SDN Blog

Over-the-top video and the emerging world of content services

Posted on Monday, July 13, 2015 in Broadband Internet , Member Communities

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Netflix - Over-The-Top video

Someday, perhaps, nearly all TV and video programming will be streamed over the Internet. Or maybe some other technological advancement will come along and move video and audio content along new pathways to consumers.

Revolution is too strong a description, but providers’ content-delivery methods and consumers’ video-viewing habits certainly are changing. Increasingly, viewers have the flexibility to watch what they want, when they want and how they want.

In addition to traditional networks, third parties such as Sling TV, Hulu, Netflix, and others, provide content which can be watched on computer screens as well as on TV sets. They have given consumers options that go beyond cable and satellite services.

Over-the-top video is among the tech phrases that have come into vogue. Over-the-top, or OTT, refers to content services that ride on the top of an Internet subscriber’s existing service without the direct business involvement of the network operator.

New businesses have been jumping into the mix, and some old ones are revising their platforms and offerings so they can continue to sell viewing access and advertising. The extent to which the business models ultimately will change is not clear yet.

“I think things are on the cusp of changing. How dramatically is yet to be seen,” says Greg Dean, director of industry relations for the South Dakota Telecommunications Association.

“I think it’s going to change over a period of time. I think the way people get video content a decade from now certainly is going to be different than it is now. Will be it be radically different? That’s anybody’s guess.”

Ryan Dutton, a consultant for the telecommunications industry, says the short-term momentum is for more content to be provided over the Internet. But businesses such as TV networks, which have a lot invested in the current model, are directing content over the Internet, too.

Some type of blended model is likely to emerge in the future, says Dutton, who is the executive director of Cronin Communications, which does business nationally.

Members of the Millennial Generation – people born between the early 1980s and mid 1990s – are the current trendsetters, and they aren’t heavily burdened by history of how things have been done.

One significant variable in rural America is the degree to which the federal government decides to support the expansion of broadband connectivity to consumers in small towns and the countryside. Will providing good service to all Americans become the same kind of subsidized communications priority as providing good telephone service?

“We need that same commitment on the broadband side,” Dutton says.

Indeed, fast and reliable Internet service has become important for the well-being of most Americans, and not just for entertainment purposes. The Internet is used extensively in business communications.

As more household and business devices get connected to the Internet and as more programming gets sent out at higher levels of clarity, the need for good broadband connectivity increases.

In the case of video content, viewers are demanding a high-quality picture – one with a minimum of buffering and other delays. It doesn’t matter whether the content is being delivered to a TV screen, computer monitor or mobile phone, consumers want perfection.

Perfection is impossible to deliver. But SDN Communications and its member companies come as close as anyone. They are constantly extending and improving their fiber optic network, which crisscrosses South Dakota and reaches in several other states.

Collectively, SDN and its members are positioned well for the long term as well as the short term. But they, too, are curious about how this all plays out.

For more information about SDN, its member companies and the services they offer, visit the 'Who We Are' section of the SDN Communications website.