Next TV Summit 2017: Brand Is the Thing, Even in OTT World

New York – Over-the-top services may be busting the traditional programming bundle, but the need for packaging and branding video remains, especially as content choices grow exponentially, according to a panel of experts at the NextTV Summit here Wednesday.

“While the barrier to entry has gone way down,” it is getting tougher and tougher to succeed for new entrants, said Arlen Marmel, general manager of VRV at Ellation, during a discussion titled "Myths vs. Realities: The Future of TV Distribution" at Multichannel News/B&C’s NextTV Summit, part of NYC Television Week. He added that all the different content choices can get “lost in the ocean,” if they aren’t presented in a manner that makes it easy for consumers to find it.

Read More: Complete Coverage of #NYCTVWK

VRV, which was launched last year, is a subscription service that brings consumers gaming, anime, comedy, drama and technology content through a bundle of different channels, including its own streaming anime service, Crunchyroll, and others like Nerdist and Rooster Teeth.

“In traditional TV, if you got a channel on linear, you were pretty set for a while,” Marmel said. “It benefited a lot of major media companies to have a lot of brands, [because] more channels meant you got paid more. In OTT there is a contraction.”

He pointed to networks that are consolidating apps for several networks into a few to lessen the confusion. 

“A lot of media providers saw OTT as a means to claw back control,” Marmel said. “What has played out is a lot harder than they expected. Maybe customers don’t want 250 apps for 250 channels.”

Read More: Complete Coverage of the Next TV Summit

While ease of use and bundling is important, so is being connected to an established brand, People TV general manager Susanne Mei said. People TV is a spin-off of People magazine, which has the largest audience of any magazine in the U.S.

“Launching without a brand would be terrifying,” Mei said.

Mei added that partnering with other aggregators and distributors, like Amazon Channels, is a way to break through the clutter. She pointed to People parent Time Inc.’s plan to launch SI TV via Amazon Channels. People TV is already on digital platforms like Pluto and Zumo.

Related: Amazon Channels Offers Consumers More Content Choices

“It’s really about getting the content out there first, then expanding the universe of opportunity,” she said.

Navigation also is becoming an issue as more and more services emerge. At Zone TV, CEO Jeffrey Weber said his company is melding old and new technology, utilizing a version of the traditional electronic program guide (EPG).

Zone TV curates, programs and distributes digital content to pay TV, giving both access to mediums they normally wouldn’t have access to. Weber added that Zone TV recently launched two services with a large operator, one that was placed within the EPG and one that was accessed via a regular menu. The EPG-placed service had usage that was a full order of magnitude higher than the one available only through the menu. 

“The guide is extraordinarily powerful still,” Weber said.