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Living the OTT life

Does Freeview OTT have a future?

I spoke to a senior executive about an OTT product last week, name redacted, who told me about a service on an OTT platform which had generated fewer views on Freeview than it had on Kindle Fire.

That was deeply concerning, how can a platform that has a potential reach of about 20 million homes be delivering such appalling value to viewers and broadcasters? Another broadcaster spoke to me a year ago about a trial they were involved in which had attracted less than 100 paying customers.

These numbers are catastrophic and irrational, no sane broadcaster can be expected to invest in platforms that generate these levels of response. Freeview has plans to deliver content in significant volumes via connected sets, but the current models are failing badly. EPG prominence has its part to play - who watches the current set of services in the 240s? - but there is a much bigger job to be done here.

Freeview Play bringing mainstream players from the PSBs to to UK homes on Panasonic TVs will make a start, but I don't see anything like the scale of growth or marketing push needed to drive a real OTT market. It is good news that Freeview Play is launching, but I have yet to hear how it will relate to the existing OTT players on the platform, I hope that they are part of the vision.

Meanwhile web-based players continue to grow quietly and in significant numbers. And there are still new industry players planning content-specific set-top boxes with a simple plug-and-play model, many now using Android software.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to identify a good OTT strategy for smaller UK broadcasters, and surely the various smaller options available on Freeview need to be part of the wider Freeview Play plan for a connected world if viewers are to benefit, I hope they are.

VuTV, Vision TV, TV Player and a couple of channel-specific players sitting in an isolated world at the arse-end of the EPG looks almost as though it was calculated to create no-audience TV. I do hope that the new prominence given to Freeview Play's connected future can encompass all the content options on the platform... It would make advising broadcasters to develop services a great deal easier.