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Are There Too Many OTT Services? This Is What Industry Insiders Think

Jason Gurwin

In a panel this morning at The Pay TV Show in Denver, industry insiders debated whether we have just too many OTT services. One major change in the last five years in the industry, has been the launch of 200-300 of these streaming services, from vMVPDs like Hulu Live TV, to expansion of services like Amazon Prime Video, and niche services like Acorn TV, which focuses on British television.

Gary Schauman from Charter described the market as a barbell. “I think it’s a race for massive share of consumer wallet,” said Schauman. On one side he described the decline in growth in vMVPDs, with their market under tremendous pressure. But on the other, he thinks there “will continue to be growth of niche services” with better aggregation models like The Roku Channel and Amazon Channels.

One of the key pieces is whether the services can differentiate themselves. Scott Elrich from Sinclair Media Group discussed how they think STIRR, which competes with services like Pluto TV, Xumo, and tubi, is primed to be different in the free ad-supported space. “The thing we’re featuring is local channels. We have a very large news offering. It’s essentially a free vMVPD and the local part of it gives us a unique advantage.”

From the programming side, networks need to decide whether it’s worth it to focus on working with distributors like cable companies or selling their content on their own. Roy Cho, VP of Distribution at AMC Networks described his company’s approach as being in the “experimental phase.” By launching AMC Premiere, which offers AMC programming without ads, “we are disrupting our own business — since 50% of our revenue comes from ads.”

Most of the panelists believe that vMVPDs like Sling TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV NOW are completely viable, but not everyone will survive. Schauman said, “Satellite guys didn’t go away. Telcos didn’t go away. There are going to be winners in the vMVPDs. In our perspective, it’s ok, you’re still going to need broadband.”