OTT Breaks Records and Looks to the Future
With the airing of the season seven finale of Game of Thrones a few weeks ago, HBO saw record-breaking viewership numbers. Having already become the most-watched show ever in the history of broadcasting, the Game of Thrones finale saw 12.1 million people tune in for the live broadcast in the U.S. and just under 4.5 million viewing it via streaming services. All 16.6 million were likely on the edge of their seat throughout.
The penultimate season of Game of Thrones shattered HBO’s viewership records and broke records internationally on other networks. In Nordic countries, where the show has proven to be exceptionally popular, HBO saw a 40% rise in traffic on August 28th, the day after the finale aired, compared to the day before it aired.
Beyond HBO’s blockbuster show, there’s a lot of other action in the realm of Over the Top (OTT) content, as other providers also seek to capitalize on the opportunities the segment provides.
For viewers still needing their fantasy fix, there’s the third season of Starz’ popular series “Outlander,” which features time travel and a number of beautiful locations. According to Adweek, the network has been preparing for a surge in new subscribers for its direct-to-consumer OTT offering, having already seen an increase in signups ahead of the premiers of its other popular shows.
And let’s not forget another of this year’s most highly anticipated offerings, the new Star Trek series “Discovery” which launched on CBS All Access at the end of September, achieving record sign-ups. According to Leslie Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS, “CBS All Access is growing faster than we anticipated domestically and now represents a whole new opportunity internationally, as well. By going direct-to-consumer around the world, we will facilitate new connections between the global audience and our industry-leading premium content."
For sports fans, there was the Mayweather-McGregor fight on August 26th, another huge event which marked the foray of OTT providers into the world of Pay-Per-View. And the 2017-18 football season is underway. The NFL Game Pass subscription streaming service has been “newly enhanced” and has rolled out across Europe, streaming every NFL game live in HD with added multi-stream capabilities.
Of course, while the popularity of these shows and events certainly drives new sign-ups, OTT services are sensitive to the challenges of customer retention, once the season or show run is over. Starz’s strategy, as outlined by Adweek, is to establish “beachheads”—popular shows like Outlander—that attract an audience, and then build up a library of other content that will continue to satisfy viewers.
“We want to add value to the subscriptions. If you have a subscriber that’s subscribing to watch Power or Outlander, and they have something that the family can watch when they’re in the car, it adds value…. And at some point, that value just becomes too valuable to not have,” says Starz CEO Chris Albrecht, who also references Starz users’ ability to download content to their mobile devices and watch on the go.
Indeed, viewing OTT content on a mobile device may become a significant driver. A recent report by Cisco finds that 70% of mobile traffic is expected to be video-based by 2021.
All of these shows, apps, and viewing options represent the ways that OTT services are establishing more meaningful relationships with their audiences, with greater flexibility to meet their viewers’ needs, and taking advantage of new options, such as PPV, to monetize content.