NAB 2016: Before Going OTT, Knowing Audience Is Key

Complete Coverage: NAB Show 2016

Las Vegas -- Some experts in the online video space gave pointers about when to take the OTT plunge at a Monday NAB Show panel, which was part of the Online Video Conference sequence. 

One of the takeaways: You better know your audience and be ready to change directions. 

“Never plan out more than six months,” said Braxton Jarrett, general manager of IBM Cloud Video Services Unit & CEO of Clearleap.

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Tastes and technologies change, and companies have got to roll with it, said Jarrett. But he advised that it’s important to be as “competitive and easy to use as Netflix.”

Andrew Ferrone, VP of pay TV at Roku, expanded on what Jarrett said, saying that successful OTT platforms must offer top content, a simple to use app and superior promotion.  

He also touted Roku’s streaming stats, telling those in the audience that users streamed 5 and a half billion hours of video in 2015, up from 3 billion hours the year before.

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The panel took place hours after it was reported that Amazon would be unbundling its streaming service, allowing viewers to subscribe on a month-by-month basis, rather than the $99 a year arrangement.

Arlen Marmel, VP of marketing and distribution for Ellation, the pay arm of the Chernin Group/AT&T’s Otter Media, told the audience that OTT is a really classic direct-to-consumer business that picks up viewers one-by-one, not through bundles.

“Do you mean something to your audience?” Marmel said would-be content creators should be asking.

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For Ellation, whose best known brand is anime-heavy Crunchyroll, Marmel said a question always asked is, “Would people wear a t-shirt with your brand on it?” If so, he said, you’re on the right track.

AOL’s David Simon, director of acquisition, said that before you make the move to OTT ask “how many viewers in that demographic are going to subscribe to it…” Not knowing can be dangerous, or telling, he cautioned. 

Howard Homonoff, senior VP of MediaLink, was around when Hulu was just starting out, and remembers that at one early company meeting, executives were so unsure about the path forward they jokingly wore t-shirts emblazoned with large question marks.