We've hit the ground running already with DISH announcing its new $20 per month OTT-TV service for cord-cutters, called Sling TV. DISH indicated last August that it would be pursuing this strategy and now will reveal the new OTT service during CES this week. AND IT INCLUDES ESPN!! Wasn't live sports the last defense for traditional pay TV?
Side note: I'd like to know if or how the new Sling TV and Sling International services affect DishWorld's lock on international content on Roku. This weird arrangement severely limits good international content on Roku.
Anyway, this is just the beginning for OTT in 2015... We'll be awaiting the launch of HBO's much-anticipated OTT service, which was announced last fall. If you remember, the very next day, CBS also indicated they will offer an OTT subscription service, called All Access, which is already released. Plenty more to discuss in coming weeks, like Sony and DirecTV.
It certainly seems as though the stars are aligning for OTT in 2015. The pay TV networks and even service providers are taking the plunge (or at least dipping their toes), which may or may not be more of a defensive strategy than anything. But either way, it's a clear acknowledgment from the old guard that Internet-delivered TV and film is a real and growing threat to the traditional TV business models. It should be a good thing for consumers. Notice how many new original series are now being delivered on Netflix and Amazon Prime? I admit I drink the kool-aid, but in my humble opinion, House of Cards, OITNB, Mozart in the Jungle, Alpha House - just to name a few - are very entertaining TV programs I and my wife both enjoy binge watching. Other than live sports, I think my Amazon Fire TV and my Roku boxes are beginning to get equal playtime as my DirecTV boxes. Not sure if Sling TV might throw some "cord cheaters", like myself, over the fence to 100% over the top cord cutting.
But again, I think this is only the beginning, and 2015 will see the tipping point for OTT-TV. Consider that Roku has now sold over 10 million devices (with over 2000 channels) and Amazon Fire TV is now gaining serious steam. Meanwhile, mobile video viewing is continuing to grow as consumers (especially millenials) increasingly watch "TV" on tablets and smart phones. I expect this to continue to steam ahead this year as more high quality content becomes available OTT and user experiences only get better from here.
And what about the content itself? Obviously the big networks and service providers will continue to fight over mainstream traditional TV content, with sports at the epicenter of that "battle of the five armies". In the meantime, new and seasoned content creators alike are beginning to look at alternative forms of distribution, building on the success of Netflix and Amazon original programming. Even the financing models for producing movies and shows are changing. Consider that 3,846 film and video projects were successfully funded on Kickstarter alone in 2014.
In my observation, much of the pay TV industry - technologies, networks, service providers, even content owners - are still looking out from the old traditional models, trying to defend against OTT and maybe even trying to figure out how to get a piece of the action without killing their golden goose (funded by force-bundled customers). At the same time, there is a new world growing underneath them - consumers, technology and content - that is not constrained by "old TV". Here is where the opportunity really exists, and it's very exciting!
In 2015, I expect more premium content and services to emerge over-the-top than ever before, now that the floodgates (i.e., consumer wallets) are opening for OTT services. At Endavo, we are already supporting innovative OTT service providers, who are either expanding out from broadcast TV or even starting entirely new OTT-TV networks, even with new content being produced just for these networks. Indeed, we expect 2015 to be a very good year.
Oh, I can't close without mentioning the movies! Did Sony crack that dam too, just a little bit, by successfully distributing The Interview online in parallel with limited theatrical release? Did the Korean cyberattacks and threats cause some unintended consequences by catalyzing the OTT movie model, at least a little? Sony reported $15 million in online sales after the first weekend! Things that make you go "hmmm!"
That's how I see it. Your thoughts?
- Paul D Hamm