Broadcast VS. OTT Workflows at HPA

HPA this year truly presented us with five days of candid conversation with world-class thinkers. The conference brought content creators, production managers, Hollywood, OTT, and broadcast giants together in large “supersessions” where wide-ranging topics were discussed. Topics covered this year included everything from IP-based workflows to color-correction tips.  As a hardware engineering and manufacturing company, we were mostly interested in the panels that featured some of our largest clientele (Sinclair, Cox, NEP).  It was surprising to find minimal discussion of live production and broadcasting while seeing an immense focus on OTT.

One of the most enlightening presentations was a comparison of cable/OTT and broadcast workflows by Phil Squyres of Sony Pictures TV. After watching the presentation, it was easy to see the attractiveness of the cable/OTT world for content creators. Let’s take a look at the creative workflows in the world of broadcast and compare it to the cable/OTT world.

In the broadcast world, creators must learn to work with a fixed number of distributors like NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, or CW.  In this framework strict content restrictions (FCC) and cancellation decisions are often made after only a few episodes. Therefore, talent and production face an unknown future.  Broadcast delivers HD video and surround sound while dealing with much tighter productions schedules.

The Comparison

When looking at the creation workflow of the cable/OTT world. There are hundreds of distribution channels including HBO, Netflix, FX, Discovery, and more with much fewer content restrictions. Most series are shorter (10-12 episodes) when compared to broadcast and cancellation decisions are made later in the process.  This creates substantially more security for the talent and creatives alike. Producing for cable/OTT opens the world of 4K, HDR, and Atmos audio. The “binge-watching” nature of OTT lends itself to more intricate storytelling and the time allowed to produce is typically 2-3 times longer than broadcast.

All this extra time to produce also comes with a downside. It has a major impact ranging from cost and time commitment to the storage of material.  According to Phil Squyers, creators will have to store over 120 terabytes of material for weeks or months. Additionally, the audiences are generally not as large because they fill specific niches.

Broadcasters have looked for ways to add OTT distribution as a potential revenue stream but struggle to see significant ROI. What became clear was the cable/OTT world is not something you can do on a part-time basis.  It’s a large financial and time commitment. To discuss this further and how it might apply to you with one of our professionals don’t hesitate to contact us online or by calling us at 801-575-8801.