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.

 

OTT.X Presenters: Online Viewing Growing and Services Proliferating in COVID Era

COVID accelerated online viewing, viewing habits are undergoing a big transformation, and the proliferation of OTT services has prompted the need to aggregate and partner, research presenters said at the OTT.X Fall Summit in Los Angeles Sept. 1.

“In December 2019, before the viewing uptake [with stay-at-home orders] we saw about 68 million OTT households watching about 6.4 billion hours of OTT content in a month,” noted Ray Yinger, director of marketing solutions at Comscore. “By June of 2021, this had risen to about 82 million active OTT homes watching about 8.3 billion hours of content through OTT. Though we see a bit of a dropoff after January of 2021 as some of the states began opening up and we began leaving our homes a little bit, the number of households who engage in various OTT services stays very strong. As the data show, the overall appetite for OTT content accelerated through the pandemic. More households than ever before now engage in OTT services.”

With the increased viewership also came an explosion of OTT services.

“As of the first half of 2021, there are globally 5,000 active SVOD services, more than 2,000 active AVOD and free TV services and over 1,200 transactional services available to the global consumer,” noted Marija Masalskis, advertising research lead at Omdia.

Consumers are finding services on smart TVs and other aggregation players.

“When we asked consumers how they found something to watch, flicking through channels and services came up on top, particularly among the U.S. consumers,” Masalskis said. “So what this really means is that you need to be available on these platforms that enable this new channel flicking, enable seamless discovery of content, enable consumers to just lean back and scroll through and find your service.”

Other partnerships are key, as they offer free-with-sub bundles and prime placement.

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“Partnerships with global telcos and digital aggregators are essential, not just for SVOD companies to subsidize their offering but also to AVOD companies, particularly as you see the emergence of connected TV advertising,” she said. “In fact, we expect TV to account for 25% of all online video spend by 2025. And we do expect that partnerships and alliances will be absolutely necessary to reach the scale that will enable AVOD services to compete.”

Another key is consumers’ perception of value. Consumers are willing to pay less and wait through ads, and the higher-priced premium model isn’t necessarily most profitable for services such as Hulu.

“The user that pays a smaller subscription price but is exposed to advertising brings in more revenue than the user that is on their most premium tier opting to pay more to not see ads,” Masalskis said, adding “they perceive that they are getting a premium service for a discount.”

Also, binge viewing may be on the wane as a way to attract subscribers.

“What we started to see recently is that acquisition shows are starting to have a weekly release and retention shows are being dropped as a binge,” said Renee Engelhardt, global director of partner insights at Parrot Analytics.

Streaming services aren’t the only beneficiaries of the new order.

Nelson Granados, professor of information systems and technology management, Pepperdine University, noted that in addition to video streaming, digital video rental is holding its ground and digital sellthrough is continuing to grow (8% from 2016 to 2021).

“There is a market for electronic sellthrough and it’s growing, so there is a market for downloading content and it’s steadily growing unaffected by SVOD,” he said.

OTT.X Panelists Discuss Growth and Challenges of OTT Market

While the OTT market is growing exponentially, OTT players are facing several “pain points,” including the need to improve content discovery, better manage data and compete in an ever-more-crowded marketplace, said panelists Sept. 1 during the OTT.X Fall Summit in Los Angeles.

Clunky content discovery is still a problem for consumers and the OTT services that serve them.

“How do we shorten the distance between discovery and either purchase or consumption, either in terms of clicks or in terms of satisfaction to the customer?” said Chris Yates, GM of Redbox on Demand, adding it’s challenging “helping a customer find what they want to watch quickly and in the business model that matters to them.”

And the problem of discovery is only getting more complicated, especially in the ad-supported space, where the number of players is exploding, noted Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of Xumo.

“Today across the ecosystem there are maybe 1,500 linear free ad-supported TV (FAST) channels across all the platforms,” he said. “That’s going to be 10,000 in three years’ time.”

Unlike during the rise of broadcast and cable, the barriers to entry in the digital ad-supported marketplace are lower.

“Linear TV or cable TV used to be one of those places you had to have a lot of money to get access to,” Petrie-Norris said. “It is now being democratized. To get a linear national, even global TV channel is now possible for a much more humble budget.”

And that makes for a competitive landscape.

“The biggest challenge is that the FAST space is a gladiator pit where only the strong will survive,” said Erick Opeka, chief strategy officer at Cinedigm.

“Building our audience is the biggest pain point in the sense that there’s an increasingly fragmented distribution environment,” said Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle.

Getting the viewership data for digital content and evaluating what to do with it is a challenge as well.

Some platforms are “walled gardens” and do not share data, Opeka noted.

“In this ostensibly purely digital environment, you would think aggregating data and getting insights from the ecosystem would be much easier,” he said.

Data can also be overwhelming.

“We’re drowning in data and getting really good at making smart decisions out of it is tough,” he said.

Despite the challenges, the market for digital ads is hot.

“We see much more advertising demand than we have supply, which in my 30 years in working in ad-supported media I’ve never seen before,” Guelton said.

“I think advertisers today, frankly they just love the space,” Petrie-Norris added. “It’s all digital. You can track results. … It’s almost magic.”

Still, panelists said that delivering those ads could use some improvement.

Yates pointed to the “coming back soon” screens that pop up sometimes for minutes at a time when an ad doesn’t load.

“That’s an experience that the industry needs to solve,” he said.

Ad placement could also become more attuned to the viewer, perhaps with a smaller load while a consumer is casting around for something to watch and with more ads once the consumer is hooked.

Panelists also addressed the growth of PVOD — a higher-priced digital rental early in or concurrent with the theatrical window — during the pandemic as theaters shuttered.

“The real question is how long is this model sustainable,” Opeka said. “We’ve seen some pretty fantastic revenues out of the few [titles] that we’ve experimented with, way beyond what we would have thought possible … three or four times what we would have thought would be the potential pre-pandemic.”

“The one thing I can predict is if the revenues for PVOD continue to be as astronomical even for independent releases I can almost guarantee the market will be flooded with them,” he added.

Electric Entertainment Officially Launches OTT Service ElectricNow With Availability on Vizio Smart TVs

Electric Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based production, distribution and post-production company, has announced the hard launch of its OTT app and channel ElectricNow, concurrently with the app’s availability on all Vizio SmartCast televisions.

SmartCast  users have around-the-clock access to Electric Entertainment’s produced content such as TV series “Leverage,” “The Librarians” and “The Outpost,” as well as acquired programming such as the feature films Blood on the Crown, starring Harvey Keitel and Malcolm McDowell, and Heavy, starring Sophie Turner and Daniel Zovatto.

“We soft-launched ElectricNow in spring of 2020,” said Dean Devlin, CEO of Electric Entertainment, in a statement. “The consumer feedback and corresponding viewership has been well beyond our expectations.  We originally set out to create a hub where we could aggregate all of our various fan bases from ‘Leverage,’ ‘The Librarians,’ ‘The Outpost,’ ‘Almost Paradise’ and all of our podcast subscribers into a single space. Now with the app being available to this incredibly large consumer base via Vizio SmartCast, we are reaching a much broader more mainstream audience, picking up new fans along the way.”

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“With the addition of ElectricNow to SmartCast, we are continuing Vizio’s mission to provide our audiences with endless entertainment,” Chris Tanquary, director of business development and partnerships for Vizio, said in a statement. “ElectricNow’s hard launch is a great step in that effort, and gives SmartCast users access to their exciting original and acquired content.”

Electric Entertainment recently announced marathons on ElectricNow for its original programs “Leverage” and “The Outpost,” timed to coincide with the streaming and/or broadcasting of these program’s new episodes and seasons.

Devlin has seen ElectricNow as not only a one-stop-shop destination for fans of Electric’s programming, but also as a marketing tool to lead viewers to their streaming and broadcast partners, according to a company press release.

“Our fans and broadcast/streaming partners have been equally important to us,” he said in a statement. “Bringing them together has been a major initiative for us.”

YouTube and Google TV Using Parrot Analytics Data and Consulting

YouTube and Google TV are utilizing Parrot Analytics’ global audience demand data and entertainment consulting services, Parrot announced.

Parrot Analytics’ data products provide near real-time updates on the most in-demand TV series and streaming platforms in any market in the world, according to the company. The insights help inform YouTube and Google TV’s content programming decisions, Parrot announced.

“We are thrilled to be working with the world’s leading video entertainment and TV platform,” Parrot Analytics CEO Wared Seger said in a statement. “By sharing our expertise, data and consulting services in global audience demand, YouTube and Google TV will continue to evolve their content strategy based on the latest trends. We are excited to further our mission of helping more content owners and brands succeed on any screen, anywhere in the world.”

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Parrot Analytics is a global audience demand analytics company. The company helps clients with decisions in the areas of IP and content development, programming, distribution, audience and brand activation as well as global OTT strategy and operations.

Gannett Relaunches ‘USA Today’ Streaming Video Platforms

Gannett is relaunching of its over-the-top video properties, which include USA Today News and USA Today SportsWire.

Since launching OTT channels in 2018, Gannett has expanded to more than a dozen free ad-Supported streaming TV (FAST) platforms, including Xumo, The Roku Channel, Amazon Prime Video, Tubi, and Samsung TV Plus, among others. The expansion has provided substantial growth in audience and engagement reaching more than 25 million monthly views, and 200% increase in average view duration across all platforms in the last year.

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“We’re taking USA Today to all audiences in the U.S. and around the world,” Caroline Harris, VP of digital distribution at Gannett, said in a statement.

To help facilitate the expanded digital presence, Gannett is working with media technology company Amagi.

“Amagi thrives on making high quality content accessible to multi-screen audiences around the world,” said co-founder Srinivasan Ka. “Our partnership with Gannett is enabling them to tap into a wide network of connected TV households, providing linear TV viewers access to USA Today’s premium sports and news content while enhancing monetization opportunities.”

The channel programming features award-winning editorial documentaries from the USA Today Network, franchise series produced by USA Today Studios, Gannett’s premiere video production and development group, and news from insiders and the most trusted journalists in the world including the following series:

  • Humankind — In every episode, Humankind reveals the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances: people acting with grace and heroism and summoning incredible determination and dedication to a cause.
  • Problem Solved — In this series, experts at Reviewed and USA Today are learning and testing new products along with the latest viral hacks, that help make consumers’ lives a little easier.​
  • Entertain This! — The latest news in entertainment from USA Today, including pop culture, celebrities, movies, music, books and TV reviews.
  • Just the FAQs and What We Know Now — Two highly visual and complementary explainer series covering top stories and trends in news, politics, and science.
  • Sports Seriously — A weekly series that brings together the unmatched reporting and insight of USA Today Sports and Sports Media Group, and access to the top athletes and names in sports. With a fresh format, style, and substance, Sports Seriously takes a conversational approach to the biggest stories, events, and cultural touchpoints in sports, and celebrates the moments that make us all sports fans.

 

Separately, USA Today will stream the national USA Today High School Sports Awards on Aug. 5 at 8 p.m. ET. The show, co-hosted by Michael Strahan and Rob Gronkowski, is the culmination of 105 regional and statewide awards programs celebrating elite high school athletes, coaches, and teams.

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).

Rotten Tomatoes Launches OTT Channel on Roku

Rotten Tomatoes, a fan resource for movie, TV and streaming recommendations owned by Fandango, is expanding its entertainment footprint with the launch of the Rotten Tomatoes Channel, an OTT channel on The Roku Channel.

The 24/7 linear programming channel from Rotten Tomatoes will launch with more than 10 originally produced shows, totaling 100 hours of premium long and short-form video content.

The Rotten Tomatoes Channel is available now on The Roku Channel and is coming soon to Peacock, Xumo TV and vMPDs (virtual multichannel programming distributors), with more to come, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

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“We are thrilled to extend our relationship with fans through our new Rotten Tomatoes OTT channel,” said Sandro Corsaro, Rotten Tomatoes SVP and chief creative officer. “The channel will not only deliver an around-the-clock celebration of entertainment but continue our brand promise to help fans find what to watch, by delivering the best movie, TV and streaming recommendations.”

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On the Rotten Tomatoes Channel each week, viewers will get the latest trailers; breaking movie and TV news; new takes on beloved movie and TV scenes; conversations and games; and recommendations on what to watch. It will feature some of the biggest names in entertainment and will include interviews with stars such as Dwayne Johnson, Daniel Kaluuya, Awkwafina, Issa Rae, Robert Pattinson, Janelle Monae, Kevin Feige, Jordan Peele, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Zendaya and more.

Shows include:

  • “Countdown,” a countdown to the best movies, shows, scenes and more according to the Tomatometer and top entertainment experts;
  • “The Vault,” a nostalgic look back at the best star interviews, red carpet chats, games, and more from the Rotten Tomatoes archives;
  • “Trailers Reloaded,” an opportunity to relive the hype around the biggest movies and shows ever with an extensive collection of trailers;
  • “Becoming,” in which Hollywood’s biggest names break down their biggest transformations from some of their most iconic roles;
  • “Rotten Tomatoes Essentials,” an informative look back at the movies, shows, stars and directors that defined genres and eras;
  • “Versus,” which uses Tomatometer scores, box office data, and more to settle the biggest movie and TV debates of all time;
  • “Oral History,” featuring the full stories behind the world’s most cherished films, shows, and franchises, from the people who made them great;
  • “Rotten Tomatoes Exclusive Interviews,” featuring the biggest stars and filmmakers in the world opening up about the movies and TV shows that have everyone talking;
  • “Aftershow,” in which ovie lovers, critics, and industry experts debate some of the biggest movies of recent times;
  • “Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong,” a video version of the weekly podcast, exploring some of the most beloved — and despised — movies and shows ever made;
  • “Scene Breakdown,” in which filmmakers and stars breakdown some of the most memorable scenes of recent times, moment by moment;
  • “Name the Review,” in which laughs ensue when stars are faced with some of their weirdest and harshest reviews; and
  • “Five Favorite Films,” in which filmmakers and stars share their all-time favorite movies — and why they mean so much to them.

 

Visits to its editorial content were up 157.4% in 2020 from the previous year — with a 26% increase in page views to TV and streaming pages, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Parrot Research: Paramount+ Launches With Strong Originals

Paramount+ launches with strong demand for its “Star Trek” series and original dramas, with seven originals at launch that rank in the “Outstanding” category of demand, according to Parrot Analytics, placing them in the top 3% of all TV series by demand.

“The fact that the platform’s top three series are all from the ‘Star Trek’ world suggests the emphasis on Paramount+ as the home of ‘Star Trek’ could be a winning strategy, ala Disney+’s use of ‘The Mandalorian’ and ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ to build a massive subscriber base,” according to Parrot.

Paramount+ is outranking its most direct competitor — Comcast’s Peacock — in U.S. demand for original programming, according to Parrot. When compared to Peacock originals, Paramount+ has the top five and seven of the top eight most in-demand original series between the two platforms. Paramount+ has seven different series with “Outstanding” demand, compared to just one for Peacock.

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Paramount+ has chosen several highly in-demand TV franchises to reboot or expand, targeting many different audiences, from anime, to sitcoms, to procedural dramas to children’s series, Parrot noted. CBS hit “Criminal Minds” will get a reboot. The show is currently drawing 36.5x the demand of the average series in the United States, putting it in the top 0.2% of all shows by demand.

“Considering it has been off air for more than a year and it’s still drawing this much demand, new content featuring this franchise will likely expand on its already massive audience,” according to Parrot.

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is another franchise that is ripe for audience expansion, according to Parrot. The show quickly became one of the top 10 most in-demand shows in the United States when it debuted on Netflix last summer, so Paramount+ getting the shows’ creators back in their fold looks like a “savvy move,” Parrot noted.

Parrot also looked at the potential for the streaming service, analyzing the content libraries it controls, including all titles they are able to regain once all licensing rights sold to third parties expire. In this regard, Viacom stacks up pretty well in its long-term potential, finishing just a hair behind AT&T, but well above Comcast and Netflix in the battle for library content demand, according to Parrot.

“Paramount+’s strategy of doubling down on the ‘Star Trek’ franchise while rebooting older highly in-demand TV content, along with its differentiators in the sports and news space, should place it in the middle tier of the streaming competition,” Parrot noted.

Churn Is OTT’s Great Challenge of 2021; Smarter Data Is the Solution

Every click, tap, and keystroke contains valuable information about the customer on the other side of the screen. Multiply those interactions by the 200 million streaming subscribers in the United States, and the result is a trove of data on how Americans are consuming, and abandoning, content. Media executives are turning to that data to overcome the vexing problem of customer churn.

Mark Moeder

OTT churn in the U.S. market reached 41% in the first quarter of 2020, up 6% from the previous year. It dropped to 38% by the third quarter, compared with 46% in Q3 of 2019. Fluctuating subscriber trends reflect the effect of COVID-19 lockdowns and economic uncertainty, which will influence consumer behavior for years to come. Media providers are bracing for the impact.

Weathering the storm will take actionable, predictive insight gleaned from every possible first- and third-party data source. Data-driven churn mitigation strategies call for scalable technology that can make sense of the mass, and mess, of available data.

The Anti-Churn Tool Kit

Almost two-thirds of media executives see “exploiting rapidly increasing availability of data” as a business opportunity, according to a global EY survey. Those who can move swiftly from data collection to quality insight will see the greatest impact on subscriber retention.

The danger lies in impartial execution. The most accessible data sets are not necessarily the most valuable, but organizations frequently rely on such limited sources to develop the customer profiles that drive engagement strategies. Even experienced media executives may not know what other data to look for, or how to make sense of it.

Truly anticipating what customers want takes deep data analysis at scale. Enterprise artificial intelligence enables rapid and comprehensive subscriber intelligence. One of AI’s most powerful capabilities is sorting unstructured data from diverse sources to find the most valuable insight. Media providers can leverage AI technology to get more value from these five essential data sources:

  • Interactive: Every decision made says something about what matters to a customer: search queries, session frequency and duration, and content genre and theme preferences.
  • Technographic: Companies should know customers more deeply than their demographics. Factors like device hopping and ISP speed impact customers’ experience of the content they choose to engage with.
  • Quality of experience: Streaming performance is a key differentiator for VOD audiences. Metrics like initial start time, buffering instances, and bit rate contain important signals that correlate to customer satisfaction.
  • Transactional: Payment data such as credit card expiration date and billing activity can indicate which promotional tactic will be most effective to minimize subscription lapse and maximize renewals and upgrades.
  • Marketability: Advanced segmentation based on churn risk rather than familiar (but potentially less effective) demographic criteria can optimize outreach, minimize customer acquisition cost and maximize lifetime value.

 

The Window for Differentiation Is Closing

Right now, AI is a competitive advantage, but eventually it will become table stakes in the industry. In 2017, as media and entertainment companies began experimenting with AI tools, Tod Loofbourrow, an entrepreneur and former Harvard Business School lecturer, said, “We’re at the very beginning of a 20-year megatrend.” Today, the same companies are now at drastically different stages in their AI journeys. But the window for AI differentiation, when they will have the opportunity to work with that data to reduce churn, among other cost-saving benefits, is already closing.

According to a global Gartner survey of chief information officers, including those in non-media companies, AI implementation in 2019 grew a remarkable 270% in the previous four years and 37% in the past year alone. A McKinsey survey that same year found that “a majority of executives whose companies have adopted AI report that it has provided an uptick in revenue in the business areas where it is used.” Only more companies, including media and entertainment firms, will apply AI to their business in the future.

Subscriber loyalty is a critical executive priority, and data is proliferating. For media and entertainment companies, time is of the essence to leverage that data. Executives can’t afford impartial insight if they intend to take decisive action to address churn. Comprehensive, scalable intelligence is essential to make churn mitigation an immediate reality. AI technology is the most effective tool available to bridge the gap.

Mark Moeder is the CEO of Symphony MediaAI, a provider of revenue optimization solutions exclusive to the media and entertainment sector.