What is OTT (Over the Top)? OTT Meaning and How to Get Started
Over the Top (OTT) content has been around for a very long time but has typically been referred to as premium content.
OTT platforms like Uscreen, have made Over the Top content more accessible to any type of content creator. From yoga instructors to fully produced TV-style shows, you can find premium OTT content all over the internet.
To help you get started with OTT, this guide will cover:
- What is OTT? What are the different types of OTT content?
- Advantages of Creating OTT Content.
- Common OTT features
- Purpose of OTT
- Steps to creating a successful OTT platform
- Advantages of building and hosting an OTT platform
- Hurdles to creating an OTT platform (and how to overcome them)
- Common OTT software to develop and host your own OTT platform
Table of Contents
Over-the-top (OTT) refers to content delivered via the Internet that bypasses traditional channels, like cable, broadcast television companies, or over-the-air live TV broadcasting.
The name “Over-the-top” insinuates that it sits on top of the distribution system in place by traditional media companies like Comcast.
This means you pay for internet charges from Xfinity to watch Netflix without having to sift through hundreds of channels from Comcast.
The trend initially started in 2007 but accelerated in 2012 when premium platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Now, and Amazon Prime Video began delivering their content directly to consumers.
Today, OTT services are gaining tremendous popularity and completely taking over the world of entertainment.
According to a 2019 report, 74% of homes in the US have a video streaming service.
Other statistics suggest that Over-the-top media revenue is likely to reach over 167 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.
One of the biggest reasons why OTT technology was able to outdo old-fashioned media distribution channels is its easy accessibility. Viewers can access OTT services anytime, anywhere, provided they have access to an internet connection.
The speedy growth of digital platforms altered consumer behavior, increased personalized experiences, and even created cut-throat competition among media platforms.
The last few years witnessed a new trend of digital consumption worldwide.
According to Statista, 18.8% of consumers in North America intended to be ‘cord cutters’ (people who have canceled their pay-TV service from cable, satellite, or telco providers) in 2018.
And the trend got escalated during the pandemic. There is a 200% rise in time spent on digital OTT platforms.
One of the reasons people are ditching satellite and cable TV is the rising cable bill. On the other hand, OTT is relatively cheaper and more personalized, and entertaining.
As many as 82% of US adults find streaming media, film and TV content more entertaining than cable TV. And only 65.6% of US adults are TV cable subscribers.
These numbers suggest that OTT is indeed taking over satellite and cable TV. You can attribute this takeover to its affordability, numerous choices, and ability to personalize the experience.
And if you are a content creator, OTT services are a great way to get your content in front of a large audience.
Though people usually think that OTT content only includes video-on-demand, it also contains audio streaming, messaging services, and VoIP solutions via the internet.
While OTT content is a broad term, there are different OTT channels and content that one can deliver via OTT platforms.
Different types of OTT content includes:
- Video Content – It covers a wide range of educational resources, entertainment, and lifestyle content. Popular OTT video streaming channels include Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.
- Voice Services – These are services like WhatsApp, Skype, or other VoIP services delivered over an Internet connection.
- Messaging – It refers to messaging services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Line.
- Audio Applications – It refers to music streaming services like Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud, etc.
- Television – OTT content delivered through Google Chromecast and smart TVs like Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, etc.
Users with Android and Apple mobile devices can download OTT apps where they can access OTT content. Common examples of OTT apps are RDK, AppleTV, Roku, Amazon Fire, or Linux/middleware platforms.
There are a plethora of reasons to build your own OTT service as a creator and an advertiser.
Thanks to easy accessibility to different content types and live streaming options, both viewers and creators are now favoring OTT services. Artists find it as a means to create content without having to worry about a specific time frame.
Monetizing OTT content is also flexible and comes with a lot of options. For instance, OTT platforms like Uscreen let you build and monetize your apps through paid subscriptions, one-time payment models, advertising, etc.
You also stand a chance to make a great deal of profit with OTT advertising.
- With OTT ads, you can send targeted messages to the right household. It allows you to gather behavioral traits such as gender, age, income, viewing preferences, and more at the household level.
- Ads delivered through OTT can’t be skipped. They are also 100% viewable on screen. Moreover, the ads run live during, before, or after video content, so their completion rates often surpass 90%.
- OTT ads ensure undivided viewer attention. A report found that an average OTT viewer completes 98% of premium video ads. This is possible because OTT enables brands to provide relevant content to their target audience.
- OTT services allow precise targeting. Since users get a unique user ID for their own device, advertisers can use the ID to their advantage and push out relevant ads on their apps.
And since OTT platforms allow you to send targeted, relevant, and engaging ads, it leads to better ROI than traditional forms of advertising.
Other than that, OTT platforms even make it possible to understand your subscribers’ journey.
You can track their motivation, interests, and personas if you link technologies and implement the real-time analysis. All of which is possible using all-in-one OTT platforms like Uscreen, Vimeo, Muvi, and more.
You’ll be able to identify what type of content your leads are engaging with, what type of content is getting streamed on social channels, and what they search for.
Platforms like Uscreen even make it possible to identify the devices your subscribers are using to watch your content.
These data points give you an upper hand to customize your sales funnel, content, and ads based on user behavior.
Other benefits of OTT marketing includes:
- Prospect of reaching a large audience base.
- The ability to reach a younger and affluent audience.
And not just for creators and advertisers, OTT is godsent for consumers as well.
Many viewers simply love OTT because it allows them to watch “Cersei burn King’s Landing.” But it has more benefits than just watching Games of Thrones spoilers early.
Here are the characteristics that make OTT an essential media solution for viewers:
- Cost-effective – OTT channels cut through mediators to provide content directly to consumers, allowing them to cut down their costs as well. Giants like Netflix give access to countless shows and documentaries for as low as $8.99/month.
- Consumer Freedom – If we speak from the consumer’s perspective, OTT is an absolute paradise. Consumers can now watch what they want, when they want, and on any device they like. They aren’t restricted to a particular time slot or cable TV anymore.
- Ad-free or Targeted Ads – Consumers don’t have to sit through irrelevant ads anymore.
- Multi-device Compatibility – You can watch OTT on connected televisions, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, mobile devices, PlayStation, iPads, and Android tablets. All you need is a stable internet connection.
There are several OTT platforms on the market, with each offering its own unique features. It can often get difficult to figure out what features an OTT platform should have before deciding which one to go with.
Basically, all of them let you build an app with a streaming video player that people can use to watch your videos – whether on desktop computers, mobile phones, or tablets.
However, there are several other features you need to consider before you select an OTT platform.
Let’s talk about some of the key features to look for in your OTT platform:
Video hosting is essential for any video streaming software or platform. You want your OTT platform to provide more than just an embed code. You want them to host your video, so you don't have to worry about bandwidth.
Video hosting also allows you to upload, tag, manage and deliver your content easily.
Popular platforms, such as Uscreen, provide free video hosting functionality. You will be able to get your videos online quickly and even have the ability to schedule them in advance.
You need a built-in video CMS that can tackle all video content management functions, including importing, managing, and creating content. Ensure that the OTT platform you choose can quickly ingest and upload videos of all file formats.
Take Uscreen’s built-in video CMS, for instance:
It should also let you modify, delete or add meta tags to your videos from one dashboard. You should also be able to integrate social media channels with the content management system.
You have two main ways to release your OTT content: by creating a new website or an app for viewers.
Your OTT platform should provide ready-to-use, customizable templates for apps and websites. It should also provide an easy-to-use website builder to help you create and launch your OTT apps and website quickly.
You definitely want to monetize your video content, making it essential to choose an OTT platform with versatile video monetization options.
Your OTT platform should also allow video monetization models like:
- Recurring payment plans.
- Paywall, subscription.
- Video on rent.
- Ad-supported services.
- Free content combined with paid options.
Besides, it should provide additional features to execute further the monetization model you choose.
Let’s say you intend to run an ad-based VoD service. In that case, the OTT platform you choose should have an in-built ad server that will help you manage and run campaigns. The platform should also support all ad formats, such as native, banner, video, and overlay.
Other features include a safe payment gateway, coupon management, free trial, and promo offers.
Video API (Application Programming Interface) allows programmers to interact with different platforms, including an online video streaming solution. They enable programmers to quickly create online video portals, mobile apps, or their own streaming services.
With API, you can even integrate the video streaming platform within your own cloud media setting. Overall, API is great for streamlining encoding and delivery, integrating with existing Single Sign-On systems, creating custom apps, etc.
Every business requires real-time information and data to gain a competitive edge. OTT is no different.
Real-time analytics data will provide you insights about your visitors, highest viewed content, revenue data, breakdown by topographical region of your viewers, length of viewership, and so on.
The addition of this in-depth analysis will help you improve your approach and plan future content. Consequently, it will lead to an increase in revenue and a decrease in churn.
Having an all-inclusive player that’s quick and offers the right user experience is crucial.
The OTT platform should provide a video player with these essential features:
- Resume playback
- WebSRT and WebVTT-based subtitle support
- VOD and Live Streaming (HLS) support
- Adaptive Bitrate Support (auto and manual bitrate switching)
- Compatible with VPAID tags, VAST, Google IMA, and Facebook audience network tag
- User management
Admins should also be able to manage user access, onboard and off-board users, send a reset password, cancel subscriptions, configure rules, etc.
On the viewers’ end, they should be able to control numerous profiles under one account, view content offline, and track history.
Your viewers might want to share their favorite content with their friends on social networking platforms. Social media sharing will help you generate word-of-mouth, which is more effective than paid advertising. As a result, you’ll be able to reach more viewers and grow your network.
Built-in marketing tools can build lasting value for your site and apps. For instance, a built-in SEO tool can let you score higher in the search engines.
Ideally, your OTT platform should offer marketing tools to help you retain subscribers, cross-sell, upsell, reduce churn rate, recover abandoned carts, etc.
Major OTT platforms, such as Uscreen, even offer landing page templates and builders to help you build email lists and grow your audience.
Other features to consider are the cost of the platform, integration with other systems, and the quality of customer service.
OTT initially appealed to an audience that had grown weary of televised commercials and the traditional cable model of content distribution.
But it was not just an overnight sensation.
OTT first came into the picture in 2007 when Netflix started offering its subscribers the option to stream some of their shows directly at their homes using the internet.
However, the breakthrough for online TV happened in 2013 when Netflix released its first original web series called “House of Cards.” The show was a major success and went on for six seasons and received several accolades – for the artists and Netflix.
Fast forward to today, Netflix has 207.64 million paid subscribers worldwide (reported as of the first quarter of 2021).
And not just Netflix, the market is now inundated with numerous platforms like Netflix, providing consumers with a flexible content viewing experience.
The success of OTT platforms can be attributed to the numerous problems they solve and the purposes they serve.
Here are some of the purposes that OTT content serves:
The most significant purpose of OTT is to provide commercial-free viewing, on-demand content, and unrestricted access to the channel. This provides an excellent value for consumers while forcing traditional TV distributors to evolve and improve the services they offer.
This trend will continue with big names like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime now offering original content.
In the past, television viewers weren’t able to choose what they were watching on air.
OTT services make it possible for consumers to watch as many shows they want at their preferred time and place. Consumers can even watch different shows or different episodes of the same show consecutively.
What's more, consumers now have total control over what they want to watch, unlike before, when they needed to sit in front of their TV sets at a specific timeslot.
Many OTT providers even let you broadcast live content over the Internet without having to invest in expensive broadcast hardware or subscriptions.
Since OTT broadcasts are essentially branded video content, they can reach large audiences without investing in advertising or paying for equipment. In addition, you can build custom branding for your channel by adding colors, titles, graphics, and logos.
When people hear video streaming platforms, they usually think about OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the likes.
However, there are tons of other OTT platforms you may not hear about because they probably aren’t doing well.
Launching a successful OTT service requires a great deal more than simply building an app. You have to invest in marketing, business alignment, and an all-inclusive tech platform.
So what are the successful OTT platforms doing right? Let’s find out what it takes to create a successful OTT platform.
When you start creating your OTT platform, you will have to pick a popular niche. Entertainment is among the most popular niches today. However, you’ll be competing with giants like Netflix if you choose a broad niche like entertainment.
Instead, it’s a great idea to choose more narrowed down niches like eSports, lifestyle, fitness, poker games, and eLearning are doing well.
By building a dedicated streaming service in these niches, you will be able to target a specific audience.
Next, consider the type of audience you want to watch your videos.
Consider asking yourself these questions:
- Does your target audience consist of kids?
- Or do you want adults to view your videos?
- Or do you want all types of audience?
- What’s the gender? Their geographical location?
- Do you want to create videos that cater to a specific culture?
Choosing a specific niche helps you create targeted content and more personalized marketing campaigns.
OTT platforms allow their users to monetize both on-demand and live videos. On-demand content is more popular wherein the content gets delivered to the targeted audience depending on their convenience and preferences.
Here are some of the revenue models you can choose from:
- Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) – It provides unlimited subscription OTT content. The subscription can be monthly, annual, or even quarterly. Example: Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, YouTube TV, etc.
- Advertising Video on Demand (AVOD) – Here, you get paid for the adverts placed on your show by sponsors. This business model lets you provide a free service to viewers. They only have to sit through adverts, albeit highly targeted ads. You can run ads at the beginning, in between, or at the end of the video.
- Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD) – This is a pay-per-view or pay-per-download model, where users pay only for the shows they wish to access. Example: YouTube movies, iTunes, etc. (Here is a list of YouTube alternatives I put together.)
Live streaming media has its benefits too. You’ll be able to offer user-centric content in real-time and monetize it using the pay-per-view model.
Now that you’ve picked out your business model, it’s time to create a website to embed and host your videos. Distributing your content using a website comes with plenty of benefits.
It will help you:
- Rank higher in search engines.
- Add a landing page to grow your email list.
- Build an integrated payment gateway.
- Engage your audience using comments and live chat.
- Provide quick customer support.
Plus, your viewers can always turn to your website if they are unable to access the app.
Now it goes without saying that your website should be attractive, intuitive, and easy to navigate.
Your aim should be to provide the best possible user experience to your subscribers – on par with the likes of Netflix.
If you fail to provide an intuitive UX, your subscribers will get tired of searching through thousands of videos to find the ones to their liking.
Note that most popular OTT sites don’t have large search bars on their home page. The page starts with a video instead, followed by a list of the subscribers’ favorite or previously watched shows, allowing an intuitive aned personalized user experience.
For instance, Netflix personalizes the user experience they offer from the very first page itself.
Here’s what their Who’s Watching page looks like:
Netflix allows users to create separate profiles on one account. It also offers separate and personal content recommendations for each profile.
Also, provide a smooth onboarding process to your subscribers by doing away with long sign-up forms.
Your video player’s controls are also prominent pillars of a platform’s interface that can influence the overall user experience. Use them logically to guide users through your website or app. Even first-time users should not face any issues.
For instance, take a look at Amazon Prime’s video player:
The UI controls are spread out on the corners and in the middle. Since Play/Pause, forward, and backward are the most used controls, they prioritized them by placing them at the center. You can find the rest of the controls at the corner of the screen.
OTT apps are the future of video streaming, allowing subscribers to watch what they want, whenever they want, and on any device.
First and foremost, you have to choose the type of app you want to create.
There are usually four types of OTT apps:
- Mobile Phone
- Smart TV
Each type of app serves its own purpose. The decision depends on your content and how your audience would like to access it.
For example, if you’re teaching Yoga to your audience, they’re going to require plenty of space to follow your instructions. The chances are that they’ll watch your videos on a large screen to practice the steps simultaneously.
This means apps for Smart TV are perfect for you.
While building your app, configure your branding, logo, and theme colors. They should remain consistent throughout.
Again, focus on the user experience and an intuitive user interface.
You can simply use Uscreen to configure everything for you, from the setup to the final launch of the app.
Your content distribution shouldn’t be limited to mobile devices or desktop only. Ensure that it’s available to anyone who wants to download or access it through any device, including tablets, gaming consoles, blu-ray players, smart TVs, etc.
Making your content available at all possible corners of portable tech devices will ensure greater outreach. Luckily, many OTT platforms do the heavy lifting for you.
For example, Uscreen has a built-in video player that can get embedded on any platform you want.
Your player ensures that your videos get optimized to fit any screen or device automatically. The platform even configures your content delivery depending on the device your subscribers need to view them.
Additionally, Uscreen lets you launch your apps on Apple TV, Roku, Apple Store, Android Store, Fire TV, Android TV, and more.
Your subscribers won’t be able to buy certain features or products without leaving the app unless you allow in-app purchases.
That’s why it’s essential to integrate secure payment gateways into your platform. Allow your subscribers to enjoy seamless money transfers within the app.
With users consuming content across any device, understanding their behavior is the key to creating a valuable user experience. You need to understand what your users need and want to create more personalized content.
You should be privy to information like:
- Who your users are
- What devices they’re on
- How they’re finding and navigating through your content
- If they’re coming back for more
Pick an OTT platform that provides built-in analytics tools. It should have in-depth reports like real-time traffic updates, user behavior analytics, current viewership status, revenue report, etc.
Social media is a powerful medium to reach subscribers and increase video views. In fact, video content is the driving force on social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more. According to statistics, Facebook generates 4 billion video views daily.
Social channels can prove to be great mediums to find your audience. Use teasers, trailers, or other marketing style content to widen your outreach daily.
You can also allow social sharing within your app or desktop site. Offer a way to your viewers to share their favorite content with their friends on their social media pages.
While traditional TV content is facing challenges such as cord-cutting and bandwidth caps, OTT services continue to attract an audience with little interest in traditional TV viewing.
And with mobile technology starting to embrace the 5G delivery format suitable for delivering superior quality streaming video, it’s the best time to introduce your own OTT service.
That said, there are several reasons why your OTT business can be unsuccessful.
Here are some challenges you might face (along with the ways to overcome them):
Increased competition is going to be a significant challenge for OTT platforms. And Netflix, the giant video streaming platform, is not the only OTT service you will be competing with.
Not only do they have an entire library of original shows and movies, but these big names also continue to expand their library with more exclusive shows and movies.
With so many players in the space, it might become challenging for startups to stand out and grab consumers' attention.
The easiest way to stand out amidst your competitors is by trying to outdo them any way you can. While you might not outdo their advertisement campaigns, you can provide more value for money to your viewers.
For example, while Netflix allows you to watch their shows on one screen at a time, you can up the ante by enabling four viewers per subscription. You can also attract audiences by offering a freemium plan or access to some free content.
The industry is saturated with online services and products. As a result, many users find themselves exhausted due to constantly renewing and switching between subscription services.
A study found that 47% of US subscribers are put off by increasing subscription services. This is leading to subscription fatigue as a result of engaging with too many platforms.
This indicates that consumers don’t want to subscribe to more services now. They’d rather get more options and tailored services from their current subscriptions.
One way to tackle subscription fatigue is by striking the right balance between delivering high-quality content and retaining customers. Also, make sure to eliminate as many signup barriers as you can to make onboarding easy for your audiences.
Understanding your target audience is an integral part of running any effective business, even OTT. If you’re unable to identify the needs and desires of your audience, you won’t be able to get them to subscribe to your platform.
You should know who will be watching your content, in which country, and what type of content they prefer to watch. This is especially true for niche channels. To avoid misunderstanding your audience, don’t target a niche that is too narrow or over-crowded.
Using the wrong tech and equipment in OTT can pose a considerable challenge for many platform owners. Using the wrong equipment could affect your entire campaign: your performance metrics, your click-through rates, and the number of subscribers/shares you generate.
The right way is to take advantage of what cloud technology has to offer. Cloud offers its users the ability to scale quickly, and you don’t have to invest in on-premises equipment.
Apps also need to strengthen their video player’s security and ensure no resources (RAM, CPU usage) waste too much video space.
At the same time, you should also leverage online OTT platforms like Uscreen, Vimeo, and more to make the process easier.
Offering a poor user experience is a big challenge. Online viewers already know how Netflix developed in recent years into an extra efficient way of connecting customers with content. It also offers stellar user interface design and support across many platforms.
Besides, the platform offers personalized recommendations. If you want to entice your customers, you’ll also have to provide similar user experiences.
There are many different platforms available out there that make it easy for you to build your own OTT platform.
Here are my top 3 picks for the best OTT software:
Uscreen OTT is a video platform that allows creators and video publishers to distribute their videos across any device. It also helps you launch your own branded OTT apps – no coding required.
The all-in-one video streaming platform provides features like:
- Video CMS – You can upload videos in bulk and organize content into different categories. It also enables you to add custom filters and upload extras.
- Stream On-demand – The platform allows you to showcase your content in an on-demand video catalog.
- Stream Live – You can broadcast live content on your app. It even lets you schedule events in advance and build excitement with a countdown overlay.
- Monetization – It allows you to monetize your content using versatile models, including monthly/annual subscriptions, one-time purchases, on rent, and pay-per-view. You can also accept credit cards and PayPal.
- In-Depth Analytics – Understand your viewers’ preferences and how your content is performing with in-depth data analysis.
- Build Your Own App – You get pre-designed, branded apps to provide the best streaming experience to your audience on any device.
Additionally, it works on all devices and lets you embed your videos using its HTML5 player.
Pricing: The pricing plan starts from $49 per month. However, you can opt for the custom plan for branded apps.
Dacast is a live streaming online video platform that helps you host on-demand video content and live broadcast events. The platform offers low latency online live video solution that runs on top-tier CDNs.
It lets you build your own video platform from scratch using RESTful APIs. You can even build branded mobile apps using the platform’s iOS and Android SDKs.
Some of its key features include:
- Mobile Streaming – You can stream live to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs. The platform’s HTML5 video player ensures compatibility with modern devices and browsers.
- High-Definition Streaming – You can broadcast in up to full HD 1080p resolution via the Akamai network. Besides, you will be able to deliver videos with multi-bitrate tech.
- White-label Platform – The platform allows you to customize the video player with your logo and colors to control the look and feel of your channel.
- Embed Videos – It offers an “embed codes” feature to share a video or live stream on any web page. You'll also be able to share videos via social media.
- Video Hosting in China – Dacast allows you to deliver your video-on-demand in China without buffering.
Muvi is an all-inclusive OTT platform and VoD service provider. It helps you stream, launch, and host your audio and video content online.
Here are Muvi’s most prominent features:
- Live Streaming – Live stream anything you want, including TV shows, sports, news, and events.
- Video on Demand – You can launch a multi-screen platform like Netflix. The end-to-end video solution includes infrastructure, video player, CMS, billing engine, customizable website themes, and TV Apps.
- Audio / Music Streaming – The platform lets you launch your own Audio / Music Streaming service.
- Live Broadcast – You can launch your own Live Broadcast Radio channel. It has all functions in place to help you stream talk shows to your own Radio Channel.
Pricing: It starts at $399 per month.
OTT is no longer a “niche” sector used by a select few providers and viewers. Thanks to its affordability, ease of use, engagement, outreach, and ability to personalize, OTT is gaining tremendous popularity.
You can also grow your revenue significantly using OTT content. All you need is the right content, monetization strategies, and a branded app.
Luckily, third-party platforms provide you access to all of these elements from a single dashboard.