The news: After months of planning and hinting around the over-the-top space, a bevy of content owners, broadcast networks and service providers made their move. In the second half of 2015 we saw no less than 10 significant OTT services launch, the majority of those subscription video on demand (SVOD).
"Most of the major players are launching their OTT services now," said Parks Associates analyst Brett Sappington.
The timing isn't coincidental: once they had the technology and budget figured out, networks like CBS, with its subscription-based CBS All Access, cable networks like Smithsonian, premium channels including Showtime and Starz, and major cable operators from Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) to Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC)all jumped into the OTT fray with services targeting audiences who either completely eschew traditional pay-TV or who are shaving cable TV channels and replacing them with streamed content.
Why it matters: The new services provide a growing number of options for OTT viewers and could drastically increase the temptation to completely cut the cord.
Next up for all these new services is the challenge of getting noticed and garnering viewers and/or subscriptions. Cable operators may not have such a big challenge: Comcast Stream, for example, is only available to Comcast broadband subscribers, locking in an audience that's already there (the operator hopes). But smaller OTT providers like Motor Trend OnDemand, which fits neatly in a small segment of the OTT streaming market with other niche providers like Tennis Channel Online, may find it hard to pick up an audience beyond their dedicated fan base.
Enter Amazon Prime (NASDAQ: AMZN): the subscription service in December launched a Streaming Partners service that optimizes multiple SVOD accounts for its Prime subscribers who also want to take other OTT services. Users get a unified interface in their watchlist that includes content from the participating services to which they subscribe.
It's an interesting strategy for Amazon -- while currently not partnering with its main competitors, Netflix and Hulu, it's making other services like Showtime Anytime and Starz available to its subscribers, increasing the time they spend on Prime versus other SVOD sites or apps.
Look for more over-the-top services, big and small, to roll out throughout 2016, because the trend, according to analysts, is only beginning to kick off.