Over-the-top media service

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An over-the-top (OTT) media service is a media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet. OTT bypasses cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms: the types of companies that have traditionally acted as controllers or distributors of such content.[1] It has also been used to describe no-carrier cellphones, for which all communications are charged as data,[2] avoiding monopolistic competition, or apps for phones that transmit data in this manner, including both those that replace other call methods[3][4] and those that update software.[4][5][6]

The term is most synonymous with subscription-based video on demand (SVoD) services that offer access to film and television content (including existing shows and movies for which rights have been acquired from the content owner, as well as original content produced specifically for the service).[6]

OTT also encompasses a wave of "skinny" television services that offer access to live streams of linear specialty channels, similar to a traditional satellite or cable TV provider, but streamed over the public Internet, rather than a closed, private network with proprietary equipment such as set-top boxes.[7]

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.[7]


In 2011, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Canada's telecom regulator, 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 has been termed 'over-the-top' services".[8]

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,[9] while other OTT players such as Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, Disney+, HBO Max, Discovery+, Paramount+, and Amazon Prime Video, offer movie downloads that start playing before the download completes (streaming).[10]

The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) categorizes the OTT services into two groups: multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs); and online video distributors (OVDs).[11][12]

Virtual MVPDs include such varied services as DirecTV Stream, FuboTV, Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV.

The FCC defined an OVD as:[11]

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.


In broadcasting, over-the-top (OTT) content 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, and may be able to block or restrict their transit to end users (unless that internet provider operates within a jurisdiction that requires "net neutrality"), but is not responsible for 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, video on demand, and from internet protocol television (IPTV).[13] OTT refers to content from a third party that is delivered to an end-user, with the ISP simply transporting IP packets.[14][15][16][17]

Types of content[edit]

OTT television, usually called online television, 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. The video distributor controls access through an app, a separate OTT dongle, or a box connected to a phone, PC, or smart television set. By mid-2017, 58 percent of US households would access one in a given month, and advertising revenues from OTT channels exceeded those from web browser plug-ins.[18]

The record of simultaneous users watching an OTT event was set at 18.6 million by Disney's Indian video streaming platform Hotstar.[19]

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.[20][21] An example is the Facebook-owned mobile application WhatsApp, that serves to replace text messaging on Internet connected smartphones.[22][23] Other providers of OTT messaging include Viber, WeChat, iMessage, Skype, Telegram and the now defunct Google Allo.[24]

OTT voice calling, usually called VoIP, capabilities, for instance, as provided by FaceTime, Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Zoom use open internet communication protocols to replace and sometimes enhance existing operator controlled services offered by mobile phone operators.[23]

Modes of access[edit]

Consumers can access OTT content through Internet-connected devices such as smartphones, tablets, smart TVs,[25] set-top boxes, gaming consoles, and desktop and laptop computers. As of 2019, Android and iOS users make up more than 45% of the total OTT content streaming audience, while 39% of users use the web to access OTT content.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jarvey, Natalie (15 September 2017). "Can CBS Change the Streaming Game With 'Star Trek: Discovery'?". The Holywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  2. ^ Weaver, Todd (1 August 2019). "What a No-Carrier Phone Could Look Like". Purism. Archived from the original on 30 January 2021. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  3. ^ Fitchard, Kevin (3 November 2014). "Can you hear me now? Verizon, AT&T to make voice-over-LTE interoperable in 2015". gigaom.com. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Why Startups Are Beating Carriers (Or The Curious Case Of The Premium SMS Horoscope Service & The Lack Of Customer Consent)". TechCrunch. 25 March 2013. Archived from the original on 23 September 2020. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  5. ^ "A Closer Look At Blackphone, The Android Smartphone That Simplifies Privacy". TechCrunch. 26 February 2014. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  6. ^ a b Tariq, Haseeb. "Council Post: What Is OTT Advertising, And Why Is It A Trend?". Forbes. Archived from the original on 21 April 2022. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Pluto TV - It's Free TV". Pluto TV. Archived from the original on 8 August 2020. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  8. ^ (CRTC), Government of Canada, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (3 October 2011). "Results of the fact-finding exercise on the over-the-top programming services". www.crtc.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 3 June 2017. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  9. ^ Gibbon, David C., and Liu, Zhu (2008). Introduction to Video Search Engines. Washington, DC: Federal Communications Commission (FCC). p. 251. Bibcode:2008ivse.book.....G.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Cansado, Jose Miguel (13 October 2008). "Will Internet TV Kill IPTV?". Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  11. ^ a b FCC (6 May 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. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  12. ^ "FCC Officially Launches OVD Definition NPRM". Broadcasting & Cable. 19 December 2014. Archived from the original on 19 August 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Hansell, Saul (3 March 2009). "Time Warner Goes Over the Top". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Over-the-Top Video and Content Delivery Networks Will Transform Video-On-Demand Provisioning". Electronic Component News. 19 November 2009. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012.
  16. ^ "Why 2011 Is Being Called The Year Of "The Cable Cut"". Business Insider. 30 December 2010. Archived from the original on 3 April 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Who Is Playing The OTT Game And How To Win It". Business Insider. 30 December 2010. Archived from the original on 3 April 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  18. ^ Andrew Orlowski; Can the last person watching desktop video please turn out the light? Archived 2017-08-08 at the Wayback Machine, The Register, 8 Aug 2017 (retrieved 8 Aug 2017).
  19. ^ Manish Singh; Disney’s Indian streaming service, sets new global record for live viewership Archived 5 July 2022 at the Wayback Machine, Techcrunch, 12 May 2019 (retrieved 12 May 2019).
  20. ^ "Chart of the Day: Mobile Messaging". Business Insider. 17 May 2013. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  21. ^ Maytom, Tim (4 August 2014). "Over-The-Top Messaging Apps Overtake SMS Messaging". Mobile Marketing Magazine. Archived from the original on 7 September 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  22. ^ Albergotti, Reed; MacMillan, Douglas; Rusli, Evelyn (20 February 2014). "Facebook's $18 Billion Deal Sets High Bar". The Wall Street Journal.
  23. ^ a b Rao, Leena (4 September 2015). "WhatsApp hits 900 million users". Fortune. Archived from the original on 28 January 2016. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  24. ^ "Apps Roundup: Best Messaging Apps". Tom's Guide. 4 October 2016. Archived from the original on 14 February 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  25. ^ Roettgers, Janko (8 January 2016). "LG's New TVs Mix Streaming Channels from Buzzfeed, GQ & Vogue with Traditional Networks". Variety. Archived from the original on 3 February 2017. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  26. ^ Johnson, James (24 January 2019). "OTT Content: What We Learned From 1.1 Million Subscribers". Uscreen. Archived from the original on 2 November 2020. Retrieved 1 November 2019.

Further reading[edit]