Over-the-top online video's Siren song for cable and IPTV operators

Jim O'NeillIn February, X Media Research hosted OTTCon, which turned out to be--for a first-time conference--well attended and solid in content. It was, I wrote in an Editor's Corner for FierceOnlineVideo, an exuberant crowd, eager to talk about and, in some cases, evangelize over-the-top delivery and online video.

Roku's VP of business development Jim Funk talked about the company's determination to make OTT delivery "simple;" TDG founding partner Michael Greeson talked about OTT as a complement to pay-TV, saying he believed OTT delivery would supplement the pay-TV component rather than replace it.

Not surprisingly, in the past four months the amount of momentum OTT delivery has gained has been enormous. It rivals the attention 3D TV has gotten from the industry and has become something consumers increasingly are growing to expect, rather than see as a curiosity.

Consider that in the past quarter or so:

  • Content delivery costs have continued to decline.
  • The constant flow of technology upgrades and innovation has made it easier to deliver high-quality online video.
  • Netflix has become--literally--a household name, with more than 14 million subscribers in the U.S., that's one of every 10 households. But, more importantly, nearly half of them are streaming movies or TV episodes to their homes.
  • TV Everywhere, which has had a very slow rollout, is still around, still quietly expanding and still in just about every operator's future as a must-have platform.
  • Google introduced its Google TV initiative, which is well funded, has a great assortment of partners involved, and has the DNA of innovation that's needed to move the space into the mainstream.

OTT delivery has gone from foe to friend for operators who are more willing than ever to embrace it. At the Cable Show, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said his company was making over its access portal for Xfinity to make it easier to log in; Time Warner Inc.'s CEO Jeff Bewkes said he expects 50 million TW cable customers to have access to some kind of TV Everywhere by the end of this year.

"Get your VoD robust, put it out there; get your interfaces stronger and better," Bewkes said. "See the advances on the Internet and bring them to your system. Then put it all on broadband."

TDG says that 43 percent of heads of broadband household are interested in TV Everywhere services, and that of that 43 percent, half are willing to pay $10 or more per month if they can get everything that's on TV on the PC, but it has to be the whole experience.

I'll one up that and say that unless it can all be delivered to the living room, to that big screen that hangs on the wall or sits in that entertainment center, it's a novelty. And the consumer will find a way to get the content they want to their TVs, whether it's through a Roku box, via a Boxee interface, or with Google TV, which may be the Black Swan event OTT delivery has been waiting for.

This week, OTTCon East kicks off in Atlanta. In February, there were a lot of attendees who were curious about OTT. This week, I suspect more of the folks who are there will be a little bit more about the nuts and bolts of the technology, a little more interested in the "how" of over-the-top delivery and monetization rather than the "why."

I'll be down there through the conference, if you want to chat about your company, or OTT in general, drop me a note at [email protected], we can have an exuberant discussion.-Jim