Life beyond Netflix: Specialist OTT services find their niche

Once upon a time, there was Pay TV.

This month, a report by Ofcom declared there are now more UK subscribers to streaming services than to traditional Pay TV.  Unsurprisingly, Netflix leads the way in the field of OTT services, with an estimated 9.1 million UK subscribers. Their UK platform currently offers 3,600 film titles and has proposed a total of 700 original series by 2019 – as viewers, we’re spoilt for choice.. One interesting challenge is whether the future of OTT lies with large-scale services or whether, as the sector matures, there will be a place in our hearts (and wallets) for smaller services too.

I stream, you stream, we all stream

We all know ’content is King‘ but after spending an average of 51 minutes a day scrolling through the 76,000 micro-genres of Netflix, wouldn’t it be grand to cut down on your browsing and spend time on what you really care about?

Well, that’s exactly what specialised streaming services such as Marquee TV – “a Netflix for the Arts” – are looking to offer: delivering content to small but passionate audiences who share an interest or hobby.

Genrefication?

Niche OTT services cater to a particular audience by curating a library of titles only related to a specific interest or genre. They rely on a sound understanding of their audiences and use expertise rather than algorithms to provide high quality, hand-picked content.

Some of the most popular specialised services include Crunchyroll – an East Asian anime provider with over one million paid subscribers – and also Passionflix, who offer a selection of classic, romance-themed content, including a ranking system to measure the ‘love’ factor of each film; naughty, but niche.

Flexible and inexpensive pricing plans will also help specialist services compete. Earlier this week, one of the most highly anticipated OTT platforms, DC Universe, also announced more details ahead of their Autumn launch.. A glimpse of the pricing plans shows an option to pre-order a yearly subscription ($74.99) which an additional three months at no extra cost.

In some instances, niche players are building online communities by tailoring their content to specific demographics; Hindi production company, Eros, for example, now offers over 11,000 film titles and hosts more local content than Netflix and Amazon combined.

The Silent Majority

Ex-BBC producer, Navid Akhtar, is the founder of SVOD service Alchemiya Media – a specialised OTT player created in 2015 “for the silent majority: the 99.9% of Muslims who lead peaceful, productive lives as citizens of the world.” It responds to negative perceptions of the Muslim community, as a result of non-representative coverage in mainstream UK media. Over the past three years, the platform has gained over £115,000 in public crowdfunding, allowing a library expansion of 50 to 500 titles.

Another example of a community-focused platform is Lebara Play – an OTT service that aims to bridge the content gap for migrant audiences across 39 European countries. Originally a telecoms provider, Lebara Play claims to understand the migrant experience by being the only multi-ethnic entertainment channel offering 13 different languages and flexible payments options.

While the mass-market OTT services – primarily Netflix – will continue to dominate the market in terms of subscriber numbers, it looks like there will also be a place for niche services too. Especially, if they can, as the CEO of Crunchyroll put it, “offer everything for someone, rather than something for everyone.”

About Clare McAndrew and Florrie Hodgkinson

Clare is a recent Business graduate with an interest in the future of UK cinema. In her spare time, she spends an average of 51 minutes deciding what to watch on Netflix. And Florrie is a recent Psychology graduate with an interest in research and human behaviour. Florrie has just spent the past few months working in a Psychiatric Hospital in Bali.