On OTT's iron throne, customers and content rule, MLBAM and others say

AMSTERDAM -- Traditional broadcasters and cable operators hoping to go over the top need to throw away the old business models in which the company knows what's best for its customers. Instead, they need to listen to their customers -- and own the content they provide. According to OTT-focused executives from MLB Advanced Media, Australian Broadcasting Company and others at IBC, that's the only way they'll find success with viewers.

Listening to viewers, not just about what content they want to watch but also about the quality of their viewing experience, is critical in order to provide quality streaming experiences. That is creating a new paradigm in the OTT ecosystem: providers at several different levels, not just the broadcasters or distributors, have to know what OTT video viewing is like for the end customer, not just whether or not they are receiving the stream on their device.

"Traditional [infrastructure providers] have never talked to the end users," said Joe Inzerillo of MLBAM, in an interview with FierceOnlineVideo. "Infrastructure providers are never gonna get a call from an end user saying 'this is broken.' They're just not. And I don't know how they're going to succeed in this world without knowing that."

Add to that the increasing focus on a need to own the content that's provided to viewers. There are a number of reasons for this -- the cost of licensing existing content is constantly rising and competition for that content is tougher, as well; demand for original movies and series is climbing; and the need to differentiate from a plethora of OTT options is important, even at this early stage in the game.

"One constant is that content owners will have power and will survive," said David Pendleton of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) at a Rising Stars panel discussion of the future of broadcasting. "We need to shift our emphasis from being aggregators and controllers of content to owning our content again."

ABC was the first to market with a free OTT product in Australia, launching its iview service in 2008. The site now sees 2 million visits per month in a country that's only just beginning to sort out its broadband speed issues. Of course, iview now faces some competition from the latest market entrant, Netflix, but Pendleton feels the broadcaster is positioned to hang onto online viewers with its own original content.

Free, ad-supported content may be a good value-added service for broadcasters and other OTT providers, but the increasing number of subscription video on demand (SVOD) providers, mostly in niche categories like specific sports, predicted to enter the market by 2020 have some analysts wondering how often viewers will be willing to reach into their pockets to pay for original content.

Lord Michael Dobbs, producer of Netflix original series House of Cards, repeatedly hammered on the importance of not just owned content, but high quality content. "As long as we maintain the quality, we will find a vast market [of viewers] who are willing to pay for it."

Full coverage: IBC Live 2015

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