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OTT Delivery Strategies: The Platform Vs. TV Everywhere Vs. Fancast Vs. ???

One of the signs that we are early in the emerging over the top (OTT) video market is the fact that it seems pretty much every player in the space— content owners, video sites, device manufacturers, and service providers— all seem to be embracing multiple simultaneous hedge strategies.

Case in point #1: Comcast. An outside observer would be hard pressed to sum up the cable giant’s OTT strategy. The company has already invested in launching its Fancast online video site to compliment its traditional subscription TV service. It has also signed on to trials of Time Warner’s TV Everywhere initiative, which aims to create a virtual walled garden of Internet-based streaming/video on demand content that is available only to authenticated, paying cable subscribers.

Comcast is also the parent company of the Platform, a nine-year old venture that has enlisted the who’s who of online video ecosystem partners to solve technical problems ranging from advertising, to content delivery and syndication. The Platform, which calls itself “the leading white-label video management and publishing company”, announced today another 20 partners in the pre-integrated ecosystem and now has 80 companies working together. These companies include leaders like analytics vendors Google AdSense and Webtrends, content delivery provider CDNetworks, syndication and content discovery company EveryZing, and transcoding specialist RadiantGrid Technologies. The Platform’s impressive customer list includes the BBC, Cablevision, CBS College Sports, CNBC, Cox Communications, Gannett/USA, PBS, Sony BMG, Starz Play, and Time Warner Cable.

As a final option, Comcast also has a partnership with TiVo for a premium DVR service (as an option to its own generic DVR offering), and could leverage TiVo’s existing online video capabilities to deliver OTT content if it so desired to fully enable TiVo’s hardware and software.

Case in point #2: Disney. Like many other content owners, Disney has licensing tentacles throughout the realms of traditional Pay TV, home video rental, and OTT video. Last spring, Disney/ABC became the third major backer for the Hulu online video rocket ship. It closed this deal even after building its impressive ABC.com online video property which offers full-length shows in addition to the usual faire of clips, teasers, and interactive apps. Disney’s content can be found through a variety of other services such as Netflix’s streaming service. It also has a deal with Vudu to allow customers to download-to-own movies through its Buena Vista Entertainment division. And of course, Disney enjoys profitable channel relationships through video rental retailers and service providers’ video on demand services. The many other ways Disney reaches (and profits from) consumer eyeballs are too extensive here to mention.

Case in point #3: Vudu. Once only enabled by its sleek and proprietary set-top box, Vudu has recently been morphing itself into a service enabled by any device capable of serving up its menu of 2,000+ 1080p HD movies (many with Dolby 5.1 surround sound). Major partners so far include IPTV set-top partner Entone, HDTV manufacturers Vizio and Mitsubishi, and Blu-ray players from LG. It is not clear if all of these partners will be able to cache downloaded movies or stream Vudu’s flagship HDX-quality movies with the same performance and quality as Vudu’s own hardware.

All this makes for some exciting analysis, but can also create confusion for average consumers. One wonders if all of these and other players have figured out how the last act in this OTT video drama plays out, perhaps having already mapped out an optimal path towards profiting from it. Or if maybe they are just as confused as many consumers, hoping to have a finger in as many pies as possible, in hopes that one will indeed be a winner. Time will tell.

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