Is OTT the New Field of Dreams?

By Chris Smith on July 20, 2017

If You Build It, Will They Come?

This timeless question has made its way across virtually every content creator, content owner, and digital marketer.

The OTT revolution has fundamentally changed how content owners and distributors interact. Content owners are entering the distribution space by building audiences online, and distributors are going into the content space to invest and create their own content.

As a content owner, you may be considering building your own OTT channel. There is also a chance you are already streaming your content, but aren’t happy with your licensing revenue. Either way,  you will want to take steps towards owning your own distribution channel and developing your own relationship with customers. This guide is designed to help you refine your understanding of OTT and help you make the right decision.

What Is OTT?

OTT stands for “over-the-top” and refers to the way content is delivered via the Internet where viewers don’t need to be subscribed to traditional services like cable or other paid-TV services.


You are probably very familiar with the OTT platforms Netflix and Hulu. These services disrupt the traditional cable models by allowing users to receive more value for less money and the freedom to cancel at any time. Many content owners have started to create their own standalone OTT services so they’re not relying on content aggregators or distributors to provide the bulk of their income.

As you can imagine, the disruption has created friction between traditional industries and  OTT providers. The Netflix OTT model is driving more and more customers away from traditional cable services and the trend is only accelerating in the last few years. Netflix now has more subscribers than the largest cable providers in the country.

OTT gained market traction quickly due to the culmination of a growing dissatisfaction with the traditional TV services. 73% of people feel that cable companies are predatory and take advantage of their subscription-based models at their customer's’ expense and 53% would leave if they had the chance. This is why cable TV’s market share has been nearly cut in half over the last two decades.

Traditional providers have had no choice but to adapt. The spike of Internet TV (IPTV) is traditional media’s response to OTT as they have started to distribute content on the Internet for free with sites like YouTube.

OTT is more than just another option. For any content creator, OTT is a dream come true. In fact, as OTT slowly becomes the standard for content creators, brands that have not gone OTT are struggling to keep up.

OTT is a Good Start, But It’s Only a Start

OTT is an incredible opportunity for content owners, but don’t be disillusioned. OTT is only the first step to completely owning your audience, owning your revenue, and total independence from middlemen.


Building your own OTT service provides an excellent foundation to grow your video business. When viewers interact with your content, they will download your customized branded apps on Apple TV or Roku, not Netflix. Or viewer can go directly to your brand’s owned-and-operated website. With a newfound independence, content owners no longer have to rely on the traditional distribution channels that once held all the control.  OTT video platforms such as Zype help to democratize distribution and empower content creators to take back control of their content and audience.

Once you have built and published your OTT platform, it’s exciting to see your branded app among Hulu and HBO GO as you scroll through Roku or Apple TV. Although it’s important to remember this is only the beginning. Just because you built your app, doesn’t mean viewers will come automatically. It’s time to focus on your viewers and start driving as many traffic as possible to your beautiful new app. This requires an unrelenting focus on distribution and audience development. Your OTT platform is merely the foundation for which your content marketing efforts are built upon.

Video content marketing goes far beyond what most content owners are prepared to do, let alone having the resources to execute on it. Before you consider going OTT, first determine whether you have an established audience and marketing bandwidth to make your video business successful.

Owning Your Own Distribution Channel and Beyond

In order to scale your distribution channel successfully, you must have a long-term strategy for building and maintaining your relationship with your viewers. With a myriad of different content marketing strategies, it’s easy to become overwhelmed quickly, so it’s important to find something that can sustainably work for you. Here are a few questions to ask when developing your own distribution channel:

Do I have the resources to execute this successfully? Overcommitting to a content marketing strategy and then realizing it’s exhausting your time, effort, and money is a pitfall that should be avoided at all costs.

Am I willing to experiment? You may find that the content strategy that has worked for you in the past, doesn’t cut it for OTT. Don’t be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone continually experiment with new ways to reach audiences.

Will this distribution channel reach my target audience? In order to drive traffic to your content, not only do you need to know who your target audience is but where they are. For example, if your video content is primarily crafting tutorials, you might find some success in targeting audiences and users of Pinterest and Etsy.

How will I retain my customers? It’s one thing to get someone to view your content for the first time, but a completely different ballgame to turn them into a loyal fan. Retention must be built into everything from your marketing efforts to your content.

While there are no guarantees that viewers will come just because you build an OTT channel, but it is certainly the first step in building and scaling your direct-to-consumer video business.

Connect your video with viewers, everywhere.