Will OTT Video Save Consumers Money? It Depends

Though it is not a consumer’s task to worry about product provider profit margins, revenue, stock prices and such, consumers, in the end, pay for all costs of developing and supplying any product.

So it matters whether new video delivery platforms will lead to lower prices, irrespective of what happens with content volume, the number of channels or shows.

That noted, one might question whether cost per hour of consumption of over-the-top video will necessarily be a better value for most consumers than linear video.

With the caveat that all prices will change over time as the market moves in the direction of over the top, on demand or a la carte delivery, it is not true that over the top video now available to consumers costs less than linear video subscriptions do, on a cost per hour basis.

True, consumers might not care. They might only care about out of pocket costs. On that basis, for some consumers, OTT video offers higher value.

For heavy users, though, OTT video costs more, per unit. The cost to use an hour of linear TV (expanded basic only, not including any premium services such as HBO), might be about 25 cents an hour. Using Hulu already costs $1.69 per hour, while using Netflix costs 89 cents per hour.

To be sure, all that depends on how much video actually is consumed each month. How many Netflix customers actually watch 34 hours of video every week, as is quite common for most linear video subscribers?

It might easy enough to predict the outcome of a market that moves massively in the direction of over the top video. Economic viability of most programming networks will be called into question, as advertising-dependent business models will not work for networks with small audiences.

Independent channels, especially, will suffer as affiliate revenues (payments made by distributors for rights to carry a channel) also dwindle because of skinny bundles and lower gross revenues for linear services.

For better or worse, content diversity will take a hit. That might, or might not, be such a problem, in one sense. Out of hundreds of options, most linear video consumers watch 17  or fewer channels on a regular basis. So, arguably, not many actually want to spend money for most content, and most channels.

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