LAES: OTT About Change, Speakers Say

While there are many forms of over the top, or OTT, distribution, the term OTT is ultimately a “signifier for change” in the entertainment marketplace, said Erick Opeka, EVP of digital networks at Cinedigm July 17 at the OTT Channels Conference. The conference, which Opeka chaired, took place during the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Speakers on the panel, “OTT 2022: Prognosticating the Future,” discussed the varied landscape for OTT players, from paid subscription to free ad-supported distribution, and the dominance of goliaths such as Netflix.

Panelists speculated about where Netflix would be in the next five years.

“They will look much bigger,” said Pluto TV’s Jeff Shultz. “It will be much harder for anyone to catch them given the lead they have created.”

Neil Davis of Ucast TV speculated that Netflix would be acquired by Apple, and Roku’s Randy Ahn quipped that it would be owned by Roku.

Meanwhile, National Research Group’s Jeff Hall said it would be continuing to expand internationally.

Many panelists noted the many opportunities for international growth of OTT.

Content on Indian knitting patterns can find an audience in India, Hall noted.

“Listen to the consumer,” he said.

Panelists also discussed ways to compete in a market dominated by the likes of Netflix, Amazon and other giants.

“It’s really challenging for an independent to find a place,” Davis said.

Content discovery is key, noted Ahn.

“We make it easy for publishers to build channels,” he said, noting that the Roku Channel is “essentially like a supermarket endcap” for OTT distribution, making it easier for consumers to use and discover OTT content.

Having a strong brand can also be a help “if the brand is important enough,” Shultz said.

HBO’s online service “has a chance to be a Netflix-like brand,” Hall said.

Panelists also addressed the impending Walt Disney Co. streaming service.

“I think they are going to have a harder time than I would like them to have,” Hall said, noting the service would have to expand beyond family programming.

Meanwhile, Ahn said Disney could “potentially redefine entertainment,” and Shultz, noting Disney’s valuable IP, wondered “at what expense it will come to Netflix.”

In another presentation, Tubi’s Adam Lewinson called his AVOD service “free Netflix” and noted it had accumulated 8,000 movies and series, using machine learning to help each piece of content find its audience.

Targeting a niche is also a way to find an OTT audience, noted Here Media’s Paul Colichman on another panel.

“Anyone who’s trying to compete with Netflix [with its wide appeal] should go home now,” he said.

Speakers agreed that OTT has put traditional TV on a path of decline.

IHS Markit research analyst Dan Cryan told the audience that 2016 was the peak of traditional TV.

“In five years, we won’t be talking over the top because it will all be over the top,” said Pluto TV’s Shultz.

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