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Leaner, Faster, Smarter: How Big OTT Services Can Innovate with Startup Agility


Niklas Björkén

Product Manager

October 31, 2023




In the ever-evolving landscape of over-the-top (OTT) media services, agility and innovation often differentiate the market's leaders from the followers. As big OTT companies strive to keep pace with the rapid growth and change in the industry, there's much to be learned from the nimble and resourceful approaches of OTT startups. 

This article delves into the pivotal strategies that larger companies can adopt from their smaller counterparts, especially in optimizing operational team size and rethinking technology costs. Discover how embracing a startup mentality can not only streamline operations but also lead to significant cost savings and improved service offerings.

Embracing the Lean Startup Approach

The Power of the MVP

OTT startups have embraced the lean startup methodology, which often materializes through the development of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). An MVP serves as a launchpad for media startups to test content formats and delivery platforms with minimal resources. When focusing on core functionalities that meet the basic needs of early adopters, these startups can collect valuable data on viewer behavior and preferences.

For instance, new entrants in the OTT market may introduce a limited series or pilot episodes to gauge interest and observe consumption patterns. This approach is significantly less capital-intensive compared to the traditional model of releasing full-fledged series or platforms. By quickly analyzing which content resonates with audiences, startups can refine their offerings. 

For example, often established OTT businesses start a side service to target a specific audience with a niche content. Since most often Web applications are the easiest to deploy, a good strategy for an OTT company would be to launch a Web-only OTT platform and test its popularity and assess the consumer needs before expanding the service to more platforms. 

The pivot, a term famously associated with the lean startup philosophy, becomes a strategic move rather than an admission of failure. If certain content underperforms, startups can swiftly reorient their strategies without the burden of sunk costs that would accompany larger-scale productions. This nimbleness allows them to capitalize on what works, discontinue what doesn't, and continuously evolve their content strategy in line with audience engagement and feedback.

See an example of a quick OTT web application launch here.

Building, Measuring, Learning

The mantra of 'build-measure-learn' is ingrained in the DNA of successful OTT startups. Instead of rolling out massive updates or launching new features across the board, these companies focus on iterative development. When implementing small, frequent updates, they can test hypotheses and quickly integrate user feedback into the next iteration. This contrasts with the more rigid and extensive rollout plans often seen in established OTT companies.

While traditional media companies might chase metrics like the number of app downloads or raw subscription counts, savvy startups delve deeper. They look at engagement rates, average watch times, and churn rates to understand the true health of their service. This way they gain a nuanced view of what actually drives user satisfaction and retention, which are critical in the subscription-based business (SVOD) models prevalent in OTT services.

To illustrate, consider the analytics approach of a startup like MUBI, which curates films for cinema megafans. Instead of merely tracking subscriber numbers, MUBI analyzes watch patterns to understand the films that keep subscribers coming back, thus refining their curation algorithm and improving the user experience.

For established OTT providers considering a migration to a new OTT vendor or a shift in their operational strategy, incorporating the principles of the lean startup model—launching with an MVP, iterating based on tangible metrics, and remaining flexible enough to pivot—can lead to more innovative content strategies and platforms that are deeply aligned with viewer preferences. 

Rethinking Technology Costs

Scalable Cloud Solutions

Startups in the OTT space have been instrumental in showing how technology costs can be both optimized and aligned with business growth. One key area of learning is their use of scalable cloud solutions. Rather than investing heavily in traditional IT infrastructures that require significant upfront capital and continuous maintenance costs, startups have gravitated towards cloud services that offer pay-as-you-go pricing models. This shift to the cloud reflects a fundamental change in how digital services manage their growth and expenses.

The pay-as-you-go model allows OTT startups to only incur costs for the computing resources they actually use, which scales seamlessly with their viewership. AWS is an excellent example of being startup-friendly. For instance, if a startup's content goes viral, cloud services can automatically scale to meet the surge in demand, ensuring a smooth streaming experience for a rapidly growing audience. Conversely, during periods of lower demand, costs are reduced, keeping operational expenses in line with revenue. 

Moreover, the integration of cloud-based tools facilitates quicker development and deployment cycles for OTT services, enabling them to rapidly adapt to changing market dynamics and consumer expectations. This strategy was evident when Disney+ reportedly transitioned to a cloud infrastructure to support its global expansion, enabling it to manage the explosive growth and complex demands of streaming high-quality content to millions of users worldwide.

IDK and Collaborative Tools

In addition to cloud computing, OTT startups often lean towards open source and collaborative tools as a cornerstone of their technology strategy. Community-driven platforms and tools can significantly reduce costs while benefiting from the innovations contributed by a global community of developers. Another effective way is taking advantage of IDK integrations - where an existing in-house built system can be plugged into another platform. E.g. Accedo One offers their customers an open Integration Development Kit (IDK) - a toolbox of tools so that customers who have already invested into building parts of their technology stack can easily integrate into a bigger Accedo One ecosystem to launch and scale their OTT business. 

With cloud solutions, companies can align their costs with their growth trajectory and ensure high availability and performance. When content creation and distribution expenses start piling up, rethinking technology costs using these approaches can help OTT services improve their margins and invest more in what truly matters: creating and delivering great content to their audience.

Optimizing operational team size

Small team for agile business

Operational team size is paramount for maintaining lean operations, especially with the bloat often found in larger companies. It is also essential to recognize that the operational efficiency of a team is not solely dependent on its size but also on the leverage provided by the tools at its disposal. The use of out-of-the-box solutions like Accedo One exemplifies this principle by demonstrating that a small, nimble team is capable of running a fully functional OTT service effectively. For example, most customers utilizing Accedo One OTT platform can manage their services with only 4 core team members. A team composed of a content manager, a marketing specialist, a technical lead, and a data analyst can encapsulate the critical operational functions required to run an OTT service. The content manager ensures that the service offers compelling and relevant content, the marketing specialist focuses on acquiring and retaining subscribers, the technical lead oversees the integration and smooth functioning of the service, and the data analyst interprets user data to inform strategy and content decisions.

Larger OTT companies can scale back on excessive recruitment and instead invest in strategic roles that contribute directly to their growth and differentiation in the market after OTT platform adoption. Moreover, the flexibility inherent in a smaller operational team empowered by comprehensive software allows for rapid decision-making and adaptability—an advantage often lost in larger teams. 

Consequently, efficiency gains from software solutions also translate into financial savings. Big OTT companies looking to streamline operations can learn from startups that prefer technology investments over large teams.

Lean operations, powered by efficient teams and smart technology choices, are not just for companies at the beginning of their journey. Even the most established players in the OTT space can benefit from the adaptability and cost-effectiveness that solutions like Accedo One provide. By optimizing team sizes and utilizing versatile platforms, big OTT firms can redirect resources to enhance content quality, refine marketing strategies, and ultimately, drive viewer satisfaction.

We invite you to see this efficiency in action and consider how your operation could benefit from an out-of-the-box tool. Book a demo with Accedo One today and take the first step towards operational excellence inspired by the startup ethos.


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