If you're in the local broadcast or media buying space, you know there's no shortage of opinions around over-the-top (OTT) and the local broadcasters' role in it. In my role at Syncbak, however, I have direct experience seeing their massive amounts of success with live OTT channels every day; they're reaching viewers wherever they are, whenever they are ready to watch. Attracting and retaining local viewers has always been top of mind for broadcasters, but it's now key -- and that's the OTT differentiator.
The news that Netflix is raising prices drove a flurry of social posts last week, suggesting that higher prices will cause viewers to be more selective about their streaming programming subscriptions. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but media companies, small and large, are making investments in free OTT (over-the-top/streaming) services. That didn’t come as a surprise to me because several months ago I spoke with Jack Perry, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Syncbak. His position at the time was that local broadcasters had a huge role to play in the future of streaming television and that more and more viewers would be getting their television through streaming services. Beyond the recent press, growth at Syncbak just since the summer bears that out.
Time was, the future of OTT (over-the-top) was understood as the ability for users to watch whatever they wanted, only what they wanted, whenever and on whatever device they wanted. Oh, and the viewing would mostly be free or much cheaper than cable bundles and feature fewer or no annoying ads. This idea was born of technology visionaries who weren't really thinking through user behaviors, let alone realistic business models. The fact is, audiences are accustomed to having access to a lot of quality video and live TV. They used to get that from traditional cable bundles, but those have become perceived as too expensive, weak on VOD or as forcing consumers to pay for channels they rarely watched -- with "too many ads!" So, "more for less" sounded good, but maybe it was too good to be true. Now, reality is starting to sink in.