IBC2017: A high-calibre panel was asked by moderator Mike Grant (founder/CEO at Caru Ventures) to say who was making money out of VOD, and how hard was it to set up a service?

Gulliver smithers

Gulliver Smithers

Gulliver Smithers, SVP Product & Technology at Sony Networks/Sony Pictures Entertainment and its Crackle VOD offering, said that their initial enthusiasm was to set up the service on as many platforms as possible. “Now, we have to admit that some are simply not worth bothering with.”

Phil Mordecai, Curzon’s director, admitted that without Curzon Film’s 85-year history it might not be enjoying access to some 7.5 million homes. “The brand is important. We have these loyal customers.

“Our rivals, try as they might, won’t all succeed. One of the obvious problems is scale. The consumer wants a superb service, and high quality on their screens. I cannot match the cash that Sony or Netflix is spending on the ‘back office plumbing’.”

The panel agreed that serving a high demand was a major challenge, and frequently not helped by poor bandwidth availability over which they had little control. Steve Shannon, GM Content & Services at Roku, said he knew of a US-based Pastor who supplied his sermons to parishioners “and it works really well. And we firmly believe that one of these days all TV will be streamed, but there are plenty of [OTT] business which are not making cash. A basic service is easy, but supplying quality to a large number of users is far from easy.”

“I believe we will see new bundles emerge, but in time there has to be a return to aggregation” – Ivan Verbesselt, Nagra

Shannon added that just making a functioning App for the dozens of systems and devices is also a headache, and expensive.

Ivan Verbesselt, SVP Group Marketing at encryption specialists Nagra, threw a number of other challenges into the mix, not least content protection. “But you also have to ask how many brands or OTT options can the customer actually cope with? People can self-bundle but this will only lead to massive fragmentation.

“I believe we will see new bundles emerge, but in time there has to be a return to aggregation. There’s also the question of cultural diversity to be taken into account, and language.”

And every panellist agreed that data, and the ability to interpret data, was key to understanding the customer. Curzon’s Mordecai added, “the world has changed. Now, it is all about the consumer, and whether that customer is loyal and sticky to your service.”