Thoughts on OTT

Update to the post::

I said as much in my list below – get ready for the VPN to stop working when it comes to gaming Netflix content libraries.

First, let me start off with a shameless plug for a podcast I was a guest of:

Now that we got that out of the way we can continue on. Also – my shameless plus is so we make this AA’s #1 podcast to ensure I get invited back. 😉

Let me disclose that I work at and used to work at . I do have some sense of this world I am talking about. I don’t have a crystal ball and I also think that in the emerging markets it will take years to declare a winner. Years I say!

That being said I think it is important to note some things for the pedestrians:

    – In many markets, say Taxis or car booking services, I can agree with the winner take all or winner take most, especially in the USA or China. FYI Om covered this topic well here :: However in large regional area or emerging markets I am not sure if it is true and it also has to be that pricing almost equalizes. In the case of this specific subject if we are talking about Netflix dominating in India I struggle to see how a company that charges 3x its emerging markets brethren can own the market. Maybe it will own the high end but how would it own the market that does not pay that much for entertainment?

    – Let no one kid you. None of these players are currently fighting over a paid customer base – we are all fighting to convert a pirate over to a paying subscriber. That will take years and there are plenty of pirates to share at this moment.

    – Local content is a big deal and no one player owns it all nor can sell it all to one OTT player. Also many of the local content players are building or have built their own OTT services.

    – There can never be just one service for all. Take me for example. I share my mom’s Netflix account but I buy my own HBO account. I value HBO way more than Netflix and nothing they did last week changed that equation for me.

    – Payment models in the emerging markets are hard. For Netflix it very well could be that the only customer they care about has a credit card. That still lives 100’s of millions of customers for companies like HOOQ who think there are others way to take money from users.

    – Not only are payment models hard but so are subscription types. Is a monthly recurring subscription going to work in the emerging markets? For some folks it might. For others maybe weekly subscriptions is better? Maybe a subscription tied to a data balance makes more sense. No one knows yet.

    – Content rights are super hard. I love seeing all the people baffled as to why they log into Netflix Singapore and it doesn’t look like the USA catalog. Netflix didn’t buy all the rights for Singapore because they know it is a small market. It may not be worth it and chances are some of it is not available. Also, Netflix being a capitalist, sold some of their shows to services in Singapore already so they can’t just take it back. Over time as they grow they will fix this but again Netflix could never own everything you want to see.

    – As OTT takes off some of the big players will try to work around Netflix and other services to go direct. One good read on this ::

    – The all powerful VPN. Currently lots of folks are signing up for Netflix Singapore and then using a VPN or anonymous IP to get the USA catalog. All good but keep in mind they way content rights work. They are bought and sold for a region – they are not tied to what credit card you use. Lots of folks talk about Apple TV or iTunes as the model where I can use my use a credit card to buy a show. And I can watch it in Singapore but note I am paying US prices so the content guys don’t care. Apple is not a subscription service and notice it they planned on doing this with TV and backed down. Netflix is getting away with murder right now. Pay Singapore prices but watch a USA catalog. At some point the content owners may ask Netflix to enforce geo specific rule or to simply not support VPN usage. Most content owners ask companies like HOOQ to try to block VPN’s or similar tools. As global content streaming takes off, I expect this to be an ongoing discussion.

    – To summarize I would like to say this is going to take time to all play out. As I like to remind my team regularly – it’s a marathon – not a sprint.

I’ll add to this is if I think I missed something.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on OTT

  1. Sorry for the lack of clarity. Despite the increase in OTT services there are still only 24 hours in a day, and if a person can entertain themselves quite happily on Youtube or other platforms viewing high quality, in many cases pirated, content for their “entertainment hour” why would they need to pay subs to a platform such as Hooq? Do you see this content as the same as torrenting or do you see it as a separate competitor set?


  2. I think in general one just treats piracy as a big bucket and the concept of having great content for free due to piracy is largely out of our hands. So we try to compare features and realize we cant do anything about it but if we can get folks to out of their pocket cause they like the service, the features and the convenience. I think , the same way it works for say spotify, that paying for the service is far easier and better than trying to torrent all the music you want. Same goes for movies and tv shows. Of course those who won’t pay probably will never pay which is why I don’t focus on converting those folks.


  3. Good post. On a personal level, I think if you are willing to pay US prices for a US subscription you should be able to watch the US content feed from anywhere. Maybe a good model would be to tie the subscription payments and licensing to a list of countries that you want to license content from, like a cable company charges for channel packages. Anyway, I have been gnashing my teeth about copyright and DRM laws ever since I discovered the internet ( a long time ) because the antiquated laws that govern copyright are meant for books and LPs, and do not fit any sort of digital global distribution and access model, at all. Why is that system still in place, today?! Because it allows the publishers and conglomedia companies to arbitrage prices, and gives governments the ability to censor the information available to their citizens. It actually screws the artists, the customers, and services like HOOQ or SPUUL or NETFLIX or others, that would help distribute all that content to a much wider audience and probably generate even more revenue as a result, than the way things are done today. And while there will always be pirates, especially when there are good reasons to try and get around big brother and the censorship machines, making it easy for people to access and pay for content they actually want vs. having to steal it is one reason why changing existing copyright and DRM models or coming up with a completely separate and distinct GLOBAL copyright regime might be a good idea.


    1. Fair points. No easy answer since content rights have been so finely sliced and diced by region and consumption mode for so long that the content guys wouldn’t even know how to license them globally. Itunes is doing already what you say but it is PPV versus subscription. Things are evolving though and I think at some point the whole model will get tuned upside down.


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