Wikipedia.com explains it as “on-line delivery of video…without the Internet Service Provider being involved in the control or distribution of the content itself.” PCmag.com defines it as “…providers such as Netflix and Hulu streaming movies and TV shows over the Internet….” And Dow Jones & Company’s “All Things D” (www.AllThingsD.com) recently referred to it as “…delivering TV over the Web instead of via traditional cable pipes.” With tens of thousands of online sources referring to this phrase on a daily basis, why is it that people are still confused when someone mentions “over the top” media, “over the top” entertainment, “over the top” distribution or OTT?
To gain a clear understanding of what “over the top” is, we contacted Joe Q. Bretz, President of The Digital Development Group Corp., a publicly traded company in the OTT space that offers OTT content to consumers and OTT solutions for content owners who may possess libraries of movies and TV programs that sit on a shelf because they currently cannot be broadcast on today’s devices, such as tablets, computers, and cell phones. “To comprehend what OTT is, we should first mention the devices that can broadcast or carry the content that the consumer will see. DVD players and video game consoles, Smart TVs, stand-alone internet connected devices such as Roku and Google TV, tablets, and smart phones are some of the devices that can deliver the content. These devices piggyback on existing network services (such as your internet service provider or cell phone service provider) and pull the content from the Internet that the consumer can watch. Here’s where the phrase “over the top” comes into play because these devices ride “on top” of the services the consumer already has and pays for (Internet connectivity or cell phone service). The consumer already has an ISP and likely also has a contract for cell phone service with a Sprint or an AT&T. The ISP and mobile service provider is providing the pipeline / distribution channel for the content but does not control, distribute, interfere with or participate in the actual delivery of the content. It simply relays the content. It is important to understand the distinction between this and what many people may confuse with video-on-demand (VOD), which entails more than just delivering the content. VOD services also entail billing responsibilities, broadcast rights, storage, and more, whereas OTT devices only transmit the content. As such, ‘OTT,’ whether it is followed by the word ‘media’, ‘entertainment’, ‘distribution’, or ‘television’ refers to the billions of hours of programming or content that a consumer can watch via an Internet-connected device without the provider of the Internet service being involved.”
The importance of OTT distribution comes heavily into play for companies that own movies, TV programs, and other forms of content but can’t broadcast this content and generate revenue because the content “doesn’t fit” newer devices. For example, a TV series from 1960 may only be able to be shown on a traditional TV set because it’s only formatted for a TV–not for an iPad, Galaxy Tab, or cell phone. With OTT, content owners with presumably dead content can breathe life into them, broadcast them to millions of new consumers, and generate revenue by having their content digitized and custom fit for any OTT device.
OTT is not coming–it’s already here. And it’s poised to fundamentally change the world of media consumption and delivery.