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Summing the IP&TV World Forum 2011 up with two letters: O & T, then looking at it from three angles: content, technology & operators.

I was expecting Over-the-top to be a prevalent theme, but not to swamp the whole conference the way it did. From the few conference talks I attended, right from the OTT Forum breakfast to Netflix’s keynote on the last day OTT was in everyone’s slides. Then on the exhibition floor there wasn’t a booth that didn’t have the precious two letters somewhere on a wall or at last in the literature.

OTT is a totally different proposition depending on which angle you take. My company is called CTO innovation Consulting, because we strive to work withall three of Content owners, Technology providers and Network Operators. So lets have a look at those three angles.

For Content owners like Hollywood studios, OTT is just another channel. In an ideal world it should represent only potential, but as Hulu pointed out at the conference, it could imply reduced margins, and if it kills off other channels it’s generally bad news. The typical knee-jerk way to fight back is to go direct to the consumer so that if there is a smaller cake to share, there are less people to share it with. Knees can jerk incredibly fast, but not much thought goes into the process.

Technology providers are eagerly rubbing their hands together in anticipation of selling new solutions. A few of the industry top guns like Apple & Google are actually changing landscape. But for the rest, be it small start-ups like the army of Connected-TV specialists, larger appliance suppliers such as encoding companies like Harmonic or Envivio, software suppliers like Adobe and even Microsoft or even OTT pure players like TVinci or Capablue it’s just one huge sales bandwagon to get on.

Now for the hardest part: Network Operators. During time of rapid broadband penetration (almost 10 years ago in developed markets, around now in emerging ones), however creative the marketers, the key selling feature has always been “as big a pipe as possible for a small a subscription as possible”. Then, as markets mature the issue becomes one of climbing up the value chain, adding value: being more than just a dumb bit pipe. OTT is a double-edged sword in this respect. It lets network operators easily access third party services and dress them up in their own colours, but it also means any other service is just a click away. This is where the Net neutrality debate comes in and it was amazingly absent from the IP&TV World forum discussions. As if the whole industry had its head in the sand. I didn’t hear a single mention of the big US operators recent decision put caps on existing data plans.

If the hype keeps up, you can expect the show to soon be rebranded OTT World forum.
I’ll be writing up my discussions on some of the booths from next week.