As an edupreneur, you want to make your online courses as widely available and accessible as possible. Over-the-top, or OTT, platforms reach millions of people worldwide and can take your business to a whole new level. But what are they, and how can you take advantage of selling video courses with OTT? Find out now.
What is an OTT platform?
OTT platforms refer to subscription-based video services that provide on demand programming, without requiring a cable or satellite TV subscription. Think Netflix or Hulu. These services provide convenient, easy-to-access content that is broadcast directly into millions of homes, and they have proved wildly popular in recent years. According to data from ColorWhistle, over 50 million households worldwide use an OTT service, and OTT platforms are the preferred viewing method for 55 percent of people surveyed.
OTT services are split into a number of sub-types, based on revenue model:
Subscription-based video on demand (SVOD) services include Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Users pay a fixed monthly amount in order to access a library of content that they can watch on their own schedule.
Ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) platforms such as Crackle and Pluto offer free programming in exchange for hosting ads, similar to YouTube’s traditional viewing model — a model they returned to when SVOD service YouTube Premium failed to take off.
Transactional video on demand (TVOD) enables viewers to purchase programs individually, ensuring they only pay for what they want. Amazon Instant Video, Vimeo on Demand, and iTunes all follow this model.
The FCC further categorizes OTT platforms as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), or online video distributors (OVDs).
Traditional MVPDs include cable and satellite companies such as Comcast, DirecTV, and Cox, that provide multiple channels from different providers. In recent years they have been joined by virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) such as Sling, DirecTV Now, and Hulu Live.
An OVD delivers video programming via the internet without providing the internet service itself. OVDs include many of the most popular SVOD services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Why OTT platforms are great for online courses
Most online courses are hosted through tailored software such as Thinkific and Learnworlds, or through marketplaces such as Udemy. These platforms provide great services for edupreneurs looking to take their courses online, but they come with major downsides.
Hosting your online course through Thinkific (for example) will give you a lot of great tools that have been designed for the sole purpose of making your online course easy to host and manage. However, the downside is the lack of ready learners looking for online courses to take. If you don’t have much online presence or know how to market and promote your course effectively, you probably won’t attract many learners.
Marketplace platforms like Udemy solve that problem by providing a website where learners can browse available courses and choose what they want to study. The obvious downside is the competition: with thousands of edupreneurs in direct competition, it can be hard to get noticed, and the temptation to undercut others on pricing is high.
Hosting and selling video courses with OTT enables edupreneurs to avoid both of these drawbacks, because OTT platforms reach a large, receptive audience, but currently have much lower competition from other edupreneurs.
Advantages to publishing your online course with OTT platforms
The audience size for OTT platforms is huge—and growing. The industry is worth $29.6 billion as of 2020, up from $11.2 billion in 2014. In the U.S. alone there are more than 188 million OTT subscribers, and 85 percent of adults watched an OTT platform in the last six months. OTT platforms are everywhere, ubiquitous in most households, and research shows that almost 70 percent of subscribers prefer to watch paid content rather than deal with ads.
That’s great news for edupreneurs. One of the major downsides to hosting an online course is attracting learners, who must be convinced to visit a new website in order to take the course. As creatures of habit, we tend to frequent the same sites over and over, and encouraging new users to revisit your site in order to follow your online course can be a challenge. With an OTT platform, your course is on their TV (or preferred viewing device) every time they turn it on. That reduces learner attrition by making it easy and convenient to keep watching.
OTT viewers aren’t just primed to pay for content—they prefer it. That immediately puts OTT online courses at an advantage over competitors on marketplace websites, where learners are looking for the best deal, rather than the best course. If you’re struggling to raise your prices and increase revenue from your courses, switching your hosting to an OTT platform will change learner expectations of what your course should cost.
Finally, don’t underestimate the prestige that comes with OTT publishing. Online courses are extremely common and standing out from the crowd can be difficult. Publishing via an OTT platform and airing your course on TV automatically gives it a higher status in learners’ eyes.
Disadvantages to publishing your online course with OTT platforms
Although publishing your online course with an OTT platform is a great way to increase your reputation as an edupreneur, raise your bottom line, and attract new learners, it isn’t always the best solution for every edupreneur.
While publishing on an OTT platform can help you raise your revenue above the “race to the bottom” level of online course marketplaces, there is an upper limit to what learners will pay to view courses or videos you create. You wouldn’t spend four figures or more on a video on demand service, and it’s unlikely many learners will either, so if your business model relies on four- or five-figure fees from a limited number of learners, VOD through OTT platforms probably isn’t for you. Instead OTT platforms perform best for edupreneurs whose online course pricing strategy is to attract a large number of learners with a lower individual fee, just like Netflix or Hulu’s business model.
Video production almost always involves a higher upfront cost than other types of online course. There’s equipment and software to consider when creating even a simple home studio, and editing and post-production costs to prepare the video for distribution. While many edupreneurs rely on free software and their existing equipment (smartphones and webcams) when first starting out, if you want to distribute your course via an OTT platform, it needs to be good enough for TV. That means using the right gear to shoot your video in the ideal resolution for broadcast, and post-production values that can compete with professional videography.
High production costs, and the added expense of video hosting OTT networks, which usually cost more to join than traditional online course platforms, can make getting started with OTT distribution prohibitively expensive for some edupreneurs. Nonetheless for many edupreneurs, the production costs are an investment that is quickly recouped thanks to OTT’s huge distribution network.
How to get into OTT broadcasting
Don’t worry, you don’t need to sign a deal with Amazon or Netflix to make your online course available via OTT platforms. There are a number of distribution services available that already enable OTT publishing through iOS, Android, Roku, Fire TV and more. Take your pick from any of these services to start publishing your online courses via OTT platforms.
Uscreen boasts over 1000 publishers delivering videos to 1.1 million streamers via OTT apps, and markets itself as the “World’s leading video monetization platform.” Uscreen was designed for selling online courses via broadcast networks, and as such provides a ton of tools that make uploading and selling your online course easy. The intuitive dashboard allows users to upload video content, set the access price, and publish across a wide network. Build a website to host and sell your videos, and design apps for OTT distribution.
Pricing starts at $99/month, but you’ll need a custom quote to start selling via OTT platforms. Despite the high price tag, many edupreneurs make a profit from the platform, with the average member earning $5,700/month.
Check out my extensive Uscreen review to get all the details.
Vimeo is another established video on demand service that provides a platform for edupreneurs to sell their online courses. With over 1000 apps created, and 1 million plus end users, they offer solutions for edupreneurs at every level, starting at just $1 per subscriber.
The starter tier provides video streaming and revenue generation tools for web-based OTT sales using Vimeo’s popular and intuitive media player. To distribute via broadcast apps you’ll have to upgrade to Vimeo’s Growth plan, with pricing from $500/month. While that’s a significant upfront investment to make in a new venture, Vimeo provides a handy revenue calculation tool that can help you estimate your annual projected income and determine what your subscription fees should be.
With an OTT app from Vimeo you can offer your course for sale on a number of established platforms, including iOS, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, Android, Xbox, and more. For edupreneurs with individual videos to sell rather than online courses, Vimeo also offers a VOD platform with significantly cheaper pricing.
Pivotshare is a subscription VOD platform that enables edupreneurs to create their own channel and publish online and through Roku’s OTT network. As a single publisher, you earn 70 percent of revenue. If you want to create a collaborative channel with other edupreneurs to split the costs, you get 10 percent of revenue as the channel owner, and 60 percent of revenue is split between the content creators.
The platform’s collaborative tools mean you can submit your content to established channels and earn a cut of their revenue, while introducing your content to a wider audience. This increases your reach by combining forces with other edupreneurs, without having to cultivate business relationships with them in advance.
Pricing starts at zero and caps out at $199/month, plus 30 percent of any revenue you earn. For edupreneurs just getting started with VOD and OTT publishing, a low monthly fee plus revenue-splitting is probably the most cost effective way of getting established. However if you’re attracting thousands of subscribers and earning a significant amount from your online courses each month, Pivotshare’s pricing will soon outstrip the competitors.
Muvi offers a variety of services for video and audio publishing, from VOD to OTT broadcasting, live streaming, and podcasting. Customizable apps are delivered in as little as a day, meaning you can publish on Apple TV, Android, Roku, Fire TV and more in no time at all. For edupreneurs, there are also LMS integrations that allow you to host and share from Muvi directly to your online course host.
In fact, Muvi comes with dozens and dozens of features, providing everything you might need (and more!) to make selling your online course via an OTT platform a success. However the price for all these features is pretty steep—$399/month plus an additional $299/month for each app, and infrastructure fees for file storage and bandwidth.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one multichannel solution, Muvi’s price might be worth paying. Their content management system allows users to quickly upload and structure video and audio files, add metadata, and instantly deploy them across a variety of networks. The content limits are also extremely generous, supporting file sizes up to 63GB—that’s about 17 hours of 1080p video.
As an end-to-end platform, Muvi also provides support to help edupreneurs host and market their content. Choose from several responsive website templates with built-in SEO tools, host and manage your mailing list, and maximize revenue with a variety of monetization options, including subscriptions, pay-per-view, and ad revenue networks.
Edupreneurs can now discover new audiences and earn additional revenue for their video courses by distributing them through OTT platforms that put them front and center on TVs, cell phones, and other viewing devices. While the cost for creating an OTT app might be higher than traditional online course hosting fees, getting in early with a distribution network found in millions of homes worldwide can pay big dividends, helping edupreneurs increase their revenue and take their online courses to a whole new level.