OTT Streaming: Broader Use, More Providers, Flexible Delivery

Carl Weinschenk

Over-the-top (OTT) video services have been a factor for several years, and the category is evolving and maturing. comScore released research earlier this month that suggested OTT use is showing healthy growth beyond Netflix, which is by far the dominant player. The category is also adding the ability to stream and store, and new providers are emerging.

comScore looked at use patterns during December 2016. The first assessment is that OTT is indeed a big deal. During the month, 53 percent of homes with Wi-Fi – more than 49 million – used at least one OTT service. There were relatively few one-and-dones: Users averaged 19 days of usage and averaged 2.2 hours of use on those days.

It is not a surprise that OTT is widely used, though those numbers are higher than many people would expect. The more interesting takeaway from the research, and one that is very good news for the category, is that there are signs that other providers are gaining traction.

comScore found that Netflix still dominates, with 75 percent of homes reached. But YouTube was viewed in 53 percent of homes, Amazon Video in 33 percent, and Hulu in 17 percent. In all, 11 OTT services now reach 1 million homes. Other findings outlined in the press release suggest that while Netflix has nothing to worry about, the market is gradually becoming more broadly based.


Another sign that OTT is broadening is that it’s going beyond its base offering. Fierce Cable last week touched on the growing list of OTT providers who are going beyond watch-as-you-download streaming to enabling subscribers to download and store programming for later viewing. Amazon has offered such a service since last year and Netflix followed suit in November. Hulu claims to be ready to launch the capability this year. Showtime does as well, at least to mobile devices.

The move from streaming to store-and-watch must be considered carefully. The story quotes Streaming Media blogger Dan Rayburn, who says that such a move is more about retention (reducing churn, in industry parlance) than winning new subscribers. There are also contractual arrangements with programmers that must be made, which can be tricky. Clearly, the story, as well as one it refers to that was posted at CIO late last year, suggests that providers see the value in providing this service to their subscribers.

The world of OTT and streaming will become bigger and more interesting. In late February, YouTube announced YouTube TV, which will be a mix of OTT-delivered network programming and YouTube content, according to The Verge. The service is expected to launch this year. Verizon is also getting into the act. Bloomberg Technology reports that the telephone company is amassing rights to programming in anticipation for a launch this summer.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

 


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