The number of people turning to OTT for entertainment, breaking news, education, or even exercising is skyrocketing. OTT users are projected to amount to almost 3,778 million by 2025. What’s more, subscribed users to any OTT in the US are already spending one hour and 50 minutes a day using these services – that’s almost a week and two days of screen time each month! With these facts in hand, it’s not surprising that many media companies, broadcasters, and content providers are seizing the favorable market conditions to launch their own OTT services.
If you are one of them and came to this page by chance, you’re in luck! We are about to share some tips and recommendations for building your own OTT service and choosing your platform wisely. We will then unveil the top five OTT services today and their best features you should look out for in 2022.
- OTT Platform Explained
- What’s the Difference Between OTT and VOD Platforms?
- Which OTT Platform Is Best? Features to Consider
- Top 5 OTT Services (and Their Features) to Follow Closely
- Become One of Them with Kaltura’s Platform
OTT Platform Explained
An OTT platform is a software solution that allows companies to build, launch, and manage their video streaming services. These platforms leverage a video delivery method where anyone using an internet-connected device (smart TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone, or game console) can instantly stream videos over the public internet anytime, as long as they have a paid subscription to access the streaming service if required.
OTT platforms have freed modern audiences of broadcast schedules, restricted content catalogs, and missing an important scene because the doorbell rang. Viewers now get to choose what they watch and when they watch it — decisions taken by the broadcaster in the past.
Pro-tip: VOD and OTT platforms are not the same, although they usually overlap and come hand-in-hand. That’s why people sometimes confuse these terms and use them interchangeably.
Then, What’s the Difference Between OTT and VOD Platforms?
I am glad you asked! (No, but seriously). The lines differentiating OTT and VOD platforms have blurred over the years, but here are some tips to help you distinguish them:
- VOD describes a consumption model where the wait to watch videos is over. This acronym for video-on-demand refers to any pre-recorded or downloadable video that can be played back at your own pace from anywhere. Netflix and YouTube are clear examples of VOD, although social media like Facebook also falls under this category.
In VOD platforms, on-demand videos can be streamed either from the internet or delivered via satellite. This is the first main difference that sets them apart from OTT. Another significant distinction is that VOD platforms never offer live content.
- OTT, instead, refers to a distribution model. It stands for over-the-top and equally applies to any media content (video, audio, messaging, voice calls, etc.) streamed directly to end-users over the internet. Yet, it is most well-known for online video use cases.
OTT platforms only stream videos through the internet, going over the top of traditional services like satellite and cable TV. When you watch a movie or series from an OTT platform, you’re not downloading the files, rather streaming every bit from start to finish. And unlike VOD, OTT platforms also offer live content and scheduled programming.
Which OTT Platform Is Best? Features to Consider
There are dozens of professional OTT platforms out there, so the best way to find your ideal solution is to do some research on the feature set that best pairs with your business goals.
Are you planning to host on-demand content only or also live streaming? On what devices? How do you plan to monetize your videos? Do you want to offer content recommendations? What integrations do you need with third-party systems? Answering these kinds of questions will help you have a clearer picture of the OTT platform you need and the features that aren’t a deal-breaker.
As a starting point, we recommend you to look out for the following mission-critical functionalities as you compare options:
Scalable and reliable infrastructure
It’s going to be your bread and butter and a critical piece to delivering impeccable experiences for your viewers. Scalability allows video streaming services to match resources to demand and accommodate fluctuations arising from prime-time or peak usage, for example. All solution components need to run and tap into the same scale to avoid any service disruption, including the platform infrastructure and back-end. Assuring your streaming service is always-on and delivers the best viewing experiences is key to keeping your audiences engaged. This brings us directly to the next point.
Elastic media preparation
It’s a crucial aspect for two main reasons. First, because it contributes to delivering content of the highest quality possible to your audience. Second, because all processes under it (such as transcoding, packaging, origination, and distribution) tend to be time-consuming, bandwidth-intensive, and expensive. You’ll want to choose an OTT platform that offers reliable and agile media preparation services, allowing you to dynamically adapt to changing market conditions, including new codecs and video formats.
High-performance video player
Video players make or break the viewing experience. They’re primarily responsible for regulating the quality of the video served based on viewers’ available bandwidth and the device being used. Thus, the more devices a player supports for live and VOD content, the better. Additionally, features like ad insertion, multi-lingual captions, multi-audio track, viewability enhancement, advertising support, out-of-the-box integrations, interactivity, and accessibility standards are also relevant to consider.
Advanced video monetization
Your OTT platform must support all major video monetization models, even if you don’t require all of them today. This extends beyond the traditional advertising and subscription-based business models. For example, maybe you never considered having in-app purchasing on your OTT service, but it could be a prosperous revenue stream in the future. Ensuring you can expand your revenue potential is a must in an ever-changing streaming scenario.
Continuous multi-device experience
Viewers scatter among the web, mobile, smart TV, and game consoles, and you cannot afford to miss them anywhere. Your OTT platform must offer excellent viewing and continuous experiences across devices, supporting the most popular OS in the market to reach viewers through every means.
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
Protecting your content is a delicate issue today and quite relevant when choosing your OTT platform. The ideal setup needs to support all major DRM schemas and all content formats (VOD, live, download-to-go, etc.), as well as provide cross-device protection to ensure the security of your content.
Leveraging the power of data is fundamental to link the content you offer with your business goals, helping you achieve a realistic overview of your streaming service performance to experiment with and act upon. Having the right technology to collect, normalize, and correctly process data that you can act on is essential for continuously optimizing your service.
Choose a platform that allows you to customize your OTT service and make it entirely your own. You should be flexible enough to make your brand identifiable, as well as constantly adapt your OTT service to your ever-growing customer base expectations, whether these relate to new business models, payment methods, features, user and device preferences, or UX.
SDKs and APIs
You should deliver a consistent user experience and video playback across multiple devices and apps. A flexible OTT platform, that features granular APIs and native SDKs helps to launch custom video streaming services easily, integrate systems, automate processes, and make their service and apps rock-solid. All of it with a small upfront investment in setup.
High feature velocity is necessary to cover all your tech needs and avoid future development and budgetary surprises. Your tech partner should guarantee ongoing software updates and functionalities that you can easily incorporate into your service so you have peace of mind to focus on growing your business.
Top 5 OTT Services (and Their Platform Features) to Follow Closely
Staying up to date with the latest streaming features that global entertainment giants launch and proudly promote is also a way to understand the audience’s demands and learn a lot.
Here are the top five OTT video streaming services available in the market and the features that make them amazing:
Netflix is the standard-bearer of streaming. Once the single service that dominated the entire subscription space, it’s still the preferred consumer choice for streaming entertainment and the leading OTT service although more and more competitors are eating into its space lately – its share of global demand of digital original series dropped this 2021 to below 50% for the first time ever.
Nevertheless, Netflix still hosts an impressive selection of content and a constantly growing library of premier original programming that outclasses every other streaming service. But more than that, it also presents several advantages and exciting features that help the company maintain its massive user base.
Top features we love:
- Seamless streaming experience: Netflix comes packed with excellent viewing features and great device compatibility for a continuous experience, even when you start on one device and switch to another.
- Play Something: a perfect tool for the indecisive. This feature available on TV and Android phones instantly plays a TV show or movie that you haven’t watched before.
- Parental controls: creating suitable user and content profiles for the youngest viewers has never been easier.
- Continue Watching list: one thing that everyone associates Netflix with is binge-watching and one way that Netflix makes it so easy is with the Continue Watching list.
- Brand-new video games: these are bundled for free into Netflix’s app and aimed to deliver “more entertainment value” and allow fans to “go deep and engage further”, in the words of some Netflix executives.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Video has quietly evolved from a Prime perk into a premier streaming service with the help of some award-winning content. It is a true Netflix competitor with a top-notch library of high-quality original shows and movies and an impressive catalog of older favorites (that will become even greater thanks to its recent purchase of MGM).
Top features we love:
- Prime Video Channels: this feature lets you add subscriptions to other streaming services to your Amazon account and have everything accessible from one app.
- Live content: it includes a selection of live sports such as the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football”.
- X-Ray feature: ideal for movie lovers (or simply for the gossipy ones). Since Amazon owns IMDb, it feeds viewers a steady stream of info about the actors, filmmakers, music, and assorted trivia.
- Shuffle play: users can shuffle episodes and pick one to play at random (only recommended for those shows or sitcoms you’ve watched a thousand times).
The streaming service for the young and young at heart has made a triumphant entry into OTT services since its launch in November 2019. It now amasses a user base surpassing 103 million subscribers, and part of this tremendous success is due to its original marquee series and spurred growth in bundled subscriptions with services like Hotstar and ESPN+. These two, in particular, are helping Disney to snowball subscribers with “surprisingly low [churn rates]”, according to Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company.
Top features we love:
- Premium transactional VOD: since the pandemic struck, Disney + offers big-screen theatrical releases by paying an extra fee on top of the monthly subscription for premier access.
- Content categorization per studio: based on a clean and colorful interface that’s very easy to navigate and pick up, Disney+ includes content collections and dedicated pages for each of Disney’s main studios to search through.
Launched in 2008 as a joint ABC and FOX venture to take their programming to on-demand audiences, The Walt Disney Company now owns it. In fact, a significant part of its success comes from its vast library of former 21st Century Fox content that doesn’t fit Disney +’s family-friendly profile. The service launched Hulu + live TV in 2017, which catapulted Hulu as a very affordable alternative to the traditional pay-TV.
Top features we love:
- Compatibility: Hulu is available on nearly every media streaming device.
- Cloud DVR: subscribers can record up to 50 hours (200 if they pay extra for an add-on) of live news, sports, shows, movies, and series for later viewing.
- Add-ons: for more content and functionality, there are add-ons available for an additional monthly fee, such as unlimited screens, enhanced Cloud DVR, or premium networks.
HBO Max is HBO’s entry into the streaming wars and a turbocharged version of the shutdown HBO Now service. It currently offers HBO and Warner Media’s entire award-winning catalog and most well-known viewers’ favorites like Friends or the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter movies. All at the same cost as before but under a new label.
Top features we love:
- Coming Soon and Last Chance sections: the service offers helpful user notifications detailing when new content arrives and when shows and movies are leaving.
- Same day premieres: it debuts first-run movies the same day they’re available in theaters for no extra charge if you are a user of the ad-free plan.
- Content curation: even though HBO Max’s promise of including human recommendations curating content from celebrities is still not available, it does curate content in alternative ways that can be helpful – for example, episodes of Friends that track Ross and Rachel’s relationship.
Impressed? Become One of Them with Kaltura’s Platform
Launching your video streaming service may seem a risky project at first, but it’s not as scary as you may think. Some platforms available in the market pose a huge opportunity for broadcast and media companies to embrace ready-to-use technology and take over their content and viewers swiftly and smoothly.
At Kaltura, we are experts and market leaders in the field of Cloud TV. And how does it relate to OTT? Well, essentially, Cloud TV Platforms merge the flexibility and agility of OTT with the robustness, scale, and customization capabilities of Pay-TV, being able to support millions of concurrent users accessing the service at the same time. They have been specifically built to cover all TV industry needs, including broadcast-grade service availability, uncompromised high-quality video, and rich features on par with global streaming giants.
That’s why if you are considering launching your direct-to-consumer initiative or an OTT service, we recommend you also check Cloud TV platforms as part of your research. They would be a much better fit for your professional TV needs in terms of scalability, robustness, and feature breadth than a regular OTT platform.
Are you ready to launch your custom-tailored TV service? Get in touch if you want to make your live and VOD content shine across the world!
Looking for a Cloud TV solution to launch your own custom-tailored OTT service? Meet the Kaltura TV Platform