Over the past few years, platforms like Netflix and Hulu have grown to replace traditional television channels. This is largely due to the growth of the internet, but there is one development in particular that has made this possible.
That development is OTT technology.
In this post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about OTT technology, starting with what it is and how it works.
Table of Contents
- What is OTT Technology?
- How Does OTT Technology Work?
- 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?
Over-the-top (OTT) technology is the software and equipment that makes it possible to bypass traditional streaming technology and broadcast video content over the internet. OTT broadcasting is a media distribution that is an alternative to traditional television.
Traditionally, video broadcasting was accessible on a television set via satellite or cable. However, with OTT technology, viewers are good to go with an internet-enabled smart TV, smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer.
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 host
- 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 breakdown the different technologies involved.
OTT Video Host
First and foremost, OTT streaming requires a professional-grade video hosting platform with OTT capabilities. Some examples include Dacast, Vimeo OTT, and Brightcove.
Video hosting platforms come with a wide variety of tools at many different price points. Some hosting features that are valuable for creating an OTT platform include video monetization, gold-standard security, HTML5 video players, white-label capabilities, brand customization, and API access.
We recommend taking a look at our comparison of the top 10 OTT video hosting providers for more information on this specific piece of OTT technology.
Content Delivery Network
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.
You’ll want to make sure that your chosen video hosting platform uses a CDN that has 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 will need to choose a CDN of your own. Due to complicated pricing structures, this can get expensive and confusing, so choosing a video hosting platform with a built-in CDN is the way to go.
In order to access content on your OTT platform, viewers will need an internet connection. Today, most people access the internet with either roaming data from their cellular provider or wifi. Some users still use tethered internet, but this is not super popular with OTT streaming.
Most viewers access OTT content with their in-home wifi, and viewers who are on the go will tune in with their cellular data.
App with Embedded Video Players
In order to make your OTT video content easily accessible to viewers, you need to build a platform that displays your library of video content. Many OTT platforms have a desktop, Smart TV, and mobile versions to maximize compatibility and accessibility.
Make sure that the video hosting platform you’re using offers API access and mobile SDKs so that you can 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 huge role in the evolution of the media industry. It is leading viewers around the world 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 any device gives you the ability to access your subscriptions from anywhere in your house without worrying about special wiring or hookups.
You can also access your subscriptions or videos you’ve purchased if you’re on vacation by signing in on your phone, laptop, or tablet. The flexibility that comes with cutting the cord is so convenient, and it gives viewers the ability to get the most of their subscriptions.
OTT streaming brings exciting developments for 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 team from anywhere in the world.
A major trend that has grown alongside the OTT industry is binge-watching. Netflix and other platforms release entire seasons of a series 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 in fear of the plot being spoiled by family, friends, or other users on social media.
OTT technology has definitely influenced the way that we consume video content.
Examples of OTT Devices
OTT technology has changed how video content is accessed. As we mentioned, there are quite a few different OTT devices, so 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 platforms are designed and marketed as a replacement to 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.
Examples of Businesses Built Upon OTT Technology
Pretty much all of the major streaming as a service platform 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. Netflix adapted its model from DVD rentals to online video streaming over the course of over a 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 dollars in revenue each year 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, but 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 larger audiences. Another one of their partners is ESPN+, which is popular among a totally different demographic. However, these bundles are priced right, which makes them attractive to families with members who have different interests.
IPTV vs. OTT
While we’re on the topic of OTT technology, let’s clear up a common confusion in the world of online 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 for 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 in the sense that it uses primarily linear streaming. It is generally packaged as channels rather than access to a large library of content. On-demand streaming is possible with IPTV, but it is not nearly as popular as it is with 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 video player 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.
Looking to build an OTT platform of your own? Dacast is equipped with the tools you need to successfully host and deliver your OTT content. Our platform uses an HTML5 video player and partners with top-tier CDNs, like Akamai and Limelight, to provide a pleasant and professional OTT streaming experience.
Try all of our wonderful features risk-free for 30-days. Create an account to start your free trial today. No credit card required.
For regular tips on live streaming and exclusive offers, feel free to join our LinkedIn group.