Making OTT Profitable for Linear Broadcasters

There is nothing new in the distribution of linear TV over the internet; TV Everywhere (TVE) is pretty much demanded by consumers and is now considered the norm. Traditional broadcasters are forced to keep up with evolving viewer habits by making content available online pretty much immediately and on any device.

But in almost all cases, they are doing so without inserting the necessary signalling which indicates where within a linear stream advertising and other content segments begin and end, and which segments can, must, or must not be replaced with alternate content. Broadcasters already consider providing content Over-The-Top (OTT) a cost of doing business–they know it is part of their future. However, without the right signalling, it is virtually impossible to realize the maximum monetization OTT has to offer broadcasters. Moreover, without the right signalling it is extremely difficult to provide the seamless professional viewing experience broadcasters and viewers expect.

By failing to invest in the technology which can make OTT so lucrative, including signal delivery and correct metadata signalling, broadcasters are not making the most of the opportunities presented by OTT, of which there are many.


Although OTT should be looked at as an opportunity (as long as the right technology is in place), distributing linear content over the internet is considerably more complex than OTT VOD or TVE distribution. Even the process of reformatting content for OTT is time-consuming, let alone the challenge of correctly adhering to content distribution rights across various devices and regions.

OTT distributors must now programmatically and automatically react at the last second if a piece of content cannot be distributed to viewer X on a cell phone in California because it does not have the right to do so. Without the correct signalling in place to trigger the replacement of this content with something else, the broadcaster could be fined and the OTT distributor may just default to putting up a “slate” to blackout the content. With the current level of competition for viewing time, modern viewers simply won’t wait for this to be resolved and are likely to switch off or watch another video stream.

Linear TV advertising is big business with transactions for the priciest slots coming in at over half a million dollars. Broadcasters are able to cover the astronomical cost of putting a channel on air with the revenue generated from this advertising. But making this content available online could involve costly duplication of workflows and costs, which are not covered by today’s OTT advertising and subscription revenues. The sad fact is, however, that it doesn’t have to be like this for broadcasters, with OTT presenting a number of opportunities to add further value to their existing linear content.

[Read: Syncbak To Conduct 'First Ever' Live OTT Broadcast Using Local Dynamic Ad Insertion]

One of these opportunities is dynamic insertion, or more accurately, replacement of targeted ads. But again, this simply isn’t as easily done in the case of linear TV streamed OTT. For example, it makes no sense for ads broadcast on linear TV to remain with the content for OTT VOD streaming several days later. These ads may be stale and irrelevant by then. More pressingly, the replacement ads must be the exact duration of those needing to be replaced otherwise there will be a discontinuity (a black frame if the ad is too short, or cutting off the beginning of the following content segment if too long, for example). To do this seamlessly and to make OTT as profitable as possible, the broadcaster must be able to deliver the metadata, which signals the frame boundaries and duration of every content segment, to OTT distributors so ads can be replaced dynamically.


Broadcasters also have the opportunity to capitalize on the expansion of Nielson Ratings to include the first few days after a linear broadcast, in order to account for on-demand viewing. Linear content streamed OTT effectively has “two bites at the apple,” but only if broadcasters are able to making this content available almost immediately within the C3 window, and cost-effectively too.

Integration with broadcast systems, like media asset management systems, automation playout systems, on-air switchers, etc., provides the most effective way to access timing data associated with content segments. This way, information including timing, asset type and unique IDs can be signalled in-band or delivered out-of-band and applied to the video stream later, with no impact on the main linear broadcast workflow.

If a broadcaster were to extract metadata describing a linear TV channel, including the start and end of each content segment, and deliver these as SCTE 35 messages, it is possible to automate a whole host of value adding applications. This includes Dynamic Ad Insertion/Replacement, the creation of on-demand assets and even interactive TV. As this is done in an automated fashion, it removes much of the cost and labor associated with making linear TV available OTT and solves many associated business challenges.

For example this solves the issue of complex rights management. A policy can be triggered downstream when metadata within a content segment indicates that a particular piece of content must be replaced according to certain parameters as further defined using SCTE 224. For example, if a stream is requested by a viewer in country X or on a particular network, the metadata signalling can indicate that a different stream must be delivered instead.

With the ability to dynamically replace ads on-the-fly, thanks to correctly delivered metadata signals, providing linear content OTT can be a much more valuable process. This is particularly the case if these ads are personalized. In fact, a recent study found that ads within OTT platforms are 67 percent more effective per impression than those on broadcast or cable television. This is because it is much easier to personalize ads according to individual users when delivering content over the internet, as an individual stream is sent to each viewer.

Using additional metadata about users, such as location, viewing history, browsing history etc., it is possible using a distributed playout architecture to deliver much more targeted ads to specific users. Naturally this means the ads themselves are much more valuable and therefore profitable. As long as the timing information and metadata about each segment and ad is delivered, either in-band or out-of-band, to the last video server in the distribution chain, operators can make sure the ads they insert are seamless and accurate.


Broadcasters have very little choice when it comes to providing OTT content if they want to remain relevant. This does present many challenges as we have discussed, but none of these are insurmountable with the right technology in place to deliver signalling and metadata information. With these measures in place, linear broadcasters can take advantage of the applications that can make OTT an attractive proposition. Everything from content replacement, rights management, automated asset creation and dynamic ad insertion/replacement are all possible, increasing the value of linear content and opening up new revenue streams. OTT is no longer a cost of doing business, it is a lucrative business.