What is an OTT video channel?

What is an OTT video channel?

OTT, VOD, TVODS, STB… Can you please say that again?

With the widespread use of video on the rise and it’s use by anyone from TV channel owners to retail and brands, the chances are much of the terminology and many of the acronyms used, are only now being introduced to into the boardroom of many companies for the first time.

With the responsibility for solutions being placed in the commercial product owner’s camp a simple reference point is always useful to fall back on.

Here are a few of the most commonly bandied about phrases and acronyms.

OTT or Over The Top means using the internet.  It refers to bypassing a broadcast technology (a TV transmitter – terrestrial, cable or satellite) to deliver video to a consumer. Other phrases that capture OTT channels are Cloud video (or cloud TV), Web video channels (or web TV) and Internet video (or internet TV) as they all fundamentally lead to the same thing.

VOD or Video On Demand is another commonly used term. Video on Demand implies a library of content that consumers can access on demand and, by definition, is usually pre-recorded content available at any time the consumer wants to watch it. Most OTT video channels or Cloud video channels are VOD or started out as VOD only (like Netflix and BBC iPlayer initially) but increasingly they are including the streaming of live events and live broadcast streams (like HBO Now, ITV Player and recently BBC iPlayer).  So a live video feed may also form part (or indeed may make up all) of a OTT video channel.

A live event is distinct from a live broadcast stream as the ‘event’ is usually referring to something happening in real-time, e.g. a sports event, music concert or news. By contrast, and to add a little confusion, many live broadcast streams contain only pre-recorded video content e.g. almost any soap, drama or film.

VOD also comes in flavours; FVOD, TVOD, SVOD, AVOD, BVOD are the principle ones, though many others are made up to suit a given situation.

FVOD; Free Video on Demand.

TVOD; Transactional Video on Demand. This usually means the rental of a video for a set period. This should not be confused (though increasing it is) with e-commerce transactions for goods (e.g. brand video channel selling goods). Whilst e-commerce is a transaction and a way of monetising a video channel, this is usually seen, and referred to, as an in-app purchase.

SVOD; Subscription Video on Demand. The subscription is usually applied on a monthly (or annual) basis and usually (e.g. Netflix) allows you to watch as much of everything available as you want.

AVOD; Advertising Video on Demand. Usually, free content (though not always) that plays pre-roll and mid-roll video ads during the video (e.g. ITV Player).

BVOD; usually means Business Video on Demand though I have seen it used as both Brand Video on Demand and Broadcaster Video on Demand. This could include anything from a brand entertainment channel (like Redbull) to a private video channel for employee training and company activities.

And then there is EST; Electronic Sell Through. This is effectively buy-to-own, though legally it is usually a ‘lifetime’ subscription where the lifetime may have a limit e.g. 30 years or even when you leave the service (a case of read the small print).

Apps or channels. A video channel denotes the experience (that being akin to a TV linear channel in format and presentation) but the actual implementation and way to get into the channel, on most devices, is likely to be through an App (an OTT App).  I say most devices because as well as a series of apps on devices it is likely that the channel will also be available in a browser on a desktop (PC or Mac) and tablets and mobile browsers (iOS and Android).

It is also worth touching on devices categorisations.

Smart TV – usually a broadband connected TV with an App Store, e.g. Samsung Smart TV, LG.

Android TV – a smart TV that uses the Android TV environment to host apps e.g. Sony

Streaming TV device – an independent device for OTT TV and video, e.g. Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast

STB (Set Top Box) usually denotes a Pay TV operator or Telco TV box.

Opera TV – a smart TV, STB or Streaming media device that uses an Opera TV browser environment to host apps e.g. Virgin Media:TiVo and Freesat

An OTT video channel could also be built in-house or use an external OTT platform or OTT provider, which could be offered through a SaaS video provider (Software as a Service).