Dueling Data Continues to Cloud OTT Outlook

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Not than I have anything against the seers and soothsayers who offer glowing forecasts about the future of media (been there, done that). Nor do I question their predictions, based on the tea leaves they read amongst their spreadsheets.

I simply sympathize with the business planners who have to make sense from the studies, especially when a tidal wave of reports washes up as the annual financial planning season begins. Sometimes these forecasts are additive, with different perspectives that fit together into a rosy outlook for the business. But often the analyses are contradictory enough to be simply confusing. Whom do you trust?

Among the past week’s entries in the soothsaying sweepstakes that focus on “over-the-top” video is a study from Strategic Analytics. The analysts contend that OTT viewers are overwhelmingly heading to familiar video brands such as Netflix, YouTube and iPlayer and shunning other video apps, including Facebook, which appear to be “lack value and functionality” on the TV screen. In their report “TV Apps: Owners Won’t Give Them Up,” the researchers contend that most people who bought a Web-connected TV set weren’t interested in the TV apps when they bought the set, but over time become fond of the video brands they recognize.

Separately, the annual “Communications Market Report” from Britain’s Ofcom ofcom.org.uk (regulatory agency) found that 22% of Brits who play videogames use their game consoles to watch video content. About 11% have downloaded or streamed video from the Web and 19% watched content via the BBC iPlayer. While overall 4% of viewers watched live TV shows via the games console, in the 16-24 year old age group, the viewing level was 7%.

So far, no contradictions. Just blend such findings with other seers, such as In-Stat, which about a month ago said that more than one-third of 18-24-year-olds stream full-length OTT video “on a regular basis.” In its overall analysis, In-Stat sees a $20 billion OTT business by 2014.

Meanwhile, Nielsen, in a report commissioned by CTAM earlier this summer, deemed that homes with access to TV apps and other OTT content had almost no effect on conventional viewing. The study said that 85% of TV app users are watching as much or more TV as ever.

As the never-ending flow of forecasts continues, media planners will continue to guess at which predictions fit their needs. Obviously, none of this is done in a vacuum, so factoring the ongoing economic malaise into these expectations makes the job even harder, according to my crystal ball.

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, MD, and a long-time interactive TV enthusiast. Reach him at GArlen@ArlenCom.com