Ooyala’s Fulcher: Sling TV succeeds if it can personalize experience

By Jim O'Neill on Jan 27 2015 at 4:15 AM
Ooyala’s Fulcher: Sling TV succeeds if it can personalize experience

This week, Dish Network’s newest product, Sling TV is set to begin limited over-the-top deployment in the United States. The $20 per month offering is being positioned as a “Millennial Catcher,” a service that will appeal to advertising gold, those ultra-connected 18-34 year olds.

Ooyala CEO Jay Fulcher said he expects Sling TV to be “modestly successful,” as it requires no contract and has no minimum signup term, something likely to appeal – a la Netflix – to commitment-phobic cord nevers, cord cutters and users who may be interested in diving into the service at will.

But, the key, he said, will be its ability to bring a personalized service to each user.

“I think it will be modestly successful measured by getting more than it's share of cord shavers or nevers,” he said. “Especially if it can -- sooner than later -- provide a level of personalization that will allow the service to be tailored to individuals in the audience.”

Sling TV has a channel line-up that includes: TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, CNN, ABC Family and sports heavy hitters ESPN and ESPN2. A line up that some observers find to be too thin to be of interest to a large audience.

Fulcher, believe Sling TV is rolling out a trial lineup that likely will evolve over time.

“The offering is limited except that it has one essential ingredient that makes it very popular – ESPN,” Fulcher said. “My guess is that Dish will try and find more channels that bring along their own audience, which will help make that $20 deal more compelling. The overall offer will need to evolve where more of the most popular genres – like sports, news, fashion, politics, home and garden, cooking, and faith and family – are represented. That’s the content Millennials care most about.”

Sling TV plans to carry a full load of ads that – unlike Dish pay-TV fare – can’t be skipped using Hopper. And, Dish says, it eventually will be able to target ads to viewers. Sling TV also has only a limited catch up capability and that’s only available on select channels.

Fulcher said he believes the service is a harbinger of things to come.

“No question this will be the first of many services of its kind to be launched,” he said, especially with ESPN being available outside the cable bundle – the first time Disney has allow that to happen.

“It signals the beginning of a new trend that will see certain media brands and channels going more direct to the consumer through these types of services,” Fulcher said. “We are already aware and involved with other players that will be doing similar things.”

Who actually comes out on top, who manages to lead the revolution Dish is kicking off, has yet to be determined.

“It is a mad dash at the moment to see who is best positioned to lead,” said Fulcher. “Operators have huge infrastructure investments and many have investments in aggregation and broadcast. They are definitely looking at OTT as an adjacent opportunity to attach a growth engine to their business. Broadcasters are increasingly looking to build their brand more directly with the audiences around a wider variety of screens and devices and viewing experiences like gaming, social and mobile.”

As more content owners, broadcasters and service providers look to appeal to an ever-growing OTT audience -- both in the U.S. and around the world -- Ooyala finds itself in a unique position.

“We end up being the ‘arms dealer’ in this race, as we continue to provide not only the OTT video platform but also the video analytics, discovery, recommendation and monetization tools, including ads, and subscription and transaction support to optimize profits,” said Fulcher.

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