Harmonic Inc

By: Harmonic Inc on March 20th, 2013

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Multiscreen vs. OTT

Multiscreen and OTT are two terms that get thrown around a lot, often interchangeably. But are they actually interchangeable? If not, what’s the difference? As it so happens, the answers are “not quite” and “subtle but important.”

“Multiscreen” means different things to different people, but in the purest sense it simply means getting content to any screen a person might want to watch video on. This of course includes the traditional giant HD TV in the living room, but also encompasses all other video-capable devices – tablets, laptops, mobile phones and whatever else has a screen big enough to squint at a moving picture.

Although the word multiscreen makes people think of video on the go, in the strictest sense it only means video to multiple devices. You may recall in 2011 TWC introduced an app for its customers to stream cable channels to their tablets or computers within their homes – while it only allowed in-home viewership, it was a multiscreen service nonetheless (you may also recall the service prompted a lawsuit from content providers, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish). As long as the video is going to multiple devices, even if they never leave the provider’s network, it’s multiscreen.

“OTT,” short for “over the top,” is so named because it refers to services delivered outside (or “over the top of”) the traditional provider’s network. The most common examples are services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Watch, which are by nature not tied to a particular service provider and can be watched anywhere there’s Internet, on any compatible device.

The line between multiscreen and OTT gets blurry, however, as traditional providers begin offering on-the-go services similar to the independents. As our VP of Product Management Tom Lattie explains in a recent video, if you’re a Comcast subscriber watching a Comcast multiscreen video service on your iPad at Starbucks, you’re watching OTT video – the service may be provided by Comcast, but it’s being delivered outside of Comcast’s network over the open Internet.

– Harmonic Marketing