OTT Turbulence

Syfy later this summer will debut the third installment of its Sharknado original horror film franchise. While viewers will have to wait a full seven months to once again watch a hapless American city fight a swirling tornado of man-eating sharks, the cable industry through the first month of 2015 has had to withstand a squall of new original content from competing over-the-top video streaming services. 

The industry has been hit with an Over-the-Topnado of unprecedented proportions.

Both Netflix and Amazon hope to stir up their TV and theatrical movie platforms with original content twisters, while Hulu and Crackle are chasing the storm.

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos whipped up the programming winds at the recent National Association of Television Programming Executives conference when he said the streaming service could produce as many as 20 original series a year, besting the output of many cable networks. That forecast came on the heels of the streaming service’s continued effort to tap the creative community by signing actor Will Arnett to star in a comedy series dubbed Flaked, which will debut in 2016.

Moreover, Netflix last week committed to streaming Sony’s controversial The Interview and is already signaling its intentions to stream the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon day-and-date with its release in IMAX theaters.

Not to be outdone, Amazon, which blew the hats off of many industry observers with a recent Golden Globe Award win for its original comedy Transparent, created another maelstrom when it announced plans to enter the theatrical movie business. The service said it will produce as many as 12 original movies a year, starting later this year.

The movies will appear on the Amazon Prime Instant streaming service four to eight weeks after their theatrical debuts, and will focus on "unique stories, voices and characters from up-and-coming creators," the company said.

Hulu caught up to the content storm, announcing a partnership to create an original comedy series with filmmaker Freddie Wong, Lionsgate and digital movie studio RocketJump. Crackle, meanwhile, may help break up the clouds hanging over parent company Sonyafter announcing it will finally stream The Interview (which is generating its own revenue storm to the tune of $40 million from online and on-demand purchases).

With the cyclone of original OTT content touching down so early in the year, the cable industry can reliably forecast more OTTnados throughout the year. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.