So Many OTT Choices

I get asked by clients all of the time about how long they should stay in the video business. Most small providers are losing money on video and most of them are becoming less wedded to sticking with the product. By now just about everybody is familiar with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime as alternatives to traditional cable TV. Additionally, there are now numerous skinny bundles like Playstation Vue, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and soon those will be joined by YouTube TV and a new unnamed service from Hulu. It’s becoming a lot easier for people with good household bandwidth to cut the cord. But there are a lot more alternatives that don’t get as much press as the above options, and today I’m going to take a look some of the other choices. A cord cutter can put together an amazing array of content with a little work. Many of these networks offer free trials.

FuboTV. This was launched in early 2015 and carried mainly soccer. But the service has expanded to a 70 channel line-up that includes popular networks and is heavy on sports. They offer a wide range of sports programming to include the Fox Sports channels, the Big 10 Network plus a lot of off-beat networks that carry things like rugby, the European golf tour, motorcycle racing and boxing. The service comes with free on-line DVR storage.

Layer3 TV. This company is taking a different approach to everybody else. They are offering large packages at cable company prices for those that like the big packages but don’t like cable company customer service. They are not available everywhere yet. They offer 200 channels of HD programming and a lot of 4K programming, a great settop box, a high-capacity DVR, and integration with most social media and the promise of great customer service.

Sundance Now. This is a service that offers indie films, award winning foreign films and independent documentaries.

Curiosity Stream. They offer a number of non-fiction documentaries, heavy on science, technology, history and nature.

BritBox. This service from BBC Worldwide carries over 2,000 hours of British TV.

Feeln. This is a service that specializes in ‘feel-good’ movies.

Jazz & Blues TV. This features music documentaries and concerts.

Rooster Teeth. This is service that is popular with millennials and that grew out of a popular series Red vs. Blue from YouTube.

FilmStruck. They carry the kind of films that were shown on Turner Classic Movies.

Shudder. The service carries a big library of horror films. Don’t expect the blockbuster classics, but they seem to have everything else.

Fandor. This has been described as the service for film majors. It includes indie films, classics, silent movies, foreign films, documentaries and shorts.

SeeSo. Contains uncensored standup comedy.

Other Pay Streaming Services. There are new ones being added all of the time, but not included above are Acorn TV, ConTV, DramaFever, RabbitTV, Vid Angel, VUDU, Warner Archive and TV Land.

Individual Channels. You can also buy individual channels like CBS ALL-Access, HBO Go, Showtime, Starz, and the CW Network.

Free Programming. There is a mountain of free content available. This includes sites like AOL ON, Break, CollegeHumor, Crackle, CW Seed, Funny or Die, Itenu, Internet Archive, Mohu One, My Damn Channel, PBS, PlutoTV, PopcornFlix, Red Bull TV, ShareDots, ShareTV, Shout!, Simpsons World, SnagFilms, South Park Studios, teamcoco.com, TestTube, The Onion, Tubi TV, TV.com, VEVO, Viewster, Vimeo and Yamgo.

Free News. This includes 60 Minutes All Access, Bloomberg, C-SPAN, CBS News, and NBC News.

I think the bottom line is that your customers can put together some amazing package of programming as an alternative to traditional cable TV. A customer could use rabbit ears for local stations and for $50 – $70 per month could do Netflix and a number of the above OTT products and have a great tailored programming package. And it’s likely that the online choices will be increasing. I have several clients who have dropped cable TV and who are glad about it. I think the above puts the writing on the wall and every small cable company ought to at least add this as a topic of company conversation.

OTT Update May 2016

TelevisionThere is so much activity in the OTT space that I might need one of these updates every few months. It seems as soon as I publish one a new set of changes gets announced in the industry.

Hulu Announcement. The biggest OTT news is that Hulu just announced that they are putting together an OTT skinny bundle package. It’s not expected to launch until next year, but Hulu has already struck deals with Disney and Fox, which happen to be two of its corporate parents. The Hulu package is interesting because this really represents the major programmers taking a shot at stealing customers away from their cable company customers.

Hulu’s history is pretty interesting in that their owners – Disney, Fox and NBC Universal (Comcast) – were very careful in the early days to not give Hulu great content that would upset the cable companies. But that seems to have changed. Hulu is now getting access to many more movies and other content and is making a major run at Netflix. Since it’s owned by programmers who themselves have a lot of content, Hulu certainly has a chance to eventually become the dominant OTT player. I’m seeing a lot of web articles talking about how Netflix is losing their sheen as their content choices dwindle.

YouTube Unplugged. After having this on the shelf for the last four years it looks like Google and YouTube are finally getting serious about launching a skinny bundle of their own. They are in talks with the major programmers and are talking about launching early next year.

YouTube already launched the YouTube Red subscription service last fall that bundles together the premium content found only on YouTube. It’s aimed at younger viewers who seem to prefer YouTube as a source of video content. The cable companies are going to have to start sweating with Hulu and YouTube both making a major play to attract people away from traditional cable packages.

CBS and Star Trek. CBS has announced that after it airs the first episode of its new Star Trek series on TV that all future episodes will be available only on the online CBS All Access Platform. This is a major play to sell more subscriptions to that service. Considering the strong draw of Star Trek it might work. But CBS is not going to dump the whole series on line at once for binge viewing but will feed a new episode each week.

FilmStruck. Criterion and Turner have announced the creation of a new online movie service they are calling FilmStruck. The service will have the largest catalog of older movies online and includes the whole MGM and RKO movie catalogs which Ted Turner bought in the 80s. This gives the service a significant share of the movies on most of the lists of all-time greatest movies. The catalogs also contain mountains of movies that have not been available for years. As part of this deal Criterion will be pulling about 500 old movies from Hulu.

Netflix Survey. A survey of Netflix customers showed that 76% of them believe that Netflix and other online content is going to eventually completely displace traditional cable TV. Of the 24% who didn’t think this was so, the primary reason they thought cable would survive is news programming. Interestingly, 68% of those surveyed did not think that Netflix would replace movie theaters.