It’s All Streams to Me: Understanding OTT Services
18 May 2020 • tvsquared
Marlessa Stivala,
Content Marketing Manager

In recent years, has a single phrase been said more during industry events and panel discussions than “streaming wars?” Probably not. Established, new and still-to-come streaming services are all vying for audiences’ attention (and dollars) in a packed market.

For media owners, streaming presents a creative challenge: striking the ideal balance between creating successful movies and shows, utilizing existing IP (if any) and maintaining a competitive price point. The newer players, especially, need to convince audiences that their streaming service is worth considering alongside the ones that have been around for years.

Still, each streaming platform is unique. In addition to factors such as content and pricing, streaming services vary widely when it comes to whether or not they offer ad-supported tiers. For advertisers that are looking to take advantage of the incremental reach (and strong performance) that OTT can offer, knowing the differences between each major OTT category is essential information.

But don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! Below, check out a closer look at some examples of the key players in the streaming space, by a few major categories.

The Original Trio

Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video are probably the first three streaming services that come to mind for the majority of people. In addition to being dominant on-demand streaming players for well over ten years each, they also reign when it comes to worldwide subscribers.

All three showcase vast libraries of original and acquired film and TV content. When it comes to ad-supported options, Hulu prevails; among all major streaming services, Hulu has led the charge on experimenting with newer ad formats, including pause ads and binge ads. Meanwhile, specific sporting events on Amazon Prime Video sometimes contain ads, while speculation remains rampant regarding whether or not Netflix will offer an ad-supported option in the future.

New (and Coming Soon)

Recently, the industry has exploded with announcements for new and still-to-come, on-demand streaming services. Many of these are taking advantage of their respective company’s most iconic properties to build substantial libraries of content in order to draw in, and ultimately retain, subscribers. While a number of these (including Disney+) are ad-free right now, others (such as Peacock) are expected to incorporate ad-supported tiers.

Examples: Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock  

Live TV Streaming Services

These services, usually incorporating a set group of traditional TV channels, air the same programming that’s currently “live” on those networks via linear TV—they’re just delivered over the internet instead. Like traditional TV, these are also ad-supported and give advertisers an enormous opportunity to reach and engage their audiences wherever and whenever they choose to watch TV.

Examples: Hulu + Live TV, YouTubeTV, Philo

TV Everywhere Apps

Over the years, more and more networks have released channel-specific apps, offering pay TV subscribers on-the-go, ad-supported options for catching up on favorite shows. These apps are playing a greater role in the buy process, allowing advertisers better access to audiences and to experiment with spot lengths, as well as specific creatives, that are more suitable to an app environment.

Examples:  FX Now, Paramount Network, Pop  

Free to Stream

For viewers looking for the most cost-effective ways to enjoy many of their favorite movies and TV shows, there are now multiple streaming services that distinguish themselves by offering thousands of hours of TV and film content at no cost. Since all of the services that fall within this category are both free to subscribers and ad-supported, they provide a win-win scenario. For viewers, they are an accessible, free way to watch OTT content, even during times of uncertainty or economic downturns; for advertisers, they provide a way to connect with audiences that they may not reach via other OTT or linear platforms. Major media companies have also taken interest in the value of these services. Notably, ViacomCBS has purchased Pluto TV, while Fox has recently bought Tubi.

Examples: Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Crackle 

The Devices

The rise in streaming services has also led to a rise in streaming devices, providing viewers with even more ways to watch content. Options range by price, content selection, interface, design and more. While ad-supported options are another variance by device, the ad-supported content that is available across devices give advertisers a unique way to scale their OTT campaigns.

Examples: Roku Ultra, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV 

Download our eBook, “Demystifying Streaming in the New TV Era,” here for more on the state of OTT—and how advertisers can maximize OTT campaigns.