Over-the-top media services

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Over the top (OTT) is a term used to refer to content providers that distribute streaming media as a standalone product directly to viewers over the Internet, bypassing telecommunications, multichannel television, and broadcast television platforms that traditionally act as a controller or distributor of such content.[1]

The term is most synonymous with subscription-based video on demand services that offer access to film and television content (including existing series acquired from other producers, as well as original content produced specifically for the service), including but not limited to Amazon Video, fuboTV, Hulu, Netflix, Now TV, and Sky Go as well as a wave of "skinny" television services that offer access to live streams of linear specialty channels similar to a traditional satellite or wireline television provider, but streamed over the public Internet, rather than a closed, private network with proprietary equipment such as set-top boxes.

Over the top services are typically accessed via websites on personal computers, as well as via apps on mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets), digital media players (including video game consoles), or televisions with integrated smart TV platforms.


In 2011, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) stated that it "considers that Internet access to programming independent of a facility or network dedicated to its delivery (via, for example, cable or satellite) is the defining feature of what have been termed 'over-the-top' services".[2]

In contrast to video on demand video-delivery systems offered by cable and IPTV, which are tightly managed networks where channels can be changed instantly, some OTT services such as iTunes require that the video be downloaded first and then played,[3] while other OTT players such as Apple TV, Amazon Unbox or Netflix offer movie downloads that start playing before the download completes (streaming).[4]

The FCC categorizes the OTT services into two groups: multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs); and online video distributors (OVDs).[5][6]

Virtual MVPDs include such varied services as DirecTV Now, fuboTV, Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV.

An OVD was defined by the FCC as:

any entity that provides video programming by means of the Internet or other Internet Protocol (IP)-based transmission path where the transmission path is provided by a person other than the OVD. An OVD does not include an MVPD inside its MVPD footprint or an MVPD to the extent it is offering online video programming as a component of an MVPD subscription to customers whose homes are inside its MVPD footprint.[5]


In broadcasting, over-the-top content (OTT) is the audio, video, and other media content delivered over the Internet without the involvement of a multiple-system operator (MSO) in the control or distribution of the content. The Internet provider may be aware of the contents of the Internet Protocol (IP) packets but is not responsible for, nor able to control, the viewing abilities, copyrights, and/or other redistribution of the content. This model contrasts with the purchasing or rental of video or audio content from an Internet service provider (ISP), such as pay television,[citation needed] video on demand,[citation needed] and from internet protocol television (IPTV).[citation needed][7] OTT refers to content from a third party that is delivered to an end-user, with the ISP simply transporting IP packets.[8][9][10][11]

Types of content

OTT television, usually called internet television or streaming television, remains the most popular OTT content. This signal is received over the internet or through a cell phone network, as opposed to receiving the television signal from a terrestrial broadcast or satellite. Access is controlled by the video distributor, through either an app or a separate OTT dongle or box, connected to a phone, PC or television set. By mid-2017, 58 per cent of US households would access one in a given month and advertising revenues from OTT channels exceeded those from web browser plug-ins.[12]

OTT messaging is defined as instant messaging services or online chat provided by third parties, as an alternative to text messaging services provided by a mobile network operator.[13][14] An example is the Facebook-owned mobile application WhatsApp, that serves to replace text messaging on Internet connected smartphones.[15][16] Other providers of OTT messaging include Viber, WeChat, Skype, and Google Allo. [17]

OTT voice calling, usually called VOIP, capabilities, for instance, as provided by Skype, WeChat, Viber, and WhatsApp use open internet communication protocols to replace and sometimes enhance existing operator controlled services offered by mobile phone operators.[citation needed]

Modes of access

Consumers can access OTT content through Internet-connected devices such as phones (including Android, iOS, and Windows-type mobile devices),[citation needed] smart TVs (such as Google TV and LG Electronics' Channel Plus),[18][better source needed] set-top boxes (such as Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku),[citation needed] gaming consoles (such as the PlayStation 4, Wii U, and Xbox One),[citation needed] and desktop and laptop computers and tablets.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Jarvey, Natalie (15 September 2017). "Can CBS Change the Streaming Game With 'Star Trek: Discovery'?". The Holywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  2. ^ (CRTC), Government of Canada, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. "Results of the fact-finding exercise on the over-the-top programming services". www.crtc.gc.ca. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  3. ^ Gibbon, David C., and Liu, Zhu. Introduction to Video Search Engines. Washington, DC: Federal Communications Commission (FCC). p. 251.
  4. ^ Cansado, Jose Miguel (13 October 2008). "Will Internet TV Kill IPTV?". Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  5. ^ a b FCC (May 6, 2016). Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming [Seventeenth Report; MB Docket No. 15-158; DA 16-510] (PDF) (Report). Washington, DC: Federal Communications Commission (FCC). pp. 4417–4587. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  6. ^ "FCC Officially Launches OVD Definition NPRM". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  7. ^ IPTV is the delivery of television content using signals based on the logical Internet protocol (IP), rather than through traditional terrestrial, satellite signal, and cable television formats.[citation needed]
  8. ^ Hansell, Saul (March 3, 2009). "Time Warner Goes Over the Top". The New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  9. ^ "Over-the-Top Video and Content Delivery Networks Will Transform Video-On-Demand Provisioning". Electronic Component News. November 19, 2009. Archived from the original on March 5, 2012.
  10. ^ "Why 2011 Is Being Called The Year Of "The Cable Cut"". Business Insider. December 30, 2010. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  11. ^ "Who Is Playing The OTT Game And How To Win It". Business Insider. December 30, 2010. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  12. ^ Andrew Orlowski; Can the last person watching desktop video please turn out the light?, The Register, 8 Aug 2017 (retrieved 8 Aug 2017).
  13. ^ "Chart of the Day: Mobile Messaging". Business Insider. May 17, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  14. ^ Maytom, Tim (August 4, 2014). "Over-The-Top Messaging Apps Overtake SMS Messaging". Mobile Marketing Magazine. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  15. ^ Albergotti, Reed; MacMillan, Douglas; Rusli, Evelyn (February 20, 2014). "Facebook's $18 Billion Deal Sets High Bar". The Wall Street Journal. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  16. ^ Rao, Leena (September 4, 2015). "WhatsApp hits 900 million users". Fortune. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  17. ^ "Apps Roundup: Best Messaging Apps". Tom's Guide. Oct 4, 2016.
  18. ^ Roettgers, Janko (January 8, 2016). "LG's New TVs Mix Streaming Channels from Buzzfeed, GQ & Vogue with Traditional Networks". Variety. Retrieved December 26, 2016.

Further reading

  • "FCC Adopts 15th Report On Video Competition". U.S. Federal Communications Commission. July 22, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2014. Announcement of release Report.
  • "User Interface Holds the Key to OTT Success". Pay OTT TV. March 11, 2011. Archived from the original on June 18, 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
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