Should YOU Undertake an OTT Initiative?

Say you’re a content owner. You (likely) license your content to the big services such as Netflix, Amazon and, increasingly, Hulu. But discoverability continues to be a challenge. Good content you may have, but attracting an audience when competing with hundreds or thousands of film and TV product from global distributors means that unless a viewer is actively looking for your content, it may not find eyeballs. As a result, the data collected by the services may not paint a rosy picture as to the desireability of your library. What’s a savvy distributor to do?

Instead of going big, go small. Think narrow.

Who’s your audience? Everybody? Or just some? While Netflix, Hulu and Amazon seem to have a lock on the broad market, in the past couple weeks there have been two examples of niche services debuting or making a splash with bold moves.

While it may not be able to claim being the first service in the “curated SVOD” space, MUBI certainly has been making some noise of late. Having garnered the exclusive debut of Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest film JUNUN, MUBI strategy is evident: trumps quantity, where there’s lots of competition, with quality. How? MUBI describes itself as “…the ultimate destination for watching the world’s best films”—and it’s banking on the idea that “less is more” to break out of the crowded stream dominated by Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and HBO. Instead of unleashing a firehose of content to viewers, MUBI curates 30 films at a time on its site with a new film replacing another every day. “[Netflix, Hulu, etc.] are trying to be everything for everyone,” [Founder & CEO Efe] Cakarel says of the competition. “As a result, they are not satisfying everyone. Because of our curation, we can really become the trusted service you go to to watch a quality film. We want to be the staff pick at your favorite video store.”

Following a similar path and business model, Tribeca Shortlist recently launched, offering “a curated list of films for a monthly subscription fee. The service presents more than 150 films chosen based on recommendations by popular actors, directors, insiders and influencers who know and love movies. “We’re taking a more human approach to movie discovery for viewers who want to escape the search spiral and find a great movie fast,” said Jeff Bronikowski, president of Tribeca Shortlist.

Of course, looking a little further back, it’s easy to see that Acorn TV and the Urban Movie Channel (UMC) were pioneers in this area, serving niche audiences and, as a result, seeing their businesses prosper. As announced by RLJ Entertainment, owner of Acorn TV, “Our digital streaming channels are gaining significant traction. Acorn TV paid subscribers increased an impressive 73.3% year-over-year to 130,000 and we anticipate continued growth in the quarters to come.”

All four of these services have conceded the “all things to everybody” approach to the big services, where resources, reach and large marketing budgets can be leveraged advantageously. But in doing, so these nich players are making a savvy play to leverage quality content and capture viewers (and monthly payments). These are viewers who don’t want everything, but instead want something (and something pretty specific).

Which brings us back to you, savvy distributor. Should you chance developing a streaming service of your own? It’s worth considering.

1) Niche audiences are passionate audiences. They’ll pay for the privilege of accessing specific content as proved, Opportunitymost certainly, by Acorn’s strong and continued growth.

2) Exclusivity is good for business. Why not leverage your latest acquisition, co-production or discovery under your own brand, rather than simply feeding the appetite of others? MUBI’s gambit could be yours; it’s a smart one.

3) Charting your own course. For those who have wanted to place their content on the big services, the process can be protracted and complex. Meanwhile, the momentum and publicity buzz associated with your content slowly ebbs. Return the control to you hands and be able to have your content delivered directly to your audience in days, not months.

4) The In Addition Strategy. Think of an OTT initiative as being in addition, rather than instead of, your traditional digital platform strategy. Focus on your core audience with a specialized service, while continuing to do business with the large services. After all, this remains the best place to develop NEW fans. Surveys show that the broadband households watch more video per week than traditional households.

5) Remember, OTT Development isn’t just for mega corporations. The breadth of solutions and technology which are available now allow OTT developers like Giant Interactive to assemble a solution which makes use of the best of online video providers, payment gateways and subscription services available, all of which combine to make a stellar user experience…which allows your content to shine.

Content owners who are on the fence about getting into the OTT market have a short window in which to formalize their OTT strategy, or risk being overtaken and overshadowed by other more nimble and forward-thinking services and businesses.