Are the models that are most widely used for distributing audiovisual content on the internet capable of meeting the requirements of public service media (PSM)? While there is no definitive answer to this question, a new EBU report on so-called 'over-the-top', or OTT, distribution explores the topic in depth.

The rise of the internet as a distribution platform for audiovisual media content and services is without doubt the most important development in content distribution in recent years. European PSM organizations were quick to embrace the internet as the new means of distribution alongside traditional broadcast networks. All EBU Members make their content and services available through their own apps and websites as well as via third-party platforms.

Whether the intention is to provide innovative services, increase user engagement, deliver content to demanding and hard-to-reach young audiences, or be present on popular online platforms, the internet provides a way to do it.

Online risks

Nevertheless, the internet is not without risks for PSM organizations, as they are exposed to competition from international media conglomerates and global platforms but without regulatory safeguards they enjoy on the conventional broadcasting platforms and in the national context. Commercial models are less well defined on the internet and PSM distribution costs can be rather high. Furthermore, PSM organizations are subject to regulatory obligations and constraints and are therefore usually not able to compete on a purely commercial basis.

Recognizing that OTT distribution is here to stay, EBU Members participating in the strategic programme on Distribution undertook an in-depth assessment of the OTT models that are prevalent for audiovisual content distribution on the internet. Leveraging OTT allows PSM to innovate and keep up with changing audience behaviour and expectations and, therefore, its importance is likely to increase in the future. However, OTT distribution is not without challenges for PSM organizations and further efforts are needed to resolve these issues in favour of PSM.
Download EBU Tech Report 062 (PDF)

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