The Ultimate Guide to OTT Technology for Professional Broadcasters in 2022
Traditional television channels are a thing of the past. People want more options and more control over what they watch. Over-the-top platforms (OTT), where content streams directly over the internet instead of through traditional avenues such as television, have taken over.
Do you have a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+, or any of the more specific and specialized streaming services? Then you are part of the OTT revolution!
OTT platforms are not just for major networks; any professional broadcaster with access to OTT technology can create their own OTT platform.
Today, we are explaining what exactly OTT technology is, how it works, and how it is changing the media industry. Here at Dacast, we offer you affordable access to the technology you need to start your own OTT platform.
To wrap things up, we will compare IPTV and OTT. You will walk away with a strong understanding of what an OTT platform means, how to use OTT and what is OTT in media.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- What is OTT Technology?
- How Does OTT Technology Work?
- Why Use OTT?
- How is OTT Delivered?
- How OTT Technology is Changing the Media Industry
- Examples of OTT Devices
- Examples of Businesses Built Upon OTT Technology
- IPTV vs. OTT
- Final Thoughts
What is OTT Technology?
So what exactly is OTT streaming? Over-the-top (OTT) streaming is a media distribution method where content is distributed over the internet instead of through traditional television accessed via satellite or cable television connection.
What is OTT technology? It is the software and equipment that make it possible to broadcast content over the internet instead of through traditional television.
What is OTT broadcasting? OTT broadcasting just refers to the process of distributing media over the internet instead of through traditional television. With OTT broadcasting, you can access content through any internet-enabled device.
What is an OTT video? OTT video specifically refers to the video content you watch over the internet instead of satellite or cable television.
Basically, OTT is all about going around or “over-the-top” of traditional media distribution channels and accessing content through the internet. OTT services are often monetized through paid subscriptions, but they can also use advertising or in-app purchases to support their broadcasting efforts.
Why Use OTT?
Wondering why as a broadcaster, you should jump onto the OTT train? The main reason is that people love OTT content. You can look at one of the biggest OTT providers, Netflix, which now has 221.64 million subscribers.
OTT isn’t just about huge content providers. Many sports organizations, for example, now offer league passes so fans can access games and content for their favorite teams no matter where they live.
Examples of OTT sports content include big names like ESPN+ and more league-specific content such as the NBA League Pass, Premier League Pass, F1TV, and DAZN. Many college sports organizations also have their own OTT content.
People love OTT content because it is easy to access and can be targeted based on one’s viewing preferences. You should use OTT because it allows access to a larger audience, as there are fewer barriers to accessing OTT content than traditional TV content.
How is OTT Delivered?
OTT platforms use an internet-based delivery system. Basically, that means that all someone needs to access the content is an internet connection and a compatible device. Here are some of the most common devices people can use to access OTT platforms:
- Mobile devices: You can use either a smartphone or tablet to download OTT apps from a digital storefront, such as Google Play or Apple App Store.
- Personal computer: With a computer, you can access OTT content through a web browser or desktop-based apps.
- Digital media players: Third-party devices such as Chromecast, Apple TV, and even video game consoles can download OTT apps and access content.
- Smart TVs: Smart TVs now come with numerous pre-installed OTT apps and the ability to download additional OTT apps.
Essentially, if you have an internet connection and a device that can access the internet, you should be able to access OTT content.
How Does OTT Technology Work?
While accessing video via OTT is typically more convenient for viewers, what goes on behind the scenes of OTT streaming is a bit more complex than traditional broadcasting.
Here is how OTT technology looks in action:
- Broadcasters upload video content to an OTT video hosting platform
- The video host transmits the data to remote servers via a content delivery network (CDN)
- Viewers select the content they want to stream on the user-facing video gallery
- The video player on the device pulls the video content from the CDN’s server with the internet
With that process in mind, let’s briefly break down the technologies involved.
With that process in mind, let’s briefly break down the technologies involved. This will help you understand precisely how OTT technology works and what is meant when someone says OTT technology.
OTT Platform Technology
First and foremost, OTT streaming requires a professional-grade video hosting platform with OTT capabilities. OTT platform technology typically comes in downloadable software or an in-browser streaming tool.
Some OTT platform technology is open source. However, the most popular options include a graphical user interface allowing broadcasters with any level of experience to navigate OTT broadcasting easily. With the right OTT platform technology, this highly technical process becomes accessible to those with limited to no technological know-how.
Video hosting platforms come with various tools for hosting, storing, and managing video content at different price points. Some hosting features valuable for creating an OTT platform include video monetization, gold-standard security, HTML5 video players, white-label capabilities, brand customization, and API access.
Some of the most innovative OTT platform technology is available via Dacast, Vimeo OTT, and Brightcove. We recommend looking at our comparison of the 10 Best OTT video hosting providers for more information on this specific piece of OTT technology to find the platform that works best for you.
Content Delivery Network
OTT media distribution is made possible by content delivery networks.
A content delivery network (CDN) is exactly what it sounds like: a network of servers that delivers content. Most online video platforms partner with professional CDNs, so this isn’t typically the main concern for broadcasters. To release content over an OTT, you need a content delivery network moving that content to your end viewers.
You’ll want to ensure that your chosen video hosting platform uses a CDN with servers stationed around the globe. This will help maintain the quality of your stream for viewers in every corner of the globe. It will also help avoid lagging and buffering.
However, if you are self-hosting, you must choose a CDN of your own. Due to complicated CDN pricing structures, this can get expensive and confusing, so choosing a video hosting platform with a built-in CDN is the way to go. A built-in CDN makes it easier to engage in OTT video distribution.
A strong internet connection is another important piece of the OTT technology puzzle. Broadcasters need a reliable internet connection to send out their video signal, and viewers need fast internet to access content on your OTT platform, as well.
The ideal upload speed for OTT streaming is 672 kbps to 61.5 Mbps. For high-quality streaming, your internet speed should be about double your intended bandwidth usage.
You can check your internet speed by searching for an “internet speed test” on Google. Be sure to pay attention not to your download speed, which is what most people focus on when looking at internet speed, but your upload speed.
Regarding appropriate download speeds for viewing OTT content, there is a bit of variety in what is considered “good.” In fact, the recommended speeds depend on the quality of the video the viewer is trying to access.
The recommended download speeds are broken down as follows:
- 25 Mbps: sufficient for streaming 1080p HD video
- 10 Mbps: sufficient for 720p video
- 5 Mbps: sufficient for 480p video
Most viewers access OTT content with their in-home WiFi, and viewers on the go will tune in with their cellular data. In-home WiFi is typically more reliable, but cellular data can work, as well. With different download speeds based on in-home and on-the-go access, you will want to look into adaptive bitrate or multi-bitrate streaming for the best experience for your viewers.
App with Embedded Video Players
To make your OTT video content easily accessible to viewers, you need to build a platform that displays your library of video content and can embed your video player to stream your content online. Many OTT platforms offer desktop, Smart TV, and mobile versions to maximize compatibility and accessibility.
Make sure that the professional video hosting platform you’re using offers API access and mobile SDKs to create a platform that perfectly suits your audience.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but an internet-enabled device is a non-negotiable for OTT streaming. Viewers need to have a device that they can use to access video players on your OTT platform.
We will dive a little further into this shortly, but OTT video can be accessed on computers, Smart TVs, and more.
How OTT Technology is Changing the Media Industry
OTT technology has played a massive role in the media industry’s evolution. It is leading viewers worldwide to “cut the cord” on cable. In fact, about a quarter of cable users will cancel their subscriptions by the year 2022.
Access to OTT technology changes the traditional television watching experience in a few different ways. For starters, viewers can access their favorite shows and films from just about any device with internet capabilities.
The ability to sign in to your OTT streaming platform account on different devices allows you to access your subscriptions from anywhere in your house without worrying about special wiring or hookups.
You can also access the subscriptions or videos you’ve purchased if you’re on vacation by signing in on your smartphone, laptop, or tablet. The flexibility that comes with cutting the cord is so convenient, and it allows viewers to get the most of their subscriptions.
OTT streaming brings exciting developments for broadcast sports fans in particular. With traditional television, some games are only available in certain regions. Other areas are total blackout zones due to their proximity to multiple major cities. With OTT, you can watch your favorite sports team from anywhere in the world.
A major OTT trend that has grown alongside the industry is binge-watching. Netflix and other platforms release entire series of seasons at a time, as opposed to the airing of weekly episodes that traditional TV uses. This has inspired people to binge-watch shows out of excitement or fear of the plot being spoiled by family, friends, or other users on social media.
OTT technology has influenced the way that we consume video content.
An OTT platform means more access to more content all the time, around the globe.
Examples of OTT Devices
OTT technology has changed how video content is accessed. As we mentioned, there are quite a few OTT devices, which is convenient because viewers aren’t restricted to their television set if they want to watch a film or show.
Here are a few specific examples of OTT devices:
- Smartphones: iPhones and Androids
- Tablets: iPad, Amazon Fire, Microsoft Surface, Galaxy Tab A
- Smart TVs: Roku TV, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick, Chromecast
- Gaming Consoles: XBOX, Play Stations
Although most OTT platform providers are designed and marketed as a replacement for traditional television, over half of OTT viewers tune in from their mobile devices. OTT technology works on any type of device when paired with an HTML5 video player. Mobile viewing continues to increase and replace traditional television viewing, with OTT video helping to fuel this trend.
Examples of Businesses Built Upon OTT Technology
Pretty much all of the major streaming-as-a-service platforms that consumers know and love are powered by OTT technology. Some examples are Hulu, Disney+, Prime Video, and Netflix.
Each of these businesses monetizes its content in slightly different ways.
Netflix, which started as a video rental company, is probably one of the most notable businesses that have evolved to accommodate the shift towards OTT broadcasting. Netflix adapted its model from DVD rentals to online video streaming throughout the past decade. They stayed on the cutting edge of OTT technology to launch their streaming service as soon as the internet became more accessible and bandwidth costs were affordable.
Today, Netflix generates over $20 billion in revenue yearly from its subscription-based OTT streaming platform.
Prime Video uses a mix of subscriptions and pay-per-view monetization. Prime Video offers access to a library of films and television series to those with an Amazon Prime membership. Still, a large chunk of their content is only available at an added cost. Viewers can rent movies and shows to watch right on the platform.
Hulu uses a combination of advertisements and subscriptions to monetize its platform. Users can pay extra to upgrade to ad-free streaming. Hulu also offers upgrades for access to live-streamed programs and channels with linear streaming.
Disney+ is available via subscription on its own, but the platform has strategically partnered with different platforms, including Hulu, to reach a larger audience. Another one of their partners is ESPN+, which is popular among different demographic. However, these bundles are priced right, making them attractive to families with members with other interests.
Video OTT can be packaged and priced in many ways, as evidenced by the above examples.
IPTV vs. OTT
While we’re on the topic of OTT technology, let’s clear up a common confusion in online video streaming. Many people wonder what the difference is between IPTV and OTT. The two are very similar and seem identical on the surface, so this is a valid question.
IPTV is short for “Internet Protocol Television,” and it is another alternative to traditional television that uses the internet to stream. The main difference between IPTV and OTT streaming is that IPTV uses a closed server and OTT does not.
IPTV is also typically much similar to traditional television because it primarily uses linear broadcasting. It is generally packaged as a channel rather than access to an extensive library of content. On-demand streaming is possible with IPTV, but it is not nearly as popular as OTT.
It is very popular for large enterprises and organizations to use IPTV for internal video hosting and delivery, whereas streaming services like Netflix and Hulu rely on OTT.
Thanks to OTT technology, broadcasters like you can create profitable streaming platforms and deliver high-quality content in a way that breaks down the barriers associated with traditional television.
OTT technology paired with an HTML5 streaming video solution makes for the most universally accessible duo in the world of online streaming. This pair will help deliver your content on just about any internet-enabled device you can imagine.
Are you looking to build an OTT platform of your own? Dacast’s OTT platform technology provides the tools you need to host and deliver your OTT content successfully. Our platform uses an HTML5 video player and partners with top-tier CDNs to provide a pleasant and professional OTT broadcasting experience.
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