OTT.X Announces 2022 Events

OTT.X has announced its 2022 roster of events, which are all expected to be held in-person, according to the trade organization for streamers.

The Annual OTT.X Breakfast at CES will be held Jan. 5 at the Stirling Club in Las Vegas.

The Annual OTT.X Summit will be held Aug. 31 to Sept. 1 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles and will consist of two days of conference programming and workshops as well as facilitated business meetings, a marketplace, and networking opportunities, as well as — new this year — a “pitch” track.

The 2022 Leadership Development Foundation Summit, in its third year but in-person for the first time, will be held on March 3, also at the Skirball Cultural Center.  The in-person event will enable inclusion of more interactive and one-on-one segments between junior professionals and senior leaders, in addition to conference-type programming and general networking.

The OTT.X Roundtable Sessions will be held Feb. 17 in the Los Angeles area and on Oct. 6 in New York City. Salons will take place on the evenings of May 10 and Dec. 6 in Los Angeles and on July 13 in NYC.

The third annual OTT.X Impact Awards are scheduled to be held in the Los Angeles area on Dec. 6.

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Two new events have been added to the OTT.X annual calendar — The OTT.X-Fronts on April 12 and 13 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles and the OTT.X Diversity Summit on June 9 in the Los Angeles area. The OTT.X-Fronts will facilitate efficient presentations and meetings between OTT platforms and channels with advertisers, agencies and brands. The Diversity Summit will provide a platform for content creators, distributors and service providers to engage in bilateral discussions and negotiations, share learnings, learn about best practices, and collaborate to support the advancement of minority professionals and organizations.

“We are excited to offer such a vibrant schedule of activities — in-person — to keep our community engaged and active throughout the year, and we are especially excited about the new additions to our roster of events — the OTT.X-Fronts and the Diversity Summit,” Mark Fisher, OTT.X President and CEO, said in a statement.

For more information, email Jose Rodriguez at jrodriguez@ottx.org.

 

AFM 2021 Moves Entirely Online

The American Film Market (AFM) will move its 2021 edition entirely online, the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) announced.

AFM 2021 Online will be held Nov. 1-5, shifting one day earlier than its original dates. Registration for the five-day online event is now open.

AFM 2021 Online will feature Industry Offices, Screenings, Conferences, Panels and Workshops, the Networking Pavilion, LocationEXPO and more. Event updates will be announced regularly via email, social media and the AFM Website.

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“We wish we could welcome the global industry back to Santa Monica but travel regulations, increased concerns about coronavirus variants around the world, and government restrictions on the ground prevent us from moving forward,” Michael Ryan, chairperson of IFTA and partner at GFM Films, said in a statement. “However, IFTA is thrilled to host the market the industry expects — where no one will be excluded and all of our stakeholders can immerse themselves for five days dedicated to deal making, discovery, education, and reconnecting.”

OTT.X Fall Summit Moving Outside, Requiring COVID-19 Vaccination or Test

The OTT.X. Fall Summit, taking place Sept. 1-2 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, will move all activities outside, and attendees will be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of the start of the event.

Masks will not be required outdoors but will be required indoors at the Skirball Center during the event.

“We are aware of and have been closely monitoring the recent rise in COVID-19 cases,” read an email from OTT.X. “So, in an abundance of caution and for the safety of our attendees, we have decided to take the Fall Summit outdoors.

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“All conference components including the main conference program, workshops, tabletops, meetings, cocktail receptions and more will be held outdoors. We have also instated some protocols to follow to ensure the health and safety of the conference.”

NAB Show to Require Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination

The NAB Show scheduled for Oct. 9-13 in Las Vegas and associated co-located events will require attendees to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, Chris Brown, EVP and managing director of global connections and events for the National Association of Broadcasters, wrote in an email to the community.

“While the enthusiasm is building, we are keenly aware of health and safety concerns tied to the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant and want to assure you that we are putting in place a comprehensive, data-driven plan that prioritizes safety and creates a productive environment at these events,” he wrote. “We have worked for the past several weeks to finalize protocols that will maximize the experience and safety of all members of the NAB Show community. This process has involved extensive consultation with health and safety experts, gathering feedback from a range of exhibitors and attendees, and review of the safety measures recommended by national and local health authorities, including Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s important announcement this week regarding large events.”

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The show floor will feature major brands such as Amazon Web Services, AJA, B&H, Canon, Grass Valley, MediaKind, Panasonic, Ross, Sony, Verizon and more, he wrote.

Major industry events, such as the Radio Show, Sales and Management Television Exchange and AES Show, will co-locate in Las Vegas.

T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert to Deliver Keynote at CES 2022

The Consumer Technology Association has announced that T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert will deliver a keynote address during CES 2022 taking place Jan. 5-8, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Sievert’s keynote will discuss 5G innovations for consumers, businesses and thought leadership — and spotlight a look into the future of how these advancements are enabling people to work, communicate and learn more efficiently, according to the CTA.

“As we return to in-person events, we look forward to convening innovators and business leaders from around the world who will showcase how technology impacts and improves every facet of our daily lives,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CTA, said in a statement. “The pace of innovation has accelerated over the last 18 months, and the rapid roll-out of 5G will only increase the momentum. There’s so much excitement in this space and for the first time, we welcome Mike Sievert to our keynote stage to share more about T-Mobile’s vision for fueling 5G innovation.”

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CES 2022 will showcase 5G technologies and bring together industry advocates, including Sievert, to share insights on the where 5G is headed, according to the CTA.

“The last year has shown us the critical role connectivity plays in our lives — for consumers, businesses and society as a whole,” Sievert said in a statement. “As the nation’s 5G leader, T-Mobile is driving a transformation in wireless communications. I can’t wait to keynote CES 2022 and showcase new ways this 5G network is unleashing game-changing innovations both now and in the future.”

The keynotes at CES 2022 will be viewed in-person in Las Vegas and accessed across the globe through the digital experience.

OTT.X Promoting Diversity, Equality and Inclusion With Upcoming Webinars, Other Initiatives

The nonprofit industry association OTT.X has created a Call for Change group and has slated two webinars in September as part of an ongoing initiative to promote diversity, equality and inclusion in the OTT industry.

The upcoming webinars are “Inherent Bias in AI/Machine Learning,” presented by Slalom, and “A Look at How Representation Drives Viewership,” presented by Samba.

On Feb. 18, OTT.X hosted an online dialogue about social justice, racism exclusion and allyship within the industry. The objectives of the initial session were to identify the changes the industry can make today and those it can work toward impacting in the future. Participants defined these issues and opportunities:

a) The industry and the consumer will benefit from more diverse participation. Minority-owned businesses, and socially messaged content, can benefit from financing opportunities and distribution exposure.

b) Management ranks and senior leadership positions in the industry seem to be under-representative of the diversity of the population.

c) The industry has a unique opportunity to communicate to, and impact, the general public by the nature of its business.

“OTT.X recognizes that it can effectively do its part and impact and affect change within the OTT community of companies and individuals, such as within our industry’s workforce,” said OTT.X president and CEO Mark Fisher. “We can help by supporting the growth of minority-owned businesses and by holding our community accountable for its commitments regarding diversity, equality and inclusion.”

Industry executives across small and large companies and of diverse ethnicities are currently participating in OTT.X Call for Change.

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In November 2020, OTT.X conducted its first special webinar on inclusion, “A Path Toward Inclusion in the Workplace.”

In March, OTT.X invited its members to an online table reading of Polar Bears, Black Boys and Prairie Fringed Orchids, a play about environmental justice and police violence written by former OTT.X team member Vincent Durham, followed by a Zoom discussion among viewers with Durham.

OTT.X is also coordinating the development of a database of potential conference speakers and panelists from under-represented groups in the OTT ecosystem. OTT.X will utilize this list to ensure that it sets the example of diversity and inclusion with the speaker rosters at its own conferences and events, and will also make this list available to other organizations and conference operators.

Future projects being discussed include assisting minority companies in finding funding, connecting content creators with interested parties to create socially relevant content, working alongside a research partner to create an industry accountability report (examining follow-through related to commitments companies made after the George Floyd murder), and providing public service spots to run on AVOD channels in unsold slots.

Participation in the OTT.X Call for Change is not limited to OTT.X members.  All members of the OTT community are invited to engage. To learn more or get involved, email Fisher at mfisher@ottx.org.

OTT.X to Resume In-Person Events

The industry organization OTT.X has announced it will return to in-person events, starting with a Los Angeles area Salon on July 22.

“It’s hard to believe that it has been 14 months since the last in-person OTT.X event, our NYC Roundtables in March of 2020, days before the city shut down,” reads a message to members. “We are excited to announce that in-person events at OTT.X are coming back.”

The 2021 OTT.X Summit: Conference and Market will also be in-person Sept. 1-2 at the Skirball Institute in Los Angeles, and the 13th annual OTT.X@Pipeline will also be held in-person at the Skirball on Dec. 8, the organization announced.

“We’ve learned a lot during the Pandemic about the value of virtual events, and we’ve developed a clear strategy for our future based on our learnings,” reads the message. “Over the past year, we’ve created networking opportunities and business meetings within virtual events — but these aren’t nearly effective as being in-person. On the other hand, offering panels and presentations virtually, both live and on-demand, have proven to be a value not only to our traditional attendees, but to a much broader audience unable to participate in person.”

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Thus, OTT.X will not abandon virtual presentations. It will employ a hybrid strategy. Some events will be completely virtual, some events will be completely in-person, and some events, such as the Summit, may have some features of both (such as broadcasting the panels and presentations).

Consumer Panel: Word of Mouth a Top Way to Get Content Recommendations

Despite the use of data and algorithms to attempt to serve up content consumers want, consumers on a panel said word of mouth was one of the top ways they find new stuff to watch.

The panel during OTT.X@Pipeline 2020 was moderated by Thomas K. Arnold, publisher and editorial director of Media Play News.

“Word of mouth among friends is big,” said Joe Carlson of Noblesville, Ind.

In addition to word of mouth, said Ava Payne, of Carlsbad, Calif., “if I want to watch a show I kind of spend time researching.” One of her favorites is Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” She said she looks at reviews, as well as filmmakers and cast.

Zachary Kennedy, of Long Beach, Calif., said, “I read the trades an unhealthy amount,” paying close attention to content from filmmakers and actors “that he loves.” He also relies on awards shows, having discovered “Mr. Robot” when Rami Malek received an Emmy award.

“I trust the Emmys more than Netflix,” he said.

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In the early days of the pandemic, Devonee Alfrey, of Carlsbad, Calif., admitted she got roped into the Netflix “Tiger King” series hype.

“I can’t believe I sat down and watched the whole thing,” she said, calling it “a great waste of time.”

“Now, I would never watch it because it’s just terrible,” she said.

Erik Parker, of Albuquerque, N.M., said he was inspired by news coverage to watch HBO’s documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”

Parker saw on the news that, during the series, “he admitted to killing people on the show.”

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Despite the rise of ad-supported video-on-demand, most on the panel said they were happy to pay a price to avoid ads.

“With Hulu we do have the more expensive one,” said Alfrey. “I don’t like commercials.”

Kennedy, too, said he pays more for Hulu with no ads.

Still, some said it depended on the content whether they’d put up with ads.

Carlson doesn’t like ads, but he does watch AVOD service Pluto TV: “They have some weird stuff on there.”

Parker likes to go ad-free with particularly engrossing content, but “if it’s just a cooking show, I wouldn’t mind.”

Kennedy said he likes AVOD service Tubi: “They have interesting stuff on there that isn’t available elsewhere.”

Still, he pointed out a big weakness with streaming ads — that they are often repeated too much.

Parker agreed.

“Last time I was paying for the ad-supported version of Hulu, every single ad break would be the same four ads,” he said. “That was very frustrating to sit through.”

OTT.X Announces 2020 Heroes

OTT.X (formerly the Entertainment Merchants Association) is honoring industry “heroes.”

Heroes are team members at digital platforms, channels and retailers; at content companies; and at service and technology companies that facilitate the flow of content to the consumer, “playing an important role in providing the needed entertainment to keep everyone sane during these stay-at-home months,” according to OTT.X.

The individuals are being recognized based on their contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their contributions are being honored at the OTT.X Online Live conference July 22.

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Honorees are:

  • Abel Franklin, director of digital media, Maverick Entertainment
  • Aimee Rogers, manager, FP&A and sales analyst, Cinedigm
  • Alexandra Vigilione, director, product marketing, Cinedigm
  • Brenda Garcia-Ortiz, SVP, worldwide sales, Maverick Entertainment
  • Chris Pak, SVP, FP&A and business development, Cinedigm
  • Dan Sulzer, director, financial operations and royalties, Cinedigm
  • Danny Arroyo, content prep and asset management manager, BLU
  • David Johnson, packaging manager, BLU
  • David Millbern, VP, development and research, Here Media
  • Dylan Canfield, manager, content operations, Cinedigm
  • Erick Varillas, head of production, mitú
  • Evan Liss, digital media specialist, Maverick Entertainment
  • Ian Donnelly, manager, ad operations, Cinedigm
  • Jessica Ruvalcaba, director of content, mitú
  • Katherine Pond, VP, business development, Vizio
  • Kelcie Schwab, linear channel programming and digital coordinator, Maverick Entertainment
  • Lonni Silverman, director, client services, Sony Pictures
  • Michael Thexton, executive director, technology, BLU
  • Natalie Martin, VP, client services, Premiere Digital
  • Sarah Dixon, VP, client services, BLU
  • Tony Huidor, SVP, products and technology, and GM, networks, Cinedigm
  • Zack Coffman, CEO and founder, One World Digital

 

“We are proud to have individuals like this year’s heroes working within our industry,” said OTT.X president and CEO Mark Fisher in a statement. “Their contributions to their companies parlayed into contributions to every stay-at-home’s ability to cope through good quality entertainment delivered into their homes through the Internet.”

Panelists at EMA OTT Event Contemplate Effect of Coming SVOD Wave

A little more than a month before the start of a launch of a wave of big-name SVOD services, panelists contemplated the effect that the new, deep-pocketed players would have on the OTT marketplace at a Sept. 25 conference in Los Angeles produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

EMA president and CEO Mark Fisher noted a change in the title of the annual event from Digital Media Pipeline to OTT_X@ Pipeline.

“That’s our leaning in and supporting all over-the-top distribution, embracing SVOD [subscription] and AVOD [ad-supported] as well as TVOD [transactional], which we had primarily been supporting in the past,” he said.

In opening remarks, he noted the shifting landscape.

“While SVOD continues to have runaway growth and EST continues to reinvent itself and to promote consumer ownership, AVOD, a format that an industry sage used to refer to as ‘where titles go to die,’ has become all the buzz,” he said. “Frankly, with the launch of WarnerMedia’s subscription service, Disney’s subscription service, Apple’s subscription service, Universal’s service, and Hulu and Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as Britbox, CBS All Access and so many others, I believe even more consumers are going to be driven to cut their cable subscriptions and get all their content either through OTA or OTT and there is likely going to be a limit to what most customers are going to be willing to spend. And when they hit that limit, they’re probably still not going to have enough content available compared to what they’re used to with the hundreds of channels on cable, and they’ll end up supplementing that with AVOD channels. So I think many of us believe that next year will not only bring growth in migration in SVOD services but also unprecedented growth in AVOD.”

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That theme of how the market would change with an explosion of new OTT entrants was echoed by panelists throughout the day.

“The entertainment industry has become as susceptible to change and as volatile with change as the broader technology industry itself,” said Cinedigm Networks president Erick Opeka, who moderated the “Future Evolution of OTT” panel. “Gone are the days of the stability that many of us in this room became accustomed to, where you had 10, 12, 15 years between cycles of technology adoption.”

Mining a niche is a good way to compete with the big guys, panelists said.

“I believe there’s a lot of white space for passion-driven verticals that are underserviced,” said Natalie Farsi, founder and CEO of upcoming lifestyle channel SMART.

Ed Laczynski, CEO of Zype, added a niche OTT player can succeed “where there’s a high level of affinity and or passion and there’s a scarcity of content within that group.”

Focus is key, said Irina Shames, chief revenue officer of Obesh, an upcoming channel focused on outdoor adventure targeting millennials.

“I think there are many companies not necessarily asking, ‘Why are we launching an OTT or why do we need to be present on OTT?’” she said.

As SVOD services proliferate, AVOD may be a strategic move for smaller players.

“It seems to me that a lot of players that had started as subscription are going to be making a pivot to an ad-supported model,” said Opeka.

“With AVOD, we’ve still got about 82 percent of the U.S. that’s gonna want to watch ad-based content because they don’t want to have to pay for all of these services,” added Jeffrey Goldman of Premiere Digital Services.

Transitioning to AVOD “hopefully will be a better business model for us,” said the Africa Channel’s Sheila Cole on another panel, “Managing the Business of OTT.”

Indeed, the research on AVOD shows strong consumer growth.

“The ad-supported space is growing very, very quickly,” said ComScore’s Vince Muscarella. Recent ComScore research showed that the growth in hours viewed per household for ad-supported services is outpacing even subscription viewing. Ad-supported hours were up 60% in May-July 2019 from May-July 2018, while subscription hours grew 44% during the same time period.

David Sidebottom of Futuresource reported that AVOD is a “very U.S. phenomenon,” with one in five Americans having used one of these services in the last month, according to his research.

Still, internationally, as in the United States, “what we see more than anything is fragmentation in the marketplace” with consumers offered “huge choice,” he said. But every international territory is not the same. Netflix is driving SVOD growth in France and Germany, for instance, with TVOD starting to pick up in Nordic region.

Other changes noted at the conference were the impending launch of a new website and OTT newsletter from the trade association, as well as a push for diversity. Indeed, the conference included a panel on the subject and featured a diverse group on the dais.

“This is the first conference that it’s not just a bunch of us old white guys up on stage,” said the EMA’s Fisher. “We have 48% of our speakers being female and at least the start of integrating more underrepresented minorities and people of color into our program.”

He credited Parrot Analytics’ Alejandro Rojas, who presented research on OTT profitability, for pushing the organization to embrace more diversity.