The BBC has always had a complex relationship with the latest content delivery technology. Its unique position in the UK as a non-commercial public sector broadcaster funded by a licence fee means it is not always at the cutting edge of the latest tech innovations … and yet there are times when Auntie Beeb gets it absolutely right. The BBC iPlayer may not have been the first online video-on-demand service, but since its launch at the end of 2007 it has become a massively popular platform allowing UK viewers to access catch-up and on-demand content from across the broadcaster’s output – including radio. More recent years have even seen the introduction of a limited selection of iPlayer-exclusive programming.

A new academic study has revealed that although OTT and IPTV programme delivery have opened up new viewing options for consumers, this wider choice does not necessarily mean that people will spend more time consuming video content. The greater variety of viewing options does, however, mean that people find the experience of watching more pleasurable.

The findings emerged from a study of television consumption habits carried out by Dr Stan Liebowitz and Dr Alejandro Zentner of the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas. The research looked at longer-term changes in viewing habits, concentrating on the shift from broadcast to cable television and extrapolating their findings to the more recent emergence of online viewing. Their paper was published in the Journal of Cultural Economics.

This year’s MIPCOM (Marché Internationale de Programmes Communications) event in Cannes served to further highlight the rise in content viewing across multiple screens, including the growing usage of mobile devices – particularly among the young. The buzz around multiscreen and OTT at the annual event comes as no surprise. Indeed, shifts in consumer viewing behaviours have been well reflected in the changing nature of MIPCOM itself over the years.

The first MIPCOM event was held in October 1985. While its predecessor, Vidcom, was a trade event that focused solely on the home video market, MIPCOM in the years since has concentrated on broadcast television. It is significant that the event now presents itself as the global market for “entertainment content across all platforms”.

True to its word, this year’s MIPCOM presented interesting perspectives from what some in the industry may see as the two opposing sides of the television battleground, with established broadcasters on one side and upstart tech industries (with their social media allies) on the other. It is worth noting, however, that for the most part traditional TV partners speaking at MIPCOM do not appear to see this as a them-versus-us fight.

For all the many claims that OTT and on-demand content delivery is chipping away at the customer base of traditional broadcasting organisations and pay TV, it seems those companies are, by and large, upbeat and willing to take advantage of the potential opportunities presented to them by these new ways of delivering programming. Sophie Turner Laing – now chief executive of production company Endemol Shine, but until last year managing director of content at BSkyB – was particularly bullish: “Maybe TV was a little late in coming to the digital party, but let’s face it, it wouldn’t be a good party without us.”

A few of those on the social media and tech side of things, however, were more cautious about the challenges faced by traditional broadcast television in the face of new technology and new viewing habits. Twitter’s Fred Graver revealed that 370 years’ worth of video are watched on the site every day and that 90 per cent of those views are on mobile devices, while Facebook’s representative reported similarly impressive figures, with over 4 billion total videos viewed per day.

Dan Biddle, director of broadcast partnerships at Twitter, delivered a clear warning that providers of linear broadcast television are facing some of the industry’s biggest ever challenges, and remarked that: “How the industry reacts to those challenges in the next few years will affect how the audience experiences TV for many, many years to come.”

Other MIPCOM speakers also touched on the ongoing growth in the popularity of mobile viewing, particularly among children who are as likely to want to watch their favourite programmes on a tablet or smartphone as on a television screen. Dan Schneider, creator of several of Nickelodeon’s top kids’ shows including Zoey 101, iCarly and Victorious, said: “The more screens kids have, the more they need stuff to watch on those screens … Television is pictures and sound, and if they’re watching it on a screen, and they’re watching our stuff, we’re winning.”

In our last blog we looked at the latest report from Videonet, which looks at how pay TV operators are responding to the threats and opportunities presented by the ongoing emergence of OTT viewing options. We covered two of the key responses by pay TV operators: collaborative arrangements which deliver content from OTT providers via set-top boxes, and the roll-out of “pay TV lite” packages delivered by OTT, such as Sky’s Now TV. In this blog we’ll look at Videonet’s research into the ways pay TV operators are adopting and implementing OTT technologies and approaches to improve market reach.

One solution that pay TV firms are taking on board is the distribution of content via OTT as a substitute for satellite broadcast or IPTV. Videonet sees OTT delivery as a way for pay TV operators to increase the addressable market by utilising OTT in locations where satellite dishes are prohibited or where it might provide “the affordable reach that multicast IPTV networks cannot offer”. As an example the report points to the partnership arrangement between Telecom Italia and Sky Italia.

The widespread adoption of new technologies will always have an effect on existing market players – particularly when the technological change results in a significant shift in consumer habits. Nowhere is this clearer than in the growing prevalence of over-the-top (OTT) viewing. With consumers now able to watch what they want, when they want, via an ever-wider range of connected and mobile devices, it was inevitable that the existing pay TV industry would feel the impact and be forced to adapt to maintain their relevance in the marketplace.

A new report published by industry experts Videonet looks at how OTT is changing the shape of pay TV, examining the ways in which traditional pay TV operators are adapting and expanding. The study looks at the way these companies are choosing to “reach out to new markets and make themselves more agile” in the new area of multiscreen delivery and IP-connected television.

If greater evidence were needed of the increasing prevalence of OTT and multiscreen viewing, then you need look no further than the latest research carried out by marketing and brand consultancy Miner & Co. Studio.

The new study reveals that traditional summer pastimes such as reading, board games and sunbathing are being replaced by binge-viewing of favourite TV shows, with 87 per cent of respondents saying they have already watched or intend to watch at least three episodes of a series in one sitting during the summer holidays. Of these viewers, 76 per cent also said that binge-watching is now a common pastime for their friends or family while holidaying.

Although there seems to be much hand-wringing in some segments of the TV industry over the numbers of pay TV customers cord-cutting in favour of online viewing alternatives such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, there are certainly some analysts who think it is much ado about (almost) nothing.

In a recent article published by The Diffusion Group, senior analyst Alan Wolk observed that while the pay TV landscape is certainly changing, we are “not likely to see a massive exodus anytime soon”. While doom-laden headlines may suggest that the pay TV sector is in trouble, Wolk points out that closer analysis presents a much more balanced picture. Focusing on the Q2 results for the top nine US pay TV operators – who between them hold almost 90 per cent of all cable TV subscriptions – shows that together they logged the smallest number of second-quarter subscription losses since 2008, and in fact the losses in this year’s Q2 are only half of those in 2014’s second quarter.

A new report published by Transparency Market Research points to the continuing growth of the Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) market, with the value of the global IPTV market forecast to rise from its 2013 figure of US$24.94 billion to $79.38 billion by 2020.

The US-based research firm’s report, IPTV Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2014–2020, provides an insight into the expansion of the IPTV market worldwide, which will continue to be driven by a generation of consumers that increasingly wants to view high-definition content at their convenience on connected mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, rather than on a traditional television set.

With Transparency Market Research predicting a healthy 18.1 per cent compound annual growth rate for the market as a whole between 2014 and 2020, the report also sheds light on how IPTV revenue breaks down by region.

US cable provider Comcast is the latest pay TV firm to take steps towards addressing the increasing numbers of customers ‘cord-cutting’. This means cancelling or reducing their subscription TV services in favour of alternative viewing options, which more and more often now take the form of online streaming and on-demand services rather than linear broadcast viewing.

In common with some other key pay TV players, Comcast has recognised the explosion in over-the-top and IPTV media services and is opting to play the competition at their own game by launching its own low-cost cord-cutting offering. The new service, called Stream, will offer streamed live content via Comcast’s own Xfinity high-speed Internet service, and is currently undergoing beta testing with a limited roll-out planned for the end of summer and a full launch in early 2016.

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Sašo Todorović, CEO, T-2

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