The revolution will be streamed. There's no mistaking the explosion of content to screens of varying shape, size and connectivity.
But as consumption skyrockets and choice expands, a few challenges are emerging.
No matter what you call it -- over-the-top, streaming, TV Everywhere -- Internet Provider-cased video delivery has to be "better than broadcast" and harmonize with a range of requirements to incorporate customer experience with monetization and more. Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) is absolutely critical to nearly all TV Everywhere and/or OTT strategies and deployments today.
Digital decision-makers need to begin planning to initiate these offerings as a profit center rather than as a cost center. But many media managers (and perhaps their counterparts in advertising) don't realize the hyper-targeting capabilities that today's streaming experiences can deliver on devices.
Given that each user maintains a unique connection with the cloud when they consume streams, we can deliver ads specific to them; in other words, two viewers of the same stream on opposite sides of a direct marketing appeal can and will receive discretely different ads based on those locations.
That means that advertisers can reach more relevant viewers with hyper-local ads. Taking it one step further, an overlay ad displayed over the lower third of a video ad can offer a real-time couponing opportunity that results in an immediate transaction for advertisers (think of a coupon from Starbucks saved to Passbook on iOS that the user redeems minutes later in the store).
Even if the target audience is somewhat larger (say, regional), some of today's OTT video supply chains can serve to delineate between local, national and regional ads. Any of the three can be replaced, when broadcast and digital ad reach are sold together.
In short, over-the-top content and today's video technology is creating a renaissance in the space.
Live streaming for events continues in growth and popularity. From hockey to football, and boxing to baseball, the PGA, NBA, NFL, MLB and other sports organizations are expanding the number of live events and content they offer.
This NFL season will see the first ever, streaming only consumption of a game in its history. Internet pioneer Yahoo! reportedly paid in the neighborhood of $20 million for the rights to stream the mid-season game of the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. The event represents an interesting start to a future model of direct-to-consumer OTT delivery for the NFL. Expect every sports league and organization to continue to look to streaming to build their brand and reach, increase user engagement, and potentially to explore ad-supported content to compliment subscriptions.
At the same time, the rise of instant streaming applications such as Meerkat and Periscope from Apple and Mentions from Facebook has opened up new ways to consume live content from all over the world. The impact for these apps on live sporting events remains uncertain and unclear at this time. Both the NFL and the PGA have banned their usage or, at a minimum, barred journalists from using them from behind the ropes. This may be shortsighted; subscription and ad placement revenue in and around this content could be real drivers, if companies choose to explore rights entitlement and sponsorships.
On both these key fronts, expect to see more engagement, movement and advances in the next 18 months or less. Over-the-top delivery of video represents the largest tidal wave to impact media consumption in history and will likely outpace VHS, DVD, BluRay and HDTV in terms of how quickly viewers will adapt and adopt. Each of those technologies improved the viewing experience and outpaced their predecessors in time to market and mass adoption. Streaming delivery and the massive growth of device-driven consumption is expanding and moving ahead at a pace that many industry experts and analysts struggle to define.
For those who create and deliver content, the question of going to market has moved from "Should we?", to "How fast can we get there?", sprinkled in with a little "How can we monetize our content?". But this shift is imperative in the race to meet viewers on the screens of their choice.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.