The iTV Doctor Is In! Actually, It's Not OTT; It's Television

Dear Readers:  
 
The television and entertainment industry is flush with news and opinion stories appearing daily, often hourly, on OTT and its impact on the business.
 
Today I'm going to dispense with the Over The Top (OTT) label and call it for what it really is: Television.
 
Witness some of the recent announcements and trends:
 
1) A+E Networks has introduced a Lifetime spin-off called Lifetime Movie Club. It's a brilliant and trend-setting concept: Take a strong and popular brand (Lifetime Movies) for which you have an expansive library (25 years of titles!), bundle it all together and market direct-to-consumer. Now that could have been done over the legacy distribution matrix, releasing 30 movies per month on the Lifetime Movie Network on-demand venue. But with the need for probably another affiliate contract, revenue-sharing and clunky TVE authentication, why bother? If you keep your marketing and distribution costs low, Lifetime Movie Club can be successful with a fraction of a traditional TV audience.
 
 
 
 
It's Not OTT: It's Television
 
2) HBO just emailed out their updated Terms of Use for HBO NOW. The most interesting part is the "eligibility criteria," which reads a lot like the criteria for their authentication-required HBO GO:
 
"To be eligible to subscribe to the Service...you must establish a registered profile with HBO tied to the Service. Your profile together with your Subscription will establish your registered account ("Registered Account"). For some Subscription Providers, such as Apple TV, your Registered Account will be created for you when you purchase your Subscription."
I don't know about you, but when I first saw this, I thought it would be pretty easy to replace "Apple TV" in that last section with "Comcast."
 
 
 
 
It's Not OTT: It's Television
 
3) The day after HBO published the above-mentioned Terms of Use, Comcast announced their new "Stream" service, consisting of local broadcast signals bundled with HBO for $15 per month (provided the consumer has or takes Xfinity Broadband). Methinks that will be a blockbuster package for cord-cutters and cord-nevers, and will probably encourage customers to switch from their telco-provided broadband service to Xfinity. Which means other operators will follow suit.
 
 
 
 
 
(Doctor's note: After HBO's satellite launch about 40 years ago, it didn't take long for the cable operators to figure out that HBO was a TON more interesting than better-quality signals and a few out-of-market UHF stations. So in new-build markets across the country we bundled HBO and basic cable for a "top-down" sales approach. Worked wonders for the business. I guess Comcast reckons it will do the same for Stream...I wonder if HBO still has some of those tote bags?)
 
 
 
 
It's Not OTT: It's Television
 
What this all comes down to is that, for all the noise, OTT is just another way to get television programming to consumers. And, just like with the legacy business we've spend decades perfecting, certain rules apply:
 
Brands Count: As Turner's Jennifer Mirgorod (EVP of Brand Distribution) pointed out at the 2015 TVOT conference, viewers have expectations from television brands like Turner's TNT (Drama), HBO (big-budget uncensored storytelling), and Lifetime Movies (THE place to see young actors prepping for their future, and older actors reliving their past).
 
Quality Counts: While there is a market for virtually anything on video, when you ask the consumer to pay you better deliver the goods. We now have tens of millions of US TV households who are looking for television they can get for free, but if they want "the good stuff," they are coming to the realization that there is a cost associated. Just don't ask them to pay for stuff they DON'T want to get to the stuff they DO want!
 
Search Counts: Freecast's Rabbit TV has emerged as the "Go-To" spot for consumers to find any and all television programming. It is the Universal Program Guide many of us have been waiting for, and they are launching a new recommendation engine in September. It's not a packager or a bundler of programming--it's just a guide. Rabbit TV doesn't PLAY programs, it POINTS TO programs. You can find (and I've tried) anything on television. Search for a network, a program or an actor, and you'll see what you can watch for free, and where you can subscribe to individual shows, channels, bundles or packages from the likes of Hulu, Amazon, CBS All Access, HBO NOW et al.
 
I signed on to Rabbit TV (www.rabbittvgo.com) and searched for A&E's "Bates Motel," and along with the "Psycho" Movies, up pops a link to free episodes on the A&E site, plus links to purchase prior episodes and seasons. And that service is completely free to the television networks and content owners. FreeCast makes their money selling ads on the guide, and by marketing subscription services for their partners. Free TV is Free.
 
 
 
 
 
 
It's Not OTT: It's Television
 

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The iTV Doctor is Rick Howe, who provides interactive video consulting services to programmers, advertisers and technology providers. He is the recipient of a CTAM Tami Award for retention marketing and this year was inducted into The Cable Pioneers. He is also the co-author of a patent for the use of multiscreen mosaics in EPG's. Endorsed by top cable and satellite distributors, "Dr" Howe still makes house calls, and the first visit is always free. His services include product development, distribution strategy and the development of low-cost interactive applications for rapid deployment across all platforms.

 

Have a question for the iTV Doctor? Email him at TheiTVDoctor@gmail.com

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