Several recent developments in OTT video highlight the quickly changing nature of the TV business. These developments include more content for Sling TV, new news on the upcoming HBO OTT channel, and a new approach by NBCUniversal for OTT content. These and other developments have traditional video service providers and broadband carriers debating their role in the business going forward.
Sling TV Content
News from Sling TV, the upstart OTT video provider from DISH, showcases new content coming to the $20 per month package. Their OTT channel line-up, which they characterize as the ‘Best of Live TV’ now includes the AMC and IFC networks.
With these channels, Sling TV can now offer popular shows including Walking Dead, Mad Men, and Portlandia. The AMC deal also gives Sling TV future access to BBC America, BBC World News and WE tv. Details on these channels will be announced later.
Sling TV also gave more details regarding their previously announced movie focused content deal, which includes linear and VOD content from EPIX, EPIX2, EPIX3, EPIX Drive-In and SundanceTV. This movie content will be packaged in a $5 add-on subscription called “Hollywood Extra.” Sling TV includes other $5 add-ons, focused on news and kids content.
More details regarding the upcoming HBO OTT channel were leaked to the International Business Times publication (via ars technica). According to the report, the HBO OTT channel will be called HBO Now and will cost $15 per month and could debut as early as April.
HBO is reportedly partnering with Apple as a launch partner, to be featured on Apple TV. HBO Now is not expected to be exclusive to Apple TV though, and should be available on other platforms. At $15, HBO Now will be priced very closely with its traditional linear TV subscription price.
NBCUniversal Comedy Channel
NBCUniversal is reportedly launching an OTT channel, focused on comedy content sometime in 2015. According to Variety, the channel should be priced somewhere $2.50 to $3.50 per month and feature comedy content from the likes of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Saturday Night Live.” The channel could feature full length episodes, as well as other comedy focused content in an on-demand fashion.
Rather than stream an existing channel, NBCUniversal will take comedy focused content from their content assets and build a subscription VOD channel around it. It illustrates one of the important trends of OTT content – niche or genre based content offerings, rather than traditional channels featured on existing pay-TV line-ups.
OTT content has historically been dominated by the niche content approach. Just look at most of the “channels” on the Roku OTT platform. But Sling TV (and the upcoming OTT offer from Sony) are challenging that notion, by basically putting pay-TV channel line-ups over-the-top. CBS is streaming a live version of their local broadcast feeds in select markets as well.
Netflix accomplished OTT market leader status by aggregating content from multiple sources, creating somewhat of a diverse genre focused content line-up.
The different approaches illustrate the changing nature of OTT and the dual impact they have on the TV business. Indeed OTT and traditional pay-TV are influencing each other, with elements of both now appearing on their respective platforms. The TV business will never be the same but the final outcome has yet to be determined.
Service Providers Hedge Their Bets
The changing role of OTT and its impact on the TV business is not lost on traditional video service providers. Cable and IPTV providers are watching these trends closely and looking for ways to ensure they maximize their opportunities.
The American Cable Association is meeting this week in Washington DC for their annual policy summit. These OTT trends were not lost on ACA members, who are smaller cable operators serving primarily small town America. Increasingly, ACA members are looking at how they might get into the OTT business, maybe even trade it for their traditional pay-TV business. They could become their own version of a Sling TV, and even expand outside their traditional footprint with it.
ACA CEO Matt Polka commented during a press briefing that recent policy rumblings at the FCC regarding OTT video should cut both ways. The FCC is looking to level the playing field between what they call MVPDs (traditional cable and IPTV providers) and OVDs (Internet video providers), basically giving OVDs the same rights to program carriage as MVPDs. The idea is OVDs should be able to carry the same linear channels in an OTT fashion, just like MVPDs do today across their local access networks.
“If we’re going to be changing definitions of a video provider, then an MVPD should be able to become an OVD,” Polka said. “We need equal opportunity.”
Comments from ACA Chairman Robert Gessner, CEO of Ohio based MCTV illustrate how these traditional video providers, who may now view themselves more as broadband carriers, want to hedge their bets with OTT.
“We like OTT guys like Sling,” said Gessner. “It causes our customers to buy more and better broadband.”
Editors Note: These issues are of great importance to broadband service providers. We invite you to join us at the upcoming broadbandTV event, a co-located event at this year’s 2015 FTTH Connect Conference in Anaheim, CA, June 30th – July 2nd. We will be putting these issues into more context for broadband service providers and their partners.