The Future Is Here, and It's OTT

OK, that over-the-top (OTT) appears to be the future of video isn't really news any more. What is news is that it's accelerating, and in places ...

Speed freaks, rejoice: DOCSIS 3.1 just came another step closer to reality.
Speed freaks, rejoice: DOCSIS 3.1 just came another step closer to reality.
OK, that over-the-top (OTT) appears to be the future of video isn't really news any more. What is news is that it's accelerating, and in places you wouldn't necessarily expect.

A couple announcements that came out in the last week illustrate the point.

Probably most important is the beta launch of Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Watchable, which curates online video content from about 30 different non-Comcast sources and presents them all in one place for anywhere, any time viewing. The MSO plans to add features and content sources as the trial goes on.

Why is this important? Because OTT content presently is scattered all over hither and yon, and is neither easy nor intuitive to find. By putting it all (well, not really "all" yet) in one place, Comcast is making life easier for its OTT aficionado customers, which can be expected to reduce churn, either via subs who use the service to augment a video subscription or in place of one. And rather than just being a value-added perk, the service is also ad-supported, so Comcast can actually make money on it.

Verizon (NYSE:VZ) also announced a mobile OTT video service last week, go90. The model is very similar to Comcast's, though with a heavier focus on social media and mobile-only. It's not clear yet whether it's ad-supported. If it isn't, it almost certainly will be soon.

In the larger picture, both services represent an example of how traditional video service providers can adapt successfully to a shifting business model. Some say the traditional content aggregator role is dead, but it's not - it's just changing. Video viewing is actually up, especially among OTT viewers, and it's eminently wise to go after that market by aggregating the content they actually watch in one convenient place. Kudos to Comcast and Verizon for (A) seeing the writing on the wall and (B) acting on it.

It's a pretty safe bet that other video service providers will follow suit.

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