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Over-the-Top Solutions Abound, But the Term Is Losing It's Meaning
When even shortwave companies tout OTT solutions, the term has clearly taken off. OTT is expanding, and Streaming Media is going with it.

At this year’s IBC in Amsterdam, discussion of over-the-top video was, well, over the top. That much was apparent simply by looking at every stand in almost all of the trade show’s 14 halls, not just in the pop-up Hall 14, the one supposedly dedicated to IP video called IBC Connected World.

But perhaps we should take it as a sign that OTT is a buzzword that has almost lost its meaning. Waiting to board a canal cruise departing from the enormous RAI Exhibition and Congress Centre, I started making small-talk with someone from a shortwave engineering services company who began telling me about her company’s OTT solution.

As a colleague of mine joked, we wouldn’t have been surprised to see a microphone accessory manufacturer touting its OTT wind sock. With so many truly innovative solutions and services helping publishers deliver their content via public IP (even if, at some point, the signal was transmitted via shortwave), it’s distressing that OTT has become just another buzzword that companies feel they have to slap on their marketing materials.

Maybe it’s not so much that OTT has lost its meaning as it’s lost its distinctiveness. It’s just another delivery method, one with its pros and cons, neither a savior nor a doom-bringer. In other words, as the term has become more ubiquitous, the hype surrounding it -- both positive and negative -- has diminished.

And that’s undoubtedly a good thing, as is a parallel development I saw for the first time at IBC. Previous years’ events have featured sessions with titles referring to the death of broadcast or the war between it and OTT. Save for one company’s use of the phrase, “It’s time for SDI to die” on its banners, the overarching theme of IBC this year might have best been summed up as, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Over and over, discussions with vendors and content players turned to the fact that the worlds of broadcast engineering and IP video engineering -- long separated by terminology and culture -- are going to have to start learning each others’ languages and working together to solve really sticky problems such as systems integration and getting archival content from Hollywood’s vaults where it needs to be for today’s multichannel, multidevice world.

All of this means that the Digital Natives in streaming media are going to have to turn to unfamiliar places for help, and none of us can afford to be digital isolationists. The “connected world” might have gotten its own hall at IBC, but many of the companies that you might see at a Streaming Media event weren’t there. They were in with the broadcast solutions providers and the satellite dishes; really they were anywhere and everywhere at the conference.

It also means that Streaming Media’s world is getting bigger, and you’re going to see coverage of things that one person at IBC said might have been previously considered “too broadcasty” or “too cably” for our pages. In order to do this, Streaming Media is growing from six issues to nine issues annually, giving us the ability to go further in-depth on more topics. Not just the media and entertainment stuff that you might see at IBC or NAB, either; we’re upping our coverage of all applications of online video, including enterprise and education, in our 2014 editorial calendar. It will also give us a chance to include more content from the Streaming Media Producer side of our editorial purview than ever before. I’ll fill you in more on what’s in store for 2014 in our next issue.

These changes are also reflected in the 2013 Streaming Media 100 and 2013 Streaming Media Europe 100 lists. It’s the most diverse group of companies we’ve presented in our 3 years of doing this list, and I’m already looking forward to seeing what 2014’s lists looks like.

This article appears in the October/November 2013 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Over the Top."