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Streaming Media West Preview: Fox Networks on OTT Evolution

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Streaming Media West is now less than two weeks away, so we're interviewing a few of our upcoming presenters and panelists about the topics they'll speak about at the show. Sherry Brennan, senior vice president of distribution for Fox Networks, with talk about "Building a Better OTT Mousetrap," part of the conference's OTT Thought Leadership track.

Streaming Media: With major new competitors entering the OTT space, how do you see the area evolving in 2019?

Sherry Brennan: I think we will see the existing vMVPDs differentiate their marketing with focuses on bundled offerings, functionality differences, and whatever each believes their “secret sauce” to be. I think we’ll continue to see investment in better UI/UX and differentiating content offerings, too.

Are consumers happy with their current OTT selections? What do they want that they aren’t getting?

In a recent consumer insights panel with people who considered themselves to be “video streamers,” which I watched from an audience seat, I was interested to hear that those with traditional MVPD services rated their “source for video” much higher than those without an MVPD. I think that speaks to the breadth of traditional MVPD offerings and the improvements they’ve made in getting content into streaming environments. There’s still a lot of trial going on with the vMVPDs, and we’re seeing a lot of churn—way more than with the traditional MVPDs—which tells me that consumers haven’t quite found what they’re looking for. The ability to bundle with broadband definitely gives the cable and telco video providers an edge, in my opinion—though the lower-priced vMVPD services are definitely appealing to a certain segment. It remains to be seen if the vMVPDs can afford enough content to sell a compelling service at the prices they want to hit—and if not, we may see a slowing of growth in those services. 

Is there still room for growth in OTT? How can providers stand out?

Sure—I think there’s lots of room. The non-pay TV households number is continuing to grow, for one thing—and yet video consumption continues to rise, which tells us that there’s a big appetite for our content at the right price/value relationship. I think providers will begin to differentiate around UI/UX and functionality, bundle opportunities, and exclusive content. The app orientation of vMVPDs should attract new consumers who haven’t wanted a traditional set-top box, and we know that most households include at least one member who is a sports fan—making a pay TV service of some stripe a “must have” for most homes. 

Will AI improve OTT services? If so, how?

Better data and prediction models should make the UI/UX better, and make for better recommendations—though it’s still hard to get human behavior right. People are more whimsical and mercurial than algorithms can yet predict, so I think we have a ways to go before AI solves everything. But improvements are coming, for sure. 

What special challenges do live services face, and how will they overcome them?

Latency is an issue, especially for sports—you don’t want to be the one who hears your neighbors cheering 10 seconds before you see the touchdown! My layman’s answer to that is “more computing power,” which I’m sure is a vast over-simplification.

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