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A pick and mix world for OTT?

IPTV, OTT and changing consumer habits were some of the key themes at Futuresource’s New Content Horizons conference, which took place earlier this month at the Ham Yard hotel in London.

IPTV, OTT and changing consumer habits were some of the key themes at Futuresource’s New Content Horizons conference, which took place earlier this month at the Ham Yard hotel in London.

Keynote George Barrios (pictured), chief strategy officer and CFO for WWE, spoke about his company’s online presence and the launch of its direct to consumer service.

“At our core we are a traditional IP content company. We own all our rights and monetise them across all our platforms,” he explained.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is a global company and more than 70 per cent of its digital audience is from outside of the US, Barrios revealed.

With the proliferation of mobile devices, broadband penetration and the number of connected devices expected to double between 2011-2016, it was prime time for WWE to pursue OTT and go direct to consumer. Barrios noted that in 2013 34 per cent of millennials in the US were consuming more than half their video through IPTV, up from 20 per cent in 2011 and this was a significant driver for the company’s new IPTV offering.

The WWE Network launched in February 2014 as a 24/7 linear stream that looked like traditional pay-TV. In January this year it launched in the UK, which is now its number two market behind the US. The WWE Network attracts 1.3 million subscribers around the world.

For WWE, Barrios explained that the network has content available on its free VoD platform via YouTube, pay-TV platform, SVoD platform and social integration. “The balancing act is where the content should go,” he remarked.

Continuing the OTT discussion, Carl Hibbert, associate director of media and entertainment for Futuresource, led a panel on OTT challenging the traditional broadcast landscape.

Hibbert kicked off the debate by asking what is OTT? “We believe it to be IP-delivered services either embracing or counteracting the traditional models.

“Do you think the emergence of OTT delivery heralds a shift away from the mainstay of pay-TV? Are we moving towards where consumers can pick and mix what they want?”

Jakob Mejlhede Andersen, executive VP of programming and content development at MTG, believes there is room for standalone OTT offerings. “It is a necessity to be active in the field.”

Freesat CTO Matthew Huntington has also noticed a growth in standalone OTT services. “I’m not sure consumers really want a true pick and mix world.” Generally consumers only want one bill, he said.

“I expect to see a massive growth of OTT services, lots of variation and a consumer-led consolidation,” added Huntington.

Simon McGrath, general manager Europe, thePlatform, added: “I personally think the rise of the OTT SVoD service provider is driving product and service innovation.”

The panel also highlighted the generational shift in viewing. Matt Rennie, managing director for The Box Plus Network, said the younger end of viewing starts to diminish linear viewing.

Huntington agreed that there is a generational change and that younger audiences return less to linear TV but will still return to it.

He went on to add that viewership for Freesat hasn’t changed very much. “We’re really preparing for that shift. We’re trying to see how we can move ourselves and the industry forward in terms of content discovery. Today’s catch-up services are very siloed. That could be the right way forward or the wrong way forward. We’ve also got to get smart about how we use data. For us, what OTT has meant is that our customers have connected their set-top boxes to the internet so we can measure what they’re doing. Seventy-three per cent of viewers’ time is spent watching linear TV. Now because of OTT we can measure and learn from that and ultimately monetise it.”

When asked which countries have been the quickest to transition to an on-demand world, several of the panelists named the UK. “The UK is aggressively fast moving in terms of services. The UK is looked at from other parts of the world in terms of what is happening in the UK and what is happening with consumers,” said McGrath.