OTT.X Summit Speakers Talk FAST (Free, Ad-Supported Television)

Free, ad-supported television dominated the discussion during the OTT.X summit’s opening-day keynote panel.

Known by the acronym FAST, the market certainly is in growth mode. Media heavyweights ViacomCBS and Comcast Corp. have acquired Pluto TV and Xumo, respectively, while Comcast’s much-ballyhooed Peacock streaming service also will have a free, ad-supported component.

And as Media Play News reported earlier this week, new data from eMarketer suggests AVOD revenue will grow more than 25% this year compared with 2019.

The AVOD market — spearheaded by The Roku Channel, Disney-owned Hulu, Peacock, Redbox TV, Amazon’s IMDb TV, Pluto TV and Fox Corp.’s Tubi — saw ad revenue skyrocket 31% to $849 million in the most-recent quarter, according to MoffettNathanson Research.

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“It’s something I’m really excited about — this is the thing that’s really hot,” moderator David Bloom, a tech journalist and consultant, said during the panel on Sept. 1. (The OTT.X summit continues through Sept. 3; click here to register.)

Anthony Layser, VP of content partnerships at Xumo, agreed.

“Things have changed so quickly over the last couple of years,” he said. “I joined Xumo in 2017 and I think at first there were some things that felt a little bit like a gimmick — you’re starting to string together types of content into a linear experience.

“And then I really got a sense, after a few months in, that what’s old is new again. People don’t necessarily want to spend all night searching through box art; they may be interested in a very specific series they are comfortable with — maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s lifestyle.”

The FAST market, he said, “is always changing and it’s exciting to come to work every day and look at data and say, ‘Wow, look at how this piece of content we licensed years ago is taking off.’”

Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Networks, said his company over the past 18 months has sought to build “a nice portfolio of premium FAST and AVOD services to complement our four niche subscription services we still operate.”

“We got out of the real heavy, direct-to-consumer side,” he said, “and now focus on what I call the classic model of third-party distribution. You get a lot of bang for your buck — you don’t have to spend a lot of money on marketing, and you can focus all your energy on content spend and everyone else handles all the rest. So it’s a good model. Where we really thought the growth for us was going to come was in the ad-supported space.”

Advertising spending, he said, is “completely disconnected from the consumption right now. If you look at the data coming out of Samsung, where 55% of all consumption on smart TVs is not with traditional environments — the trend is not going to reverse; it’s not going to suddenly swing back the other way, especially given that 265 million sets are sold annually that have linear and VOD baked in, not to mention hundreds of thousands of apps.”

With FAST, Opeka said, “consumers love the choice, they love getting tons of entertainment for free that they don’t have to pay for. A couple of years ago, Pluto really educated all of us. … People mistake linear being dead for pre-programmed, tuned-in being dead. But I think there’s a very different piece here. Leanback is not dead. There’s a real specific use case for a big chunk of the week where you don’t have a lot of time and don’t want to spend 30 minutes digging through thousands of titles or hoping the algorithm finds you. You just want something on while you’re having leftovers. What we’re really talking about is hand-curated, passive, feed-my-eyes, against active, algorithm-driven recommendations. There’s a place in the world for both.”

Tedd Cittadine, VP of content distribution at Roku, said, “There’s no secret we’re really excited and optimistic about the AVOD business in general. We started just over three years ago with the Roku Channel, and the reason we launched it is because our consumers were disproportionately searching for free content. We knew there was pent-up demand for it. And we’ve seen significant growth — it’s been growing faster than the platform as a whole.”

He noted that the “AVOD landscape has changed significantly” over the past few years. “It’s gone from many startup independents to Roku, CBS, Fox, Amazon, YouTube, Comcast”

He noted that as the business becomes increasingly competitive, there are “three key things that drive success.” One is access to a “huge audience.” “It’s incredibly expensive to acquire consumers,” he said. “If you don’t have that huge installed base you can market to and deliver your content to, it can be very challenging to build that audience.” Second is having a “one-to-one, proprietary relationship with data for consumers, and having access to that data to make your advertising more effective.” And the third, he said, is having a “large and successful, well-funded direct ad sales organization to take advantage of monetization opportunities.”

Also speaking on the panel was Andrea Clarke-Hall, VP of business development at Tubi, acquired by Fox in April. “If you take COVID and add an acquisition, it makes for interesting times,” she said. “But it has been awesome. It’s still very early days, but it seems to be a really great partnership. Fox has given Tubi tremendous autonomy, and I think what we’ve seen is continued announcements every week about leveraging Fox ownership to bring better and better content to Tubi.”

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment for Fandango, gave a nod to the transactional side of the business, noting that stay-at-home orders, and the movie theater shutdown, during the coronavirus pandemic has given the business a boost.

“You feel like the last few months have brought transactional back,” he said. “People have discovered there’s new content, movies you might not have ever seen — like The Tax Collector, which has been No. 1 on our service for the last couple of weeks.”

NPD: Online Video Consumption, Engagement Leapt in Q2

Free, transactional and subscription video all grew significantly in the second quarter versus the same period in 2019, according to NPD Group data.

The market experienced “growth across just about every way you can consume video,” said NPD’s John Buffone during the online OTT.X summit Sept. 1. (The summit continues today; to register click here.)

Transactional VOD alone jumped by 57%, while subscription VOD grew 42%, Buffone reported.

Sales of TVs and streaming players (“largely driven by Roku”) also grew by double digits during stay-at-home orders, he said, while sales of DVD and Blu-ray players also saw a jump in sales “for a while.”

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The most frequently used services in April 2020 (Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, CBS All Access, Amazon Prime Video) are gaining the most ground, NPD research found. Among that group, 87% of Netflix subs said they use the service at least weekly, with 80% saying the same of Hulu, 70% of Disney+, 68% of CBS All Access and 64% of Amazon Prime. During April, 48% of Netflix subscribers said they were using it more often, compared to 57% of Disney+ subs, 42% of Hulu subs, 40% of CBS All Access subs and 39% of Amazon Prime subs.

A third of SVOD users said that exclusive content made them subscribe or watch more because content was not available any other way, he noted.

OTT.X to Host Career and Leadership Development Summit

OTT.X on July 28 announced plans to host its first-ever Career and Leadership Development Summit on Aug. 12, using an online format similar to its popular “OTT.X Online Live” sessions.

The summit will feature three components, including a conference session with career and leadership development presentations delivered by successful executives; a series of informal discussion sessions between industry executives and conference attendees; and a “happy-hour” networking session.

Steve Nickerson

Featured speakers include industry veterans Steve Nickerson, formerly of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Toshiba Corp.; Jason Peterson, chairman of the GoDigital Media Group; and Michele Edelman, head of growth with Premiere Video.

Other speakers include Teresa Philips, CEO of Spherex; Narendra Reddy, EVP and GM of The Africa Channel; and Paulette Pantoja, CEO of Blu; Jill Allen, SVP of digital distribution for Sony Pictures; Beth Anderson, AVP of digital strategy and business development for BBC Studios; Allison Martin, senior manager of content planning for BBC Studios; Kristen Bedno, director of domestic distribution and marketing for Vision Films; Lise Romanoff, managing director and CEO of worldwide distribution for Vision Films; and Lonni Silverman, director of client services, for Sony Pictures.

“The goal of the summit is to help prepare an inclusive population of professionals interested in advancing in business and technical roles in the entertainment industry and to provide opportunities to develop their leadership skills, contacts and confidence,” said Mark Fisher, OTT.X president and CEO. “Supporting the growth and professional development of future leaders and the diversity of those holding leadership positions is vital to our industry’s continued success. Our first Leadership Development Summit will provide a platform for leaders to share valuable insights and for a diverse community of professionals of all levels to connect and learn from each other.”

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Jason Peterson

Fisher also will speak, as will Eric Hanson, OTT.X’s VP of industry leadership.

To create an inclusive and diverse community of participants, women and minorities are especially encouraged to register and attend, Fisher said. The morning conference portion of the event is free for all OTT industry professionals. Afternoon discussion and networking sessions are free to any employee of an OTT.X member organization.

The conference is being hosted by OTT.X’s Leadership Development Foundation (LDF), an organization dedicated to the vision of a diverse and inclusive business and technical workforce in the OTT video entertainment industry, supported by a broad range of career and leadership development opportunities. The LDF is overseen by a steering committee with representatives from content providers, channels, retailers and service providers in the OTT video industry.

For more information and to register visit the OTT.X website.

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.”

OTT.X Launches Impact Awards, Appoints New Board Members

OTT.X, the industry trade association supporting the OTT streaming ecosystem, will host and deliver the first OTT.X Impact Awards at the annual OTT.X @Digital Media Pipeline event Dec. 10.

OTT.X was formerly the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Awards will be given to OTT streaming producers and distributors for content that “most inspires positive action and promotes acceptance of, and equality for, all people,” according to the group. Content awards will be made for the most impactful full-length movie, short title and series across major and independent producer segments. Most impactful innovation will also be recognized for the technical, user-experience or platform innovation judged to have the most impact on the OTT industry.

“OTT.X stands proudly in support of the Black community and in solidarity with all who oppose and seek to negate racism, prejudice, hatred and exclusion,” said Mark Fisher, OTT.X president and CEO, in a statement. “The goal of the Impact Awards is to recognize achievement for content and innovation in the OTT industry that makes a positive difference in the world. As distributors and creators of audio-visual content enjoyed by millions around the world, our industry has the power to educate and inspire. We’re excited about recognizing underrepresented artists, innovators and producers that use this power to inspire positive change and promote acceptance of and equality for all people.”

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To qualify for nomination, content must premiere on an OTT channel or platform, maintain exclusive availability via OTT distribution and be available in the United States for at least three weeks. The qualifying period is the twelve-months ended August 31, 2020. Nominations open Sept. 1 and close Oct. 11. Candidates for each award will be announced Nov. 2 with winners being awarded Dec. 10 at the Impact Awards Ceremony. All candidates and award winners will be determined by the Impact Awards Selection Committee, the members of which are approved by the OTT.X board of directors.

Additional information will be made available on the OTT.X site http://ottx.org/ in the coming weeks.

Jill Allen

In other news, OTT.X has appointed four new board members in line with its expanded scope, effective immediately. They are Sony Pictures Entertainment, represented by Jill Allen, SVP of digital distribution; Here Media, represented by Paul Colichman, CEO; Vizio, represented by Katherine Pond, VP of strategic partnerships; and Xumo, represented by Anthony Layser, VP of content partnerships and programming. The directors will serve until the annual OTT.X organizational board meeting in mid-2023.

“These new companies on the OTT.X board of directors will add to its effectiveness,” Fisher said in a statement. “Each director brings an important perspective, and their wealth of experience will benefit the membership as OTT.X continues to be the forum for the OTT industry.”

OTT.X to Honor Industry Heroes

OTT.X (formerly the Entertainment Merchants Association) is looking to honor industry “heroes.”

The group is looking for a team member who has gone out of his or her way to help neighbors, to help the community, to support health care workers, or to just do something good during the pandemic — or for a team member who has gone out of his or her way to help the company continue to serve its customers during the crisis.

“Just as the hard work of grocery and pharmacy teams are keeping our pantries and medicine cabinets full, all of the teams in our industry, at digital platforms, channels and retailers; at content companies; and at all of the service and technology companies that facilitate the flow of content ultimately to the consumer are playing an important role in providing the needed entertainment to keep everyone sane during these stay-at-home days,” according to OTT.X. “We need to recognize our own heroes.”

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Entries should include a brief paragraph nominating a hero or heroes and a photo if possible. In mid-June, OTT.X will hold an online live ceremony recognizing all the heroes and presenting a few special awards. Nominations must be sent no later than May 30 to mfisher@ottx.org and include “our ottx hero” in the subject line.

In addition, OTT.X is soliciting pictures of home offices and awarding prizes. Photos should be sent to mfisher@ottx.org and include “my new home office” in the subject line.

OTT.X Schedules Online OTT Conference

OTT.X on April 9 announced its first two-day Internet-based event — OTT.X ONLINE LIVE.

OTT.X ONLINE LIVE will be held May 12 and 13 and will incorporate conference elements such as panels and presentations as well as interactive virtual roundtables. Conference topics will be presented on May 12 to a broad audience.  Many of the same topics will be further discussed in the virtual roundtables on the following day.

The online conference complements the OTT.X Market & Conference and OTT.X @ Pipeline Conference, both scheduled for later this year.

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OTT.X ONLINE LIVE focuses on the strategies and business of OTT video delivery, including distribution, search and discovery, international distribution, and strategizing and executing on ad sales.  Also included will be updated presentations by Comscore and Whip Media on the impact of COVID-19 on the OTT industry.

The conference is an outgrowth of the popular OTT.X biweekly Wednesday Webinar series, which started in March.

“While virtual conferences don’t include informal networking elements — yet, anyway — they provide an efficient platform for efficient knowledge sharing and even more so to discuss timely topics,” said Mark Fisher, OTT.X president and CEO.

“With people temporarily unable to gather in public forums, OTT.X is maintaining its community through new models like its Webinar series and OTT.X ONLINE LIVE,” added Cameron Douglas, Fandango’s VP of home entertainment and OTT.X Chair. “In this fast-moving, ever-changing industry, collaboration and communication are more important now than ever.”

Participation in OTT.X ONLINE LIVE on May 12 is free to OTT.X members, and to non-members registering before April 24  here. Participation in the virtual roundtables is by invitation only.

Companies interested in sponsoring OTT.X ONLINE LIVE are invited to contact Steve Apple at sapple@ottx.org.

OTT.X is the not-for-profit international trade association dedicated to advancing the interests of the multi-billion home entertainment industry. OTT.X-member companies operate businesses that engage in or support the commercial OTT distribution of audiovisual entertainment. Membership comprises the full spectrum of the ecosystem, including digital retailers, MVPDs, AVOD and SVOD networks and channels, platforms, companies creating and/or distributing content for these channels of distribution, and companies providing services or technology for the use of others in this community. OTT.X (formerly EMA) was established in April 2006 through the merger of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA).

 

Farewell EMA, Hello OTT.X

After more than three decades as one of the home entertainment industry’s key trade associations, the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) is broadening its focus and rebranding to become the OTT.X (the Over The Top Exchange).

According to CEO and president Mark Fisher, the new name reflects the organization’s aim to more broadly support the business of bringing entertainment to the consumer through all OTT means – including transactional video-on-demand (TVOD); subscription VOD, or streaming; and ad-supported streaming (AVOD).

Maintaining that the organization will support digital retailers, channels, networks, platforms, and MVPDs, Fisher said the vision of OTT.X is “a vibrant ecosystem of companies continually advancing the consumer experience and business of delivering audio-visual entertainment through OTT technologies,” while its updated mission is “to connect and nurture the OTT ecosystem enabling innovation, collaboration, and competition.”

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He said the association will  continue to focus on the business aspects of the industry, by facilitating business exchange and community, sharing industry insights and research, organizing and managing industry interest groups such as digital supply chain and retailing best practices, and managing a leadership development foundation.

The new OTT.X logo

The group was founded in 1984 as the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA), representing the proliferating independent video rental stores that had birthed the home entertainment industry several years earlier.

As the business shifted to regional and then national chains like Blockbuster Video, Movie Gallery and Hollywood Entertainment, the VSDA intensified its lobbying and supply chain efforts and tweaked its annual summer convention, generally held in Las Vegas, to focus more on meetings and less on elaborate booths and exhibits on the show floor.

With the arrival of DVD and the shift in the market away from rental and toward sellthrough, the VSDA scaled down its show even more and in 2006 merged with the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) to become the EMA.

The last big summer trade show was held in Las Vegas in 2007; the association subsequently focused on smaller conferences and seminars and from 2012 until last year presented the annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit for key retailers and content suppliers.

The association’s new direction — and name — are the result of its successful OTT_X Market and Conference last July and its OTT_X @ Pipeline in September, Fisher said.

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“After more than three decades, we continue to reinvent the definition of the industry that we serve as well as our model to serve and support it,” Fisher said. “I’m proud that our team — our board and staff, working together — drafted this transformational plan, positioning OTT.X to grow in both the size of its membership and the quantity and quality of its programs and services.”

“There are so many new and emerging channels and networks looking to collaborate with their peers in building a more effective ecosystem,” said Cameron Douglas, OTT.X chair and head of home entertainment at FandangoNow, one of the industry’s leading digital retailers. “I look forward to working more broadly with digital retailers, MVPDs, digital channels and networks, distribution platforms, consumer electronics manufacturers, and all the companies creating and distributing content to these channels, as well as technology-enabling services supporting our businesses.”

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Earlier in the year, Fisher told Media Play News that the association in 2020 will “formally, fully embrace the broad spectrum of OTT delivery, including SVOD and AVOD, while continuing to support TVOD. We plan to contribute significantly to supporting the ecosystem surrounding OTT including platforms, channels, content providers and service providers by expanding many of our already successful programs as well as launching new ones.

“This includes connecting companies for efficient business negotiations in events like our popular OTT.X business exchange, gathering and sharing valuable business insights and industry research in our conference sessions and facilitating the development, evangelization and education of industry best practices such as the digital supply chain work we’ve been doing over the last decade.”