Advertising-supported or ad-free? A skinny bundle, or a single channel? A monthly bill comparable to cable, or a price closer to Netflix?
For consumers, the world of over-the-top video is flush with opportunity: the chance to cut the cord and save a little money, a video experience with an intuitive and simple user interface, and all the content one could want, on-demand and at your fingertips.
But the OTT landscape is also incredibly confusing, with a dozen “skinny bundles” like Philo and FuboTV offering pay-TV like services, and even more services offering single channels, like HBO Now and CBS All Access.
Do you need to have live sports? Then FuboTV may be your best bet. Do you hate sports? Then maybe Philo is right for you. Do you want a mix of channels, including some sports and some entertainment? Why not try Hulu or YouTube TV?
For cord-cutters or cord-nevers, figuring out the right mix of services can be a much more daunting task than simply signing up for cable, but clearly millions of people are choosing OTT over traditional pay-TV offerings.
“For years the reason for cord-cutting was driven by price. The bundle was too much money, and that is why people said they were going to cut the cord,” Andrew Hare, vice president of research at Magid, told Digital News Daily in a recent interview. “Over the past three years and in 2017, the majority of cord-cutters are directly attributing their behavior to OTT, and only something like 25% are saying it's because the cable bundle is too expensive. When you start to see data like that, you see this dramatic shift. Consumers are reconsidering everything here.”
That confusion is also creating opportunities for third parties. Recode, the Vox Media-owned technology site, created a streaming service guide that lets users plug in their favorite channel and see if it is available on an OTT service. The guide includes pricing for all the bundles the channel is in, letting users easily see their options.
Still, as many consumers are discovering, cutting the cord might not be a big money-saver. Between Netflix, HBO Now, the skinny bundles and broadband internet, the costs for premium content remain just as high as the learning curve for figuring out which service is best for each household.
But as these services proliferate, and consumers get used to user interfaces that prioritize ease of use -- and advertising that is more precisely targeted -- the cream will rise to the top. Or, as Cheddar CEO Jon Steinberg said at a recent Interactive Advertising Bureau conference: “One or more of these providers will win.”
When that happens, maybe the world will get a little simpler for consumers to navigate.