness more goodies. Switch Media was present to showcase their OTT offerings for the Android, iOS and Windows 8 platforms. At the same time StarHub was also at BroadcastAsia 2012 to showcase OTT services available to users in Singapore.
This fully functioning OTT service is available to those in Singapore who subscribe to StarHub. Titled StarHub TV Anywhere, it showcases a lot of the best features that OTT can provide. The service is available for free until 31st October 2012 after which it will cost S$5.35 per month.
One of the main advantages of OTT is the ability to have the option for Catchup TV. This feature was illustrated beautifully by the StarHub Live TV option for viewing Euro 2012. With the matches being telecast in the early mornings, the Starhub TV Anywhere allows you to store the content and view it at your own convenience.
Furthermore, the StarHub TV Anywhere is a website that can be accessed by any browser. Seeing that smartphones, tablets and notebooks can all access the web, they can make use of this OTT service. In fact, the second screen is one of the major reasons for the success of OTT. With the proliferation and adoption of smart devices, almost everyone has a quality display on hand. OTT makes use of this fact to enable users to access content on the go. Here's our full hands-on with the StarHub TV Anywhere OTT service:-
Another advantage of utilizing the second screen for OTT is the fact that is allows you to view content simultaneously. Even with StarHub TV Anywhere, you can view a particular channel on your TV while viewing a completely different one on your smart device. On-Demand and VOD is another positive aspect of OTT. The StarHub TV Anywhere service showcases how content providers can benefit from this new trend. Users can buy videos, movies and TV shows that they like directly from the service.
Switch Media specialize is a digital and creative agency specializing in e-commerce and web design. For the OTT Zone at BroadcastAsia 2012 they were showcasing their application platform for smartphones, tablets and notebooks. While content providers were yet to get on board, the demo of the OTT services was similar to those being offered by StarHub.
One area where Switch Media was groundbreaking is its monetization of OTT services. Currently, various VOD and On-Demand services charge users a subscription fee, or the alternative is to dedicate screen space to advertisements. Switch Media, however, makes use of the camera found in smartphones to control the display of ads. The feature functions similar to how QR codes are scanned, except that the surface being scanned was the TV screen instead. This brought up further information on the smart device. We were lucky enough to grab hold of a representative from Switch Media, Mr Mark Johns, who showed off the new monetization method as well as giving us his thoughts on OTT:-
TV and video are not the only content that can benefit from OTT services. Also present at BraodcastAsia 2012 were RadioActive who help build applications for radio stations. Their body of work includes the app for SPH’s very own 91.3FM, which you can download and use for free.
While some users may be able to see the front end (apps and online), we got to have a sneak peek at the backend for some new products from RadioActive. The new platform allows for better tracking of data and statistics, enabling radio stations to optimize their operations. At the same time it also allows them to make changes to playlists on the fly.
The future of OTT in Singapore seems to be bright. StarHub has taken the lead and other content providers are sure to follow suite. The OTT Zone at BroadcastAsia 2012 showed that the required levels of collaboration to bring video, movies, and TV show content to users on the second screen exists. At the same time, radio stations are also offering applications for both iOS and Android for the convenience of their listeners as a form of OTT as well. We were also able to find out that Medicorp is currently accepting bids on an OTT project, which means they most definitely have something planned for the future.