It’s quite a challenge to add to the plethora of CES 2011 blogs. This post puts together some of my key observations. I didn’t touch on everything I saw and might have even missed key insights, so it’s not “the definitive” guide to anything CES. The show is huge and there were over 140,000 people there, so it wasn’t easy to catch all the action. But I did see a lot, and gain some insight along the way:
Earlier this year, I presented at OTTcon. This was the first major conference about OTT (video) ever, and was attended by a few hundred people and many industry players. Coming into this conference, I was under the distinct impression that OTT is a significant disruption to traditional service provider business and that it would have a significant and negative long-term impact on that marketplace. The common wizdom is that service providers who have the most to lose will be the least motivated to support OTT, and will therefore be the last to embrace it, if ever, will ultimately face the disruptive impact most of all, possibly losing their video distribution business over time.
But—I came out of the conference with the opposite conclusion! It’s not that OTT won’t be disruptive – it will, but not “as” disruptive as one might expect. And most of the market players will probably remain in place and not be sidelined by OTT. If it were truly disruptive, it would harm the existing service providers more than I expect it actually will.
Why? Because I think the current service providers themselves will ultimately be the ones that enable OTT content, thus avoiding a major disruption – whether they know it right now or not! In fact, right now, they’re doing very little, and most OTT is being enabled by others. So why do I think they’ll wake up in time? Read on to find out.
In case you’re wondering, OTT means “over the top” and it refers to all traffic that flows “on top” of broadband access, typically provided by someone else. For the service provider who provides the access to the Internet, this is just “data”, but for the consumer, this is “video”. While there are many other types of OTT content, this conference was only about video. When I’ll use of the term and “OTT” here, I’m referring only to over-the-top video content.