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What is OTT?

For the last 8 years I have traveled each April to Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters Conference, NAB. This is the largest gathering of broadcasters and media professionals in the world. All 3 of the Las Vegas convention center exhibit halls are jam packed with companies from all over the world. Vendors have everything, from cameras and lenses to media storage networks on the show floor.

I attended my first NAB in 2010 with the goal of finalizing the video system for the New Holy City of Zion. I was 22 years old and fresh out of college with an enormous task! I tried to get my brother Walter to go with me, but he was too :)

Over the course of 4 days, along with one of my mentors, Greg McGeehan, we were able to lock in all of the video equipment for the new building. It was exciting to get up close with the top-level production equipment and take it for a test drive. I started making connections to vendors, some that we still work with today. Hitachi Cameras and a Ross Video Vision Switcher formed the hub of our video system. AJA and Blackmagic converters were the missing link that made HD affordable for us in 2010.

In my early years of attending NAB 3D was the next big thing. Then, it was gone. The market proved that consumers were not going to dive into watching TV with glasses. Next was the DSLR revolution. No longer were larger cameras needed for filmmakers, now smaller, photo cameras could do the job at a fraction of the price. Rigs and accessories took over the showroom floor. Everywhere you turned you could find a cage, follow focus ring, slider, or stabilizer unit for a DSLR. The DSLR movement caught on and is now a staple of the industry.

Panasonic's GH5s was my pick for top DSLR of the show this year.

Next up was Virtual and Augmented Reality. These were 360 cameras and rigs that would allow you to capture all angles of an experience. The consumer could then decide which area of the event they wanted to focus in on. But… this year, VR/AR was nowhere to be found.

As I walked the floor with my team, I was shocked. There was no one big time. There was no new technology that monopolized the energy of the show as the Blackmagic pocket camera did in 2012 or Drones in 15 and 16. This is was different. Nothing jumped out at us. Since nothing jumped out, I asked a different question, what is not being said?

Over the last 8 years the industry has shifted. The lower cost DSLRs and increased outlets for distribution have created a new generation of media creators that do not need the high-end gear. Since TV and movie theaters are no longer the exclusive destination, a $500,000 budget is not required for quality work. Now, a creator can take $5,000 and make award winning content.

This shift has opened the door for Over the top transmission, OTT, a new method of distribution. No longer must there be a middle man, a TV station or big production house, to get content to consumers. Now, the content creator can go straight to those who want it via custom VOD networks, Roku and Apple TV apps, and websites. You want content from your favorite brand? Go to their site, sign up for an account, and tad-da, it’s at your fingertips!

Smart TVs and streaming boxes give us access OTT content right in our homes.

While this can be seen as a threat to the cable providers and broadcasters, it is an opportunity for brands. You can connect like never before with your fan base. Create content and push it out. It’s that simple. No more buying TV time or scheduling an infomercial to promote your brand. Get a low-cost camera, edit it together, and send it out to your entire database. All simple, all effective, and all disrupting.

So how can you take advantage of OTT? First building your content library! It’s great to go straight to your base, but you need something to send them! The quality of your content should match the image of your brand. If you are a polished, established brand, your content should be thought out and polished. This does not mean it has to be unrealistic, but a million-dollar brand should not put out ten-dollar content!

Next you must build up your database. Who are you customers, fans, brand loyalist? Who are the people that will subscribe and possibly pay for access to your content and your brand? What type of content are they interested in? Learn all of this information on the front end. There are many tools and apps available to help you gather this information.

After you know your audience and have a plan for your content you can then push out content to your audience. You can build a custom OTT style network on your own site, use an established video provider (my preferred option) such as Vimeo or YouTube, or host it exclusively on your social media pages. Whatever method you use, make sure you have a strategy. Do not jump in head first without a plan for building and increasing your content. And never forget, your last piece of content is only as good as the next one. Content is king and must always stay fresh. Stale content will lead to loss of interest, subscribers, and possibly revenue.

So, what do you think? Have you found yourself spending more time on OTT subscription sites such as Netflix, CBS All Access, HBO Now, and Hulu?

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