7. What improvements can OTT offer to Online Entertainment Services?
With regards to improving OTT, there are four main features that will significantly improve the quality of online digital video services:
- Content Accessibility
- Content Upgradability
- Content Portability
- Subscriber Personalization
a. Entertainment Needs to be Accessible
Today’s digital society is migrating from an entertainment ownership paradigm to a licensing model. Past consumers typically bought hard copies of music and movies. Then they evolved to using the cloud for storage[i]. The main issue with ownership is that it is inherently inefficient from a global content management perspective. Millions of users own duplicate copies of their entertainment, which in turn amounts to millions of duplicate copies of the same song, movie, or TV program. For the environmentally sensitive, this needlessly adds to the amount of polymer, paper, and other harmful chemicals required to manufacture said copies, not to mention the wasted shelf space they take up in the home.
Extrapolating the idea that content in the future will mainly come in licensed form, it’s conceivable that once content resides in the cloud, those millions of duplicate copies will be rendered unnecessary. Imagine an OTT provider telling their subscribers:
“You no longer need to keep all of those files in the cloud. We will delete your library and give you the best resolution and quality available for your purchased content. We will even allocate a license to members of your family. Furthermore, you can stream that content onto any device you own. We will format and deliver that content in the best quality possible, depending on the location, device, or network you happen to be using.”
That statement may not yet be feasible, but it offers a realistic vision of the future for OTT services. The licensing model will flip the entertainment industry’s current paradigm on its head. Rather than having millions of users accessing millions of duplicate versions of their entertainment, subscribers will simply license a single instance of that content, whenever and wherever they want. This is the essence of OTT.
OTT services ultimately facilitate a single instance paradigmfor content. This approach has already begun. Consider Apple’s iTunes Match Service[iii] where users can upload their music library to the cloud. In fact, there is no need to upload music at all because the software recognizes that the subscriber has an instance of a song on their computer and grants them access to that song in the cloud. This same principle is possible for movies, TV shows, and any other type of entertainment content.
Practically speaking, one instance of a movie won’t happen in its purest form due to global delivery and caching requirements, archiving, competing services with the same title, etc. But theoretically it is possible have a single 4K or UHD[iv] master of a movie sitting in the cloud (Figure i). If a subscriber wants to access a movie, their content rights license is approved and granted for different devices or users. The movie would then be transcoded on the fly to suit the screen size, processor limitations, and networking capabilities. There are critical factors necessary to make this work, including: chipsets that can transcode 4K content on the fly, ubiquitous Internet access, bandwidth speeds that address quality of service, and seamless yet powerful DRM, to name just a few.
Figure i – Future of Content Delivery
b. Entertainment Needs to be Upgradable
Once content resides in the cloud, such as in an OTT service, then the idea of an upgrade path is viable. Consumers today don’t upgrade their movies and music in the same manner as they upgrade software. Why not? If a user has a Blu-Ray version of a movie and buys a new 4K television, then why shouldn’t there be the possibility to upgrade to a better version? Consumers don’t want to buy content over and over again every time technology improves.
Likewise, when a new family member wants to access the family OTT service, there should be a content rights provision to accommodate that desire. When an extended or recut version is available, or a new featurette[v] is available, subscribers should have the option to pay an incremental fee for that content as well.
Simply put, entertainment should be upgradeable. With content residing in the cloud, OTT services can allow for this level of granularity. A cloud-based licensing model, therefore, provides the platform for upgradability in a manageable and scalable service.
c. Entertainment Needs to be Portable
Content needs to be protected in order to maintain a level of control over portability. Ultraviolet DRM is a solution that seeks to address this need, but true portability is still in its infancy. DRM and the broader scope of content protection is a delicate balance between control and freedom. The digital locker offered by Ultraviolet seeks to provide a level of freedom for consumers, but can nevertheless feel like a digital prison sometimes.
Portability in the entertainment industry has been extended with the advent of multiple screens (TV, PC, and mobiles), but there are still improvements to be made. Content purchased on one platform (iOS, Android or Windows) should be available on other platforms. Content bought on disc should port to any digital screen owned by the purchaser. Content bought in one geographic region should be accessible internationally. Even movies enjoyed in the cinema could have agreements with OTT providers to find creative ways to offer theater releases in sync with online subscribers.
d. Entertainment Needs a Stellar User Experience
Subscribers want to have fun before, during, and after a movie. The more they have fun, the longer they will stay and play. The longer they stay, the more money they will spend.
This virtual playground is called the User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX) in OTT. It centers on social media, recommendation engines, trivia, games, and statistics, as well as many other features. It’s all about a bi-directional dialog and relationship with subscribers. The consumer is no longer an anonymous viewer to entertainment. Instead, the OTT service provider can facilitate a personal and engaging dialogue with each and every subscriber.
Word-of-mouth and advertising serves to promote head-end content, but does little to promote long-tail titles. With the massive libraries of some OTT services numbering in tens of thousands of titles, it’s quite likely subscribers are not taking advantage of all the content available to them as these libraries are simply too large to navigate. According to Netflix, their recommendation engine accounts for at least 75% of what is being viewed[vi]. A related study found that 14 percent more subscribers enjoy videos following a recommendation versus browsing[vii]. Using different metrics surrounding recommendation engines[viii],therefore,subscribers can migrate to undiscovered titles that are already residing in the service they paid for.
The UI/UX provides the interface to discover new content and allows content distributors to monetize long-tail material that sits dormant in libraries for most of its useful lifespan.
Finally, the value of social media in entertainment should not be underestimated. According to Ooyala, “Personal testimonials are one of the most powerful influences on all types of consumer action… By learning what their trusted friends have enjoyed, and by comparing that to their perception of how much they have in common with the recommender, viewers get a very personalized and motivating impression of what to check out.”[ix]
Clearly, recommendation engines help consumers reach the heretofore uncharted depths of large entertainment libraries.
[i] “Turning Piratez into Consumers, II”, by Gabriel Dusil, https://gdusil.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/turning-piratez-into-consumers-ii/
[ii] “The ability to access content anytime, anywhere and on any screen is the essence of today‘s OTT multiscreen strategy.”
[iii] Apple’s iTunes Match Service http://www.apple.com/itunes/itunes-match/
[iv] 4K UHD, Wikipedia
[v] Featurette, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Featurette
[vi] “Science Behind the Netflix Algorithms That Decide What You’ll Watch Next”, by Tom Vanderbilt, 7th August 2013, Wired.com http://www.wired.com/2013/08/qq_netflix-algorithm/
[vii] “Branded Videos Shared More Than 500,000 Times Every 24 Hours”, by Greg Jarboe, 11th June 2013 http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2273968/Branded-Videos-Shared-More-Than-500000-Times-Every-24-Hours
[viii] For example: rating systems, social networking, “Likes”, shares, and chat statistics, viewing guides, promotion through syndication, past behavior, demographics ofusers with common interests
[ix] “Connecting Consumers with Content”, Ooyala http://go.ooyala.com/rs/OOYALA/images/ooyala-content-discovery-whitepaper.pdf
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Gabriel Dusil is the Chief Marketing and Corporate Strategy Officer at Visual Unity, with a mandate to advance the company’s portfolio into next generation solutions and expand the company’s global presence. Before joining Visual Unity, Gabriel was the VP of Sales & Marketing at Cognitive Security, and Director of Alliances at SecureWorks, responsible for partners in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). Previously, Gabriel worked at VeriSign and Motorola in a combination of senior marketing and sales roles. Gabriel obtained a degree in Engineering Physics from McMaster University in Canada and has advanced knowledge in Online Video Solutions, Cloud Computing, Security as a Service (SaaS), Identity and Access Management (IAM), and Managed Security Services (MSS).