The Battle to 'Own' Over-the-Top Viewers

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With traditional pay TV, the customer-provider relationship is perfectly clear: You pay your X bucks per month to a cable, satellite or telco operator, and you get TV.

But in the Wild West of over-the-top Internet video, the question of who “owns” the customer is a lot murkier -- and service providers, device makers and OTT players each want to be the customer-facing entity, according to a study from billing-systems vendor Amdocs.

About 66% of service providers said they must own the customer in any over-the-top partnering agreement, while 87% of device manufacturers and 86% of OTT distributors believe they must be the primary customer-facing entity, a Amdocs-commissioned survey of 100 industry executives found.

I’d even add a fourth distinct category that Amdocs didn’t break out: content owners looking for direct-to-consumer relationships (think without going through MVPDs or online aggregators like Netflix, Hulu or

However, each of those constituencies acknowledges the importance of forming strategic partnerships to succeed. Indeed, 70% of service providers see OTT players as potential partners rather than threats, according to Amdocs. Fully 74% of OTT players and 73% of device makers are willing to “expose and share” their core assets, although just 56% of service providers are, the survey found.

The different groups “increasingly recognize the need for collaboration and partnership to achieve common goals,” Amdocs VP of product and solutions marketing Rebecca Prudhomme noted.

But while 64% of operators surveyed agreed that OTT players bring “innovation” to the industry, 42% of them said they could offer any over-the-top service themselves -- but better.

Other findings: 40% of service providers said they’re looking to extend network reach through partnerships, while 34% view OTT partnerships as a tool for developing new products and services. Among OTT providers, 69% said ensuring quality of service -- potentially by working with broadband ISPs -- was important to their business.

The Amdocs-commissioned survey was conducted by research firm Coleman Parkes, which interviewed 100 executives at service providers, OTT players and device manufacturers worldwide by phone in June and July 2012

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