OTT TV has become a common site in the streaming industry. Over the past few years big players like YouTube, Hulu, AT&T, and Dish TV have entered the linear arena with their own “skinny bundles,” and, more recently, smaller businesses have launched channels on platforms like VRV, Twitch, Xumo, and Pluto.TV.
The popularity of OTT TV channels is set to rise as more consumers cut the cord for a more affordable option. But for any brand itching to launch their own digital linear channel, here are a few dos and don’ts to remember.
Don’t drink your own Kool Aide
There is an abundance of content on the market and not all content should have its own channel. It is important to think critically about what your potential channel can bring to the table. Ask yourself: “Why does the world need this channel?” Often times you may discover that your content doesn’t need its own channel. This can be a hard thing to accept for those who have tunnel vision after “drinking their own Kool Aide.” But the truth is the world doesn’t need more channels, it needs better channels.
One alternative to launching a linear OTT channel, according to General Manager of Ellation-backed VRV Arlen Marmel, is to consolidate your offering under one strong brand.
“Not everyone or everything should be a channel. You’re a lot better off consolidating under one strong brand and having one really great offering that people go to than 10 different offerings that no one cares about,” Marmel told Videoink in a recent discussion. “Everyone wants their sign on the door, but from a consumer standpoint that is not always the right thing,” explains Marmel. “At the end of the day, I think the world is going to be littered with a lot of failed offerings for this very reason. Those who are going to persist either have incredibly strong brands or have made certain considerations around their willingness to partner with others.”
Don’t treat all platforms the same
Each platform brings its own set of benefits and advantages that are unique to its service. It is important to make sure your programming fits the chosen platform. What works on Facebook may not work on YouTube, and what works on YouTube may not work on a connected TV.
“We’re talking about lean back platforms here, we’re not talking about Facebook where someone is watching a majority of the time with the sound turned off and there is text in the video,” Anthony Layser, VP of Partnerships and Programming at Xumo, told VideoInk. “That is definitely something I would guard against, just trying to shove a round peg in a square hole with social video.”
Content made specifically for YouTube or Facebook won’t necessarily translate to linear, as George Rausch, former director of content at Pluto.TV and the current Senior Director of Product Marketing and Programming Strategy for Frequency, explained to Videoink.
“The story arc of a YouTube clip is hook them fast so that they don’t leave. If you want to take your existing stuff and convert it, it’s almost like you need to create a longer story arc,” explains Rausch. “Someone in linear is going to sit there for about 15-20 minutes, that means that’s six to eight social videos. That’s exhausting to go through a story arc like this over and over and over again and then sit through a commercial that might be as long as one of the videos they just watched.”
You don’t have to create all the content you stream
A 24/7 linear streaming platform will need a lot of content to fill up its times slots, but that doesn’t mean you need to take the unnecessary burden of creating all the content streamed. Don’t be afraid to license programming.
“As a linear channel you can license other people’s stuff, broadcast television does this all the time. The promise of the channel where you bring together a bunch of creators and produce a network is now,” explains Rausch.
Have a dedicated employee for creative services
It is important to promote your channel. As simple as this seems, many hold off investing in this area. Consider hiring a creative services expert, someone who is proficient at Final Cut, After Effects, and Photoshop. This person will be in charge of stitching together transitional packets, motion graphics for promotions, and promotional artwork to give to distribution partners in order to hype up the channel.
“So often people miss the creative services component. When working with traditional television, everyone knows ‘Of course you have to brand a network, and of course you have to run different network IDs and promote our programming, but in OTT it’s almost like somehow that gets lost, we reset that information, and then the partner is not promoting their own programming,” explains Marmel. “And I’m not sure where [they think] the consumer is suppose to absorb that information from.”
Have a person on the team who is dedicated to entering metadata and cue points
Additionally, it is important to have a person dedicated to metadata and cue points. Metadata is important to accurately tag content, making it easier to find at a higher speed. This can be especially useful for companies who have a massive library of content. Manually scrubbing content and entering in cue points (frame accurate markers inside videos) can be a time consuming job, but it will negatively impact revenue if it’s not done.
Invest in a marketing budget
Make sure to invest in a marketing budget. In order to communicate with consumers, a business will need the right marketing tools. Marmel suggests experimenting with emails and push notifications to keep consumers informed on the happenings of your channel. The lack of these tools can create additional work for consumers.
“Don’t create extra hurdles for consumers… Ultimately, the goal is to please the consumer. [It is important to] be where the audience is,” says Marmel.