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Are You Down With O-T-T?
By: Mike Bush
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There’s a movement in the U.S. of people discontinuing their cable service and using only the Internet for content. This doesn’t mean only reading blogs and watching Goodnight Burbank, though. With Over-the-Top (O-T-T) services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, along with MLB.TV and other sports networks, it’s entirely possible to never miss a show that a consumer wants to see, all while not paying the $90+ a month for a cable subscription.

Sounds great, right?

Well, unless you’re a cable company watching your customers leave en masse.

And that’s why there’s a fight brewing on multiple fronts, with cable giant Comcast sitting right in the middle of the action (you didn’t think the company would stand by, allow its customers to switch off their cable subscriptions, and then get all their entertainment from their Comcast Internet subscription, did you?).

Here’s a brief history lesson from GigaOm about the steps Comcast has already taken to slow the Cord Cutting movement. The most recent move, in which Comcast is giving priority to its own streaming service over other services has been blasted by folks like Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix. And Comcast did relent a bit, offering different tiers of data caps and making the cap slightly higher.

Comcast isn’t alone; Time Warner seems to believe that in order for someone to be able to get Hulu, they should have a cable subscription. So in other words, you have to pay for a cable subscription in order to have the right to pay for a subscription to Hulu to have access to the same content you’re getting with your first subscription.

However, not every cable company is entirely against O-T-T services. In an interesting turn of events, Dish Network seems to be trying something entirely different: allowing customers to subscribe to different packages of foreign shows over their Internet connection streamed to a Roku box. (Wonder how quickly Cricket matches will eat into Comcast’s data cap?).

Why does all this matter to PR folks?

It’s important to understand that the way folks consume content is changing dramatically. Today, a person can time-shift their viewing of a show like The Office; they can begin watching the show on their smartphone or tablet while commuting on a train, pause the show, walk into their home, and turn on their Connected TV to go right back to where they left off. Oh, and they can do so without paying for a cable subscription, and will only have about two minutes of commercials for the episode, rather than the normal 7 to 10 minutes. It’s a utopian picture for fans of the show, but it’s the nightmare for companies like Comcast, because the only revenue they’re seeing in this picture is from the Internet connection they have provided to a consumer (note: It’s also possible a consumer has gone with Clear for their connection and cut Comcast out of the picture entirely).

There’s no way to know for sure how everything will shake out. Could a company begin offering content tiers over-the-top of an Internet connection, serving as a sort of Virtual Cable Company? It’s possible, and it could actually open up an a la carte channel selection for consumers (no one watches all 1,400 channels that come with a cable bundle, and this could allow people to select the channels they DO watch, and drive down their typical cost of cable). It could also allow for more niche content to become more mainstream (take note Flacks... this could mean more places to pitch your stories).

Unfortunately, if Comcast has their way, it will never come into being.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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