Almost every research study that analyzes news media habits reaches the same conclusion — OTT content is growing exponentially and is by far the video consumption choice among younger audiences. In some markets, consumers are expected to view an average of 19 hours of OTT content weekly by 2020, which is a significant uplift from the average of 12 hours per week in 2017.

OTT stands for "over-the-top," a term used to describe the delivery of video content via the internet, without requiring users to subscribe to a traditional paid cable or satellite TV service. Despite its incredible growth, the OTT landscape is still unfamiliar to many. Conversations about OTT often cause some eyes to light up with enthusiasm, while others glaze over in confusion. For news media publishers, all eyes should be lighting up, not glazing over.

"OTT technology allows us to create a complete branded experience for our customers," said one media company digital executive in Spokane, Washington. "If users live here, they can get the latest information on their terms. If they live elsewhere in the world, they can get a taste of home. With more and more people rapidly adopting connected-TV devices, the question isn't whether we should be programming for the OTT platform, but rather how do we change our coverage model to push that information out there as rapidly and effectively as possible."

All about the brand

Brand extension is a key factor driving the news media industry's adoption of OTT technologies. In the 2018 DLA Piper Global Media Sector Trends report, 82 percent of surveyed respondents say that monetizing content through OTT is a major growth area for their media businesses. Over 25 percent of respondents predict that more than half their video content views will be driven by OTT next year, which is double the views driven by OTT today.

"Media companies are required to deliver what is called a 'continuous connection' to grow their viewership," said Wade Beavers, president of Mobile at Newscycle Solutions. "OTT is one of the most powerful brand additions because they can provide both long- and short-form content, as well as demand higher ad dollars because of the value in video. Local broadcasters are already doing it and bringing in more revenue as a result."

With an OTT platform, media companies can distribute branded video content through devices like Roku, Apple TV, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV. This content can be made available and monetized through premium subscription models. In addition, content delivered through a streaming OTT app can be monetized via pre-roll, post-roll, mid-roll and programmatic advertising, which can be sold independently or as part of packaged ad campaigns.

OTT and mobile audiences

With the current state of OTT, multi-platform consumption is still the norm, but mobile-only is on the rise. A March 2018 ComScore Digital Future in Focus report found the percentage of mobile-only OTT usage grew across most global markets in 2017, exceeding 30 percent of users in nearly half the markets studied.

By 2020, the OTT video industry is expected to reach $30 billion, according to the latest Deloitte Digital Democracy Survey. With 100 million additional mobile users subscribing to an OTT video service over the next 18 months, it is easy to see why an increasing number of media companies are making OTT ad inventory available to their local advertisers.

Advertisers and agencies also view OTT advertising as a better form of engagement for mobile-first audiences. "We are seeing media companies drive their mobile users to OTT devices for longer-form stories and special programming," said Beavers. "The fact that their OTT icon is right next to Netflix or Hulu makes them one click away from a longer and more profitable experience. The OTT interface is the new shopping mall, and today every media company needs to have a storefront."

Video as a destination

As media companies strive to become one-stop shops for local audiences wanting to consume trusted news and information content on any device at any time, OTT video will continue to grow in importance. Video enables publishers to deliver a complete 360-degree view of the news. Sometimes, video is complementary to a written article. At other times, a standalone video is better for reporting news that is inherently visual, especially when a deeper, in-depth dive is required to present the content in the most engaging manner possible.

In short, OTT allows media companies to reimagine their positions in the community — and to complete the elusive digital transformation process — becoming the primary destination for all print, online, mobile and video storytelling. What better way to make a publisher's eyes light up?

Pete Marsh is the vice president of Marketing at Bloomington, Minnesota-based Newscycle Solutions  (newscycle.com), a provider of software and services powering the global media industry. 

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