After a seemingly endless build-up, Disney+ is finally launched. Living in the Netherlands, I was able to preview the service and its estimated 7,500 episodes of TV shows and 500 movies.

But I’ve already got tens of thousands of hours of content to scroll through on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and my PayTV operator’s OTT service. I’m suffering what psychologists call “overchoice”, or choice overload – when you have so many options that it’s hard to choose anything at all.

The overload is still increasing as more platforms emerge. The US market is particularly crowded, with Warner Media’s HBO Max due in May 2020, and NBCUniversal’s Peacock in April.

How can all these services survive when consumer budgets and viewing time are both finite?

Content discoverability is king

Content is the obvious differentiator. Disney has a blockbuster back catalogue and a raft of new series based on franchises like Star Wars. Meanwhile Netflix is raising $2bn to fund more original shows. A battle’s also waging for long-tail favorites: Netflix paid a reported $500m for global rights to Seinfeld, after losing Friends to HBOMax and The Office to Peacock for six-figure sums.

This expensive, headline-grabbing “tent-pole” content will continue to be essential in attracting subscribers. But operators must also focus on user experience. Recommendations and discoverability will be the key to keeping those viewers once the costly lure has been watched.

Securing content as well as eyeballs

I’m also intrigued by the OTT market’s relative lack of willingness to invest in protecting such valuable content. It was widely reported in advance of launch that Disney+ would be taking full advantage of the toughest security restrictions offered by Widevine DRM to secure its 4K content, perhaps because they also have BluRay sales to protect. Predictably, this has angered some users whose devices can’t get a license.

Up to now, many OTT players have preferred to prioritize device reach over security – minimizing Content Security as much as content owners will allow. Appetite for detecting OTT VOD piracy has also been low, especially compared to live sports.

I believe this will change as competition intensifies. Consumers won’t pay for content they can get for free. Piracy will become increasingly relevant to the bottom line.

Credentials will be central

I also expect to see a big increase in focus on both credential sharing (to protect content revenues) and credential theft (to protect consumers). Within days of launching, some Disney+ subscribers found their credentials had been stolen. Some were even locked out of their accounts. While this was likely due to subscribers using the same email address and passwords they have used on previously-breached sites, the media attention on it highlights the importance of a robust anti-piracy policy and limits on both concurrent streams and devices.

Balancing protection and convenience

Perhaps, alongside a greater focus on credential sharing, OTT will move to the model that’s already familiar to Irdeto’s gaming security division, Denuvo. Gaming companies know software hacks are inevitable, so they deploy Denuvo security to maximize the length and value of the crucial post-release window. Security may be relaxed – or even removed completely – as games age, to prevent players being lured by pirate platforms.

OTT operators need security with the same flexibility. Content Security should be bullet-proof on expensive tent-pole content, especially in 4K. But when the time is right, operators may wish to relax restrictions to improve device reach. When coupled with great discoverability and user experience, this approach should increase viewing-time per subscriber and give users the sense of great value for their monthly fee.

Because customer satisfaction is how OTT operators will survive – and thrive – in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Bengt Jonsson | SVP Sales