Leveraging Blockchain to Address the Challenges of Over The Top Content Providers

Blockchain, Innovation | August 10, 2018 By:

When it comes to today’s media ecosystem, OTT, or “Over The Top,” is one area that could be immediately improved by blockchain-based solutions.

OTT is one of the most important media ecosystems in today’s video and TV entertainment world. As a service for viewers, it’s the bridge between television and digital video, and quite likely the ultimate destination for both. Most people become aware of  OTT by viewing content provided through streaming devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV. OTT apps offer viewers access to HBO, Netflix, Hulu, SlingTV and other video services , as well as “TVOD,” or “TV On Demand.” Unlike traditional cable and satellite TV services, which lock customers into multi-year contracts, OTT services offer a more curated and personalized experience by allowing the customer to add and subtract the apps they subscribe to at will.

In the U.S. today, demand for premium video content is almost full-market scale, with nearly 200 million OTT viewers in 2018. OTT also accounts for almost half of total ad spend, but it’s immensely challenging for advertisers to know if their money is being put to good use or not, due to a fragmented audience base and the limited data available about viewers.

The problem with gaining this valuable data about user habits is that OTT viewer behavior just isn’t monitored in the same easy-to-track way as digital video. With digital content viewing, clicks, “likes,” comments, and even time spent watching content is recorded and analyzed to help determine viewer tendencies, demographics, locations and ultimately what kind of advertising to employ. Simply stated, the more data that can be collected about a user, the better advertisers are able to target them with products and services tailored to each individual. This in turn, increases ROI of media buy for advertisers.

This issue is known as a lack of “addressability” in OTT. The ability to customize ads to their specific audience members, no matter what show is being viewed at a household on a one-to-one basis, leads to more engaged viewers as well as happier marketers.

How can OTT providers really know their audiences in depth when there is no yardstick that measures every OTT platform? While Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings are accredited for desktop and mobile, there’s still no standardization for smart TVs, which just happens to be the most valuable ecosystem in the space. ComScore offers an OTT intelligence product, but focuses on major OTT content providers – Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube. By not including all programmers, it is ultimately inconclusive.

In comparison, the sheer volume and depth of data collected by behemoth social media platforms like Facebook, search engine giants like Google and e-commerce dominators like Amazon dwarf whatever data OTT services can garner from current methods. And all of these tech giants are developing their respective video services, aimed at disrupting both legacy media broadcasters and OTT content channels.

Currently, ad targeting in OTT is directed based on data collection matching to third party data, by connecting chosen content with general audience demographic and zip code, and is crude at best. With the use of real-time dynamic ad insertion specifically targeted to a viewer, using IP address and data culled from an individual’s viewing history, the accuracy of ad placement with a relevant viewer increases.

Introducing a secure blockchain-based platform to OTT might just solve many of the frustrations inherent to the ecosystem. Through the use of tokens on a blockchain, for instance, viewers might have the option to offer more in-depth information on likes and dislikes, incentivised by the exchange of tokens, which might be exchanged for goods, services or experiences. Users might reveal their tastes in enjoyable and engaging games and contests directly linked to shows, to give insight to content providers as well as advertisers. After all, every healthy relationship is symbiotic in nature and the world of video and TV entertainment is no exception. When there is a lively exchange of value in the form of information flowing both ways, a robust dynamic is sparked and the entire ecosystem benefits.

Besides this healthy rewards system made possible through the use of tokens, the well-known strength of data security would be valuable in the use of a blockchain platform for OTT. Secure data tracking and sharing of anonymized data between all parties – viewers, brands, agencies, content creators and shows – could be guaranteed via blockchain technology.

Better, more accurate and more nuanced ad targeting in OTT is important for content providers and viewers alike. The better all parties know each other, the better job they can do to provide the best service to each other. Content providers don’t want to waste ad dollars on misguided ads that will be simply tuned out by viewers. Viewers don’t want to be shown ads that are not relevant to who they are. We all need to be seen accurately and in turn to see each other. Blockchain technology holds the possibility for this kind of connection by creating a network of willing participants who, working together, can achieve a more efficient media ecosystem.

Disclosure: for those who are interested, my company, iPowow, is developing a blockchain initiative for TV and video, the HIT Protocol, to address these issues and more by empowering all players in the HIT Protocol media ecosystem with more opportunities for participation, connection, revenue, and rewards.