Kauser Kanji, MD of VOD Professional, introduces the industry forum OTT Question Time.
Just as we were going into the first Covid-related lockdown, in March 2020 here in the UK, I checked in with two OTT industry friends to see how they were doing.
The first, a senior exec at a major European broadcaster, told me that although they had business continuity plans in place, the actual announcement of the new restrictions – and the scale of them – had still come as a shock. She and her team would now have to practically implement those plans and figure out how to effectively run a linear and on-demand TV company whilst working from home.
The second, the CEO of a technology vendor, was just as candid. At the time, he had sixty full-time staff and given the uncertainty of what might happen over the coming months – whether a downturn in the advertising market, for example, or the lack of live sports, might lead to cuts in his customer’s budgets – he was only confident that he could pay them all until the end of Q2.
For my own part, I felt that insecurity as well. I’ve been working in online video since 2005 – formerly at Virgin Media and NBC Universal – and I set up VOD Professional in 2011 as a place to publish blog posts, interviews and best practice guides. I’ve since led consultancy projects for Netflix, the BBC and Sony Pictures, hosted an annual conference called The Business of Future TV and moderated panels at shows like IBC and Brightcove PLAY.
How would I keep the lines of communication open with colleagues and clients? With the lack of in-person events, how could I continue to learn about new OTT services, strategies and solutions? How were we all navigating this strange new world individually and together?
With so many questions running through my mind it felt natural to create a new industry forum called OTT Question Time.
It would, I thought, be streamed live via the newly popular Zoom. It would feature a range of views from broadcasters, film studios, service-providers, vendors and analysts alike. And, crucially, it would be an easy way for me – and for any viewers tuning in – to stay in touch with OTT news and developments.
Without thinking too much more about it, I pressed Go. I invited on some panellists, made a list of talking points and, a couple of weeks later, found myself introducing our inaugural session.
Now, two years on (and to my amazement), we’ve completed 56 episodes. In the early days we talked about the pandemic for sure but since then, we’ve discussed a huge variety of topics.
We’ve dissected Netflix’s technology budget with A+E Networks. Hailed the rise of addressable advertising with ITV. Gamed the arms race between the streamers and the pirates with Sky.
We’ve looked at the unique OTT landscapes in Australia / New Zealand, Sweden, India, Germany and France.
And we’ve learned how content recommendation really works, how the SVODs decide on their pricing structures and what the environmental effects of streaming are.
It’s been an education.
Today, I’m delighted to announce that OTT Question Time will now be hosted in association with Broadband TV News. This partnership means that our expert guests will be able to share their insights and opinions with a much wider audience. Their thoughts will be disseminated around a new OTT world facing new challenges and opportunities.
And for me? Well, I can keep asking questions.
Join us for the next episode of OTT Question Time this Thursday, 19th May (4pm UK / 5pm CET / 11am ET), where we’ll be talking about The Return of Bundles with Pat Byrden of TiVo, Marion Ranchet, formerly of Roku and no founder of The Local Act Consultancy, and Alan Wolk, Lead Analyst and co-founder of TVREV in New York.