OTT.X to Hold Third Annual X-Fronts Conference May 21-22

OTT.X will hold its third annual X-Fronts conference on May 21 and 22 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

The two-day exchange for the CTV/OTT community will consist of pitches and presentations by prominent and up-and-coming AVOD and FAST platforms, networks, and channels to an audience of brands, advertisers and ad agencies, according to OTT.X.

The conference programming will educate media buyers on the ins and outs of the AVOD and FAST landscapes via a series of panels, presentations, research findings, and interactive roundtable discussions focused on the growth of FAST and how it’s being utilized to get the most out of advertising spends, as well as revenue opportunities, operational issues, and projections for the future, according to OTT.X.

Presentations will include details about lineups, content promotion and other plans for the coming year.

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In addition to the presentations, there will be networking opportunities and meeting spaces, both private and semi-private, available for planned or ad-hoc meetings between buyers and sellers.

Mark Fisher Set to Retire as Head of Streaming Trade Group OTT.X

Mark Fisher, who for more than a decade has led streaming trade association OTT.X and its predecessor, the Entertainment Merchants Association, has announced his retirement, effective May 31.

The 68-year-old Fisher is stepping down as president immediately, with Eric Hanson, the association’s EVP, taking over as interim president. Fisher will retain the CEO role for the next few months “to support an orderly transition,” according to a news release.

Fisher joined what was originally called the Video Software Dealers Association in 1999 as VP of membership. At the time, the trade group served mostly home video retailers at a time when the business was transitioning from VHS videocassette rental to DVD sales.

SEE ALSO: Personal Stories: Mark Fisher of OTT.X — From Stop & Shop to Streaming

In April 2006, the VSDA merged with the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) to become the Entertainment Merchants Association. Fisher was subsequently promoted to EVP and, in October 2012, when EMA CEO Crossan “Bo” Andersen retired, Fisher was appointed by the board of directors to succeed him.

During Fisher’s tenure as president and CEO, he oversaw the association’s evolution from supporting the physical media business into a trade group for first transactional and subscription streaming and then all forms of online video distribution, including AVOD and FAST. The EMA was rebranded OTT.X in January 2020. Fisher also led the development of the current OTT.X cornerstone events — the OTT.X Summit and the X-Fronts — as well as its salons, its roundtables, and its online webinars.

“I’m proud of the accomplishments that we’ve made as we’ve evolved in an evolving industry that has become more and more egalitarian, global and diverse,” Fisher said. “It’s been great working with this outstanding staff and the most engaged and supportive board members that a CEO could ask for.  The association is on a great trajectory for its future, and I’m confident that it’ll grow to serve its members in many more ways than its currently able.”

“Over the years, Mark’s family and mine have become close friends, and I congratulate him on his decision,” said Cameron Douglas, chair of the OTT.X board of directors and SVP, OTT/Streaming, at Fandango. “In some ways, OTT.X and Mark are synonymous, and yet I know the organization will continue to thrive through the strength of its dedicated staff and the engaged member base.

Prior to joining the VSDA in 1999, Fisher served on the board’s executive committee as treasurer and VP of its New England chapter. He had been a member of the VSDA since 1985 while employed by member companies Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. and public video rental chain West Coast Entertainment.

Fisher attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the State University of New York at Albany. He began his professional career as the youngest store manager, at the time, in the A&P Tea Co. grocery chain.  He joined Stop & Shop as a store manager in 1980 and from 1983 to 1985 served as general merchandise supervisor for the chain’s Connecticut division.  In 1985, Fisher was named director of video rental and charged with running the grocer’s standalone video rental stores.  Under Fisher’s leadership, the Stop & Shop Video Store chain was recognized as the VSDA Retailer of the Year in 1995.

Fisher will remain involved with OTT.X, consulting at least through the end of the year, and serving longterm as CEO Emeritus and a non-voting member on the OTT.X board of directors.

OTT.X Announces the Addition of 11 New Members

OTT.X, the trade association for the OTT industry, announced the addition of 11 new members during its annual breakfast at CES on Jan. 9 in Las Vegas.

New members include Aux Mode, Cinesend, Equativ, FlixU, LG, Penthera, Pop Twist, Roku, Studio Dome, V Channels, and WiseDV.

“It’s exciting seeing such explosive growth in the OTT industry and with it OTT.X’s membership,” OTT.X EVP Eric Hanson said. “We’re looking forward to bringing in our newest members and to continue building a community that supports our membership’s success and enables distribution of a broad, diverse spectrum of content through OTT and CTV platforms.”

OTT.X has more than doubled its membership over the last two years and launched an affiliate program that now includes five universities.

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OTT.X stages two annual tentpole events, the X-Fronts in May and the OTT.X Summit in the early fall, each attracting upwards of 600 attendees from all sectors in the streaming business — SVOD, AVOD, FAST, market research, and technology. OTT.X also hosts smaller networking events nearly every month in Los Angeles, New York City, Las Vegas and Miami to bring its members together to collaborate and share knowledge and insights.

The 40 Most Important People in Streaming 2023 Luncheon

To celebrate the publication of “The 40 Most Important People in Streaming” in the November 2023 issue of Media Play News, the magazine partnered with OTT.X, the streaming trade association, for a luncheon held Dec. 14 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Attending honorees included Garson Foos of Shout! Studios, Mike Pears of AMC Networks, Michele Edelman of Premiere Digital, Cameron Douglas of Fandango, Devin Griffin of BET+, Danny Fisher of FilmRise, Mark Fisher of OTT.X, Ryan Pirozzi of Amazon, Srinivasan KA of Amagi, Colin Petrie-Norris of Xumo, Carol Hanley of Whip Media and Bill Neighbors of Xperi. (Photos by Media Play News staff)

OTT.X to Present Diversity Summit and Industry Review and Analysis Dec. 14

Industry trade group OTT.X. will present its second annual Diversity Summit as well as its second annual Industry Review and Analysis Dec. 14 at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles.

The Diversity Summit, taking place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will be a gathering of “visionary leaders, content creators, and advocates dedicated to fostering inclusivity and representation in the digital entertainment landscape,” according to OTT.X. It “serves as a dynamic platform for stakeholders to engage in thought-provoking discussions, share innovative strategies, and champion the critical importance of diverse narratives and voices in shaping the future of streaming media,” according to the group. The event features presentations, panels, and discussion sessions with diverse executives and entrepreneurs from across the OTT industry.

Among the topics:

  • “Keynote Fireside Chat” with Roxanne Avent Taylor, CEO and producer, Hidden Empire Film Group
  • “Delivering Content for Underrepresented Audiences”
  • “OTT Inclusion Analytics”
  • “Thriving as One of the Few Becomes One of the Many”
  • “Diversity Success Stories and Case Studies”

 

Speakers include:

  • Roxanne Avent Taylor, co-CEO and producer, Hidden Empire Film Group
  • Kacy Boccumini, executive director, systems and workflow, Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Paul Colichman, CEO, Here Media
  • Dennis Dortch, co-founder and CEO, Black & Sexy TV
  • Michele Edelman, head of growth, Premiere Digital Services
  • Margo Lang, VP, people and organization (HR) strategy, Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Yolanda Macias, chief content officer, Cineverse
  • Quincy Newell, CEO, TwentyOne14 Media

 

OTT.X is presenting the Diversity Summit as a free benefit to all.

Starting in the afternoon is the 2023 Industry Review and Analysis, taking place from 2:30-5:30 p.m. The Industry Review and Analysis is a half-day event that will serve as a follow-up to the release of OTT.X’s annual industry report. It offers “an expansive deep dive into the current and future state of OTT by joining leading research institutions as they provide critical analysis touching all sectors of the streaming industry,” according to OTT.X.

Topics include:

  • “The OTT Platform Landscape and Business Models”
  • “The AVOD and FAST Advertising Landscape”
  • “The Future of Devices”
  • “Consumer Demographics and Behavior”
  • “Content – What Works Best on What Platforms/Business Models”
  • “Global Trends Outside of the United States”
  • “Analyst Q&A”
  • “Investment Advice & Opportunities”

 

Speakers include:

  • David Bloom, senior contributor, Forbes
  • Tom Gennari, CEO, BB Media
  • Kirby Grines, founder and CEO, 43Twenty
  • Vince Muscarella, VP, sales, Whip Media
  • Mark Orne, EVP, cross platform group, Screen Engine/ASI
  • Jaime Otero, VP, partnerships, Parrot Analytics
  • Eric Sorensen, director, Streaming Video Tracker, Parks Associates
  • Mike Vorhaus, CEO, Vorhaus Advisors

 

All attendees will receive a digital copy of the 2023/2024 OTT.X Industry Report upon its release. The Industry Strategic Review and Analysis is free for all OTT.X members and $150 for non-members.

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Submissions Open for OTT.X 2023 Social Impact Awards

Submissions are open for the OTT.X 2023 Social Impact Awards.

The Social Impact Awards are designed to “bring to light the visionaries who are breaking down barriers and spreading messages of hope, unity, and acceptance through their video creations.”

Categories include “Full Length Fiction Title,” “Full Length Non Fiction Title,” “Series,” “Short Non Fiction Title” and “Technology Innovation.”

Content must premiere in the United States on an OTT channel or platform and maintain exclusive availability via OTT distribution. The content must also be available in the United States for at least three weeks. The qualifying period for the content is the 12 months ended Oct. 31, 2023.

Submissions can be made here.

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OTT.X Summit Breaks Attendance Record

The OTT.X Summit, which took place Aug. 30-31 at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, tallied a record number of attendees, according to OTT.X president and CEO Mark Fisher.

During the event, he announced that the OTT.X. 2023 Summit hit 600 in-person attendees, not even counting those on the live streaming app.

“We had about 350 people register a week ago for this event,” he said, adding “most everybody who registered was actually here.”

Considering the event is free to OTT.X members, that attendance of more than 75% of registration was impressive, he noted.

“I’ve seen a very small team of four people pulling off big events multiple times a year, and they’ve just done a great job with limited resources,” said Erick Opeka, president and chief strategy officer at Cineverse.

“I was just thinking back to the first event we did in 2018. The organization was at a really pivotal time [with DVD in decline],” he said.

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He praised the organization for changing with the times.

“The organization, the board, really buckled down to figure out what do we do to stay relevant,” he said. “But because we were willing to change the organization and focus on where things were going, fast forward to today where membership has tripled, the amount of member companies is in the low hundreds, where we have tens of thousands of employees who have access to the services across member companies. The companies that are here represent billions of dollars in revenue, and we have a flourishing community with an exchange of ideas.”

Windows, Distribution Avenues Debated at OTT.X Summit

Panelists discussed different windows for optimizing monetization during the second day (Aug. 31) of presentations at the OTT.X summit in Los Angeles.

During the “Monetizing Content Across Different Distribution Models” panel, Yolanda Macias, chief content officer at Cineverse, referenced Terrifier 2 at an example of how content suppliers have to be flexible with distribution windows to maximize revenue.

“We looked at Terrifier one,” she said. “As a result of not such an amazing performance, we decided to take it [Terrifier 2] out theatrically as an event — and we had a champagne problem. It performed beyond our expectations, and we decided to get it more show times, and we rolled it out and soon it was a bonafide theatrical release. It was meant to premiere on the Screambox SVOD channel, and we decided to move it … to allow for another weekend in theaters. Three weeks later we took it out transactionally; again, it overperformed; 45 days later we took it out on DVD and it sold through over 90%. Then it continued on Screambox as an exclusive. Six months later, we did a co-exclusive license with Amazon for two months. And, of course, we always believed our enthusiast channels were complementary to the bigger, broader general entertainment channels and we proved that as well. And then we opened it up to everyone, all AVOD and SVOD platforms. We just announced this week we are re-releasing Terrifier 2 in theaters on Nov. 8.”

The enthusiasm for the release informed Cineverse’s windowing.

“We’re learning,” she said. “We’re going to use these findings when we release Terrifier 3 in 2024.”

“It’s always a challenge to maximize your revenue respecting the windows that exist,” added Richard Wolffe, CEO of Breaking Glass Pictures, on the same panel. “Trying to change some of the windows that don’t need to be there because the platforms don’t generate the revenue is a challenge. … You have to kind of bide your time or break a window. Nobody wants to break a window. However, it’s really tempting.”

“I always look at it through the lens of the consumer, the end user, the audience, how do they want to engage the content?” said Macias.

Moderator Thomas K. Arnold, editorial director and publisher of Media Play News, noted home entertainment has evolved “from rigidity to flexibility” with regard to windows.

Macias agreed. “Not all content has to go through the different windows,” she said. “That’s part of the fun of establishing a strategy for every piece of content.”

Titles can ride fads into different windows as well.

“A few years ago, no one was touching horror in the digital space,” said Michele Edeleman, noting most people thought it was a theatrical, communal experience.  “Now everyone’s touching horror.”

Premiere Digital actually uses a score sheet for potential distribution of content and looks at that end score when deciding what to take.

“You’ve got to be really flexible with business models and with platforms,” said Larry Schwartz, chief revenue officer at Ottera.

During an earlier panel on the interplay between theatrical and home/streaming viewing, panelists noted that home entertainment provides important revenue streams for studios to finance new content.

A theatrical release “needs as many revenue streams as possible,” noted Scott Mendelson, film reporter at The Wrap.

“I always believed that theatrical and streaming did not need to be adversarial,” he said.

He praised the development of the premium digital (higher priced right after theatrical) marketplace.

“PVOD has been relatively successful,” he said. “The biggest evidence is they are still doing it.”

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He called out the importance of later windows’ revenue streams in supporting the overall business.

“I’m hoping that the PVOD and post-theatrical revenue streams are going to remain healthy so that we see bigger and more successful theatrical releases,” he said.

OTT.X Summit 2023: Streaming in the FAST Lane

Streaming trade association OTT.X held its annual Summit at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles Aug. 30 and 31, preceded by a VIP speaker cocktail party the night before the event. The summit featured two days of conference programming, multiple workshop and breakout tracks, research insights, exhibitor booths and tabletops, one-on-one pre-scheduled business meetings, networking breakfasts, lunches, and industry cocktail parties. Speakers at the event, which attracted more than 600 participants, discussed topics such as monetizing FAST channels, search and discovery, windowing content across various platforms and business models, globalization of content, metadata, and rights management. (All photos by Media Play News staff.)

Prospects for FAST, Explosion of OTT Services and Channels Key Topics Discussed at OTT.X Summit

The future prospects of FAST (free ad-supported streaming television) and the problems of content discovery, distribution and monetization with the explosion of OTT services and channels were key topics of discussion for speakers at the OTT.X Summit Aug. 30.

Moderator David Bloom, a senior contributor at Forbes, opened the keynote panel of industry analysts noting that Nielsen recently reported that the number of shows and films available on streaming platforms is up 39% in the past two years and the number of services is up from 118 two years ago to 169. He asked panelists how services could differentiate and compete in such a crowded marketplace.

“You can’t find anything,” said Michael Pachter, managing director of Wedbush Securities. “Somebody’s going to be the consolidator of all this.”

“I think the big guys, a couple will drop out,” said Mike Vorhaus, CEO of Vorhaus Advisors.

“There’ll be some sort of merger. The little guys will do fine.” Though, the ones in the middle won’t, he said.

Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst of nScreenmedia, agreed that smaller players would have an advantage going forward.

“Before internet delivery everything was controlled,” he said. “It was virtually impossible for a really small provider to reach any audience at all, and that changed with internet delivery. And I actually think the opportunities for smaller providers are increasing rather than decreasing.”

The big players are all looking for profitability, he said. “One of the ways they are going about it is they are cutting content and they are raising prices,” he said.

“[Walt Disney Co. CEO] Bob Iger is shameless about this,” he said, noting that Iger said when Disney raised streaming prices virtually no subs left, justifying price increases.

“The big guys, they’ve got a little bit of everything; they can’t go deep on anything — that’s the opportunity,” he said. “Know who your audience is. Know the best way to reach them. And I am reasonably confident you’ll be able to pick up a decent-sized audience. You’ll find your audience.”

Being part of a bundle is a way to survive for streaming services because “they may trip over your channel,” said Laura Martin, managing director and senior internet and media analyst at Needham & Co. Other ways to thrive are to be “super big” to compete with Apple and Amazon or have a “super fandom.” Also, she stressed the need for multiple revenue streams, such as e-commerce, subscription and ads — “all the revenue streams that are possible.”

Dixon suggested finding an audience on YouTube “where there are no boundaries” before building a service.

The analyst panel also addressed the FAST marketplace.

“It’s evergreen and it’s long tale,” noted Vorhaus. “It’s not hits. If you’re making hits for FAST channels you’re going to lose money.”

“They provide content in the same way that traditional TV did, but they’re not traditional TV,” Dixon said. “There are no bandwidth bounds. You can put a channel up, tell the audience about it, have them come to that channel for a week or so and have it go away. You just have so much more flexibility. You need to think about them in a different way. You may have anchor channels that they come back to again and again, but there are also these more ephemeral channels … such as for holidays.”

“It’s impossible to argue with free,” Pachter said, though he questioned whether linear FAST would ultimately be able to compete with AVOD (ad-supported video-on-demand) if content discovery gets easier.

“Ultimately I think AVOD wins,” he said. “I don’t need a channel if I have discovery.”

The growth of FAST channels and whether the hype is justified were topics of discussion for other panelists and speakers as well.

“FAST is being viewed by a large audience and it’s growing,” Srini Ka, co-founder of Amagi, said during the “How Does Fast Become the New Cable TV?” panel.

“We don’t think FAST is overhyped,” Stuart McLean, CEO of FAST Studios, said during the same panel. “Most people think that the FAST viewer is too cheap to pay for cable. The fast viewer is really the heavy video consumer.”

“FAST revenues have grown 20 times in the past three years and are expected to triple again in the next three,” added Carol Hanley, CEO of Whip Media.

Still, speakers noted that the FAST market isn’t the bonanza it used to be.

“There was a perception of FAST as an 1849-style gold rush. … The reality is that that era of FAST over the last two, three years has passed,” said Erick Opeka, president and chief strategy officer at Cineverse.

One side effect of the ad-supported explosion is too much content chasing too few ad units, noted Martin in the earlier analyst panel. “It is a race to the bottom for AVOD and FAST,” she said, as there is no “pricing power” for ads.

Another perennial problem with the explosion of FAST channels and other digital platforms is lack of efficient discovery.

“The FAST system is a big mess,” said panelist Philippe Guelton, chief revenue officer at Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, noting the “consumer gets stuck into a platform” or a Roku stick.

Marcy Levitas Hamilton, CEO of TriCoast Worldwide, said getting on platforms, such as a Vizio, is getting harder.

“You have to have the relationship or meet them through someone else,” she said. “A lot of them are closing the door to new vendors.”

Her company has such FAST channels as the horror-focused Dark Matters and the craft-focused Made It Myself TV. Such niche-focused channels make it easier to find an audience and get on platforms, she said. The key she said “is coming up with a great new concept that has an audience already and that you can get the content for.”