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S&P Global: Uncertainty clouds online video platform outlook

By Michelle Abraham, senior research analyst, media & communications (Kagan), S&P Global Market Intelligence

While their over-the-top provider customers have seen high demand for their streaming services during quarantine, the benefit to online video platform, (OVP) vendors is ambiguous due to uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

Kagan is forecasting an increase in OVP vendor worldwide revenue for 2020, but the 8 per cent annual increase is lower than the reports of increased streaming hours we have seen. Once Covid-19-related quarantines end, streaming hours may not stay at the same level for the entire year. We anticipate OVP vendor revenue will reach $1.00 billion in 2020 with more limited increases in future years due to providers’ use of in-house platforms and pricing pressure, resulting in revenue of $1.11 billion in 2024.

The largest competitor to OVP vendors is the build-it-yourself option. Many large OTT providers choose to develop their own systems or buy the technology such as Disney did with MLBAM and AT&T Inc. did with Quickplay. If an OVP is bought by a provider, its solution often then becomes devoted to internal customers and therefore is not available to others. Others bring in partners for streaming services such as Fox did with Fox Soul. It combined pieces it built in-house with those of third parties to launch more quickly.

The advantages of choosing outside vendors can be time to market, scalability and ease of operation. However, an outside vendor may not have new features on its roadmap when the OTT provider needs them.

The cost to build a platform in-house can be high as the OTT provider needs to have internal development resources. Those with few resources are better off choosing an outside provider, but those can be costly as well. Cloud providers are making it easier to build your own with the services they offer that can be more easily made to work together.

We are also seeing some overlap between OVP and IPTV software platforms. While there are similarities between the multiscreen capabilities of OVPs and IPTV platforms, OVPs cannot always integrate with the managed networks run by many operators, nor offer support for managed STBs. There may be more complexity in an IPTV platform because of the number of legacy systems that must be integrated such as a content security service. An IPTV provider may have more complex subscription tiers and offerings to manage. Many IPTV solutions also include network PVR, catchup, and start over services for linear channels which may not be part of an OVP.

The revenue models for IPTV platforms are often different because they are tied to the number of subscribers an operator has. OVPs are often paid by the amount streamed through their platforms. The scale and reliability required of IPTV platforms are often much greater than that of the OVP. While IPTV systems are often required to have five 9s reliability, the OVP can operate on a best effort basis.

There are a large number of vendors in this market, many of which have been in business for more than ten years. Some have remained small with a handful of customers, while others have been able to expand globally. As content owners want to move beyond YouTube and Facebook as their distribution platforms, they look to OVP vendors for the additional technology needed to stream video beyond those platforms.

Those that work with large broadcasters on significant events must have redundancy and failover built into their product in addition to being able to scale. Sizable content owners tend to look to large OVPs if they do not build platforms in house. Some OVP vendors focus on certain geographic regions, so all OVP competitors do not always cross paths.