Trusted Reviews is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

What is OTT video? The future of content distribution is already here

If you love TV and movies, chances are you stream OTT video on a weekly, or even daily, basis. 

OTT is a service we’re all familiar with, and its existence reflects a sea change in media and entertainment since the Internet came into existence. And it’s key to where we’ll eventually be heading in the future.

So for those trying to grapple with another unfamiliar acronym in the TV market, here is what OTT video means.

What is OTT video? 

The acronym OTT (over-the-top) refers to any video, audio or other media delivered over the internet that doesn’t require any cable, broadcast or satellite TV platforms to reach viewers. 

This includes video platforms accessed through web browsers, smartphone apps, games consoles, media players and smart TVs. 

Fire TV home screen

Typically, these platforms are subscription-based, allowing users to stream films and TV shows at a set monthly or yearly rate. This can include original content as well as licensed content acquired by the platform for redistribution. 

Popular examples of OTT video platforms include Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, NOW, BritBox, Paramount+, Shudder, MUBI, BFI Player and YouTube. In the US, popular OTT platforms include the likes Hulu, Peacock and HBO Max

BBC iPlayer and ITVX are also considered OTT services, though the both BBC and ITV also distribute content through traditional broadcasts such as aerial antennas. 

There are a number of reasons OTT video services have gained so much popularity over the last decade or so. 

The first is accessibility. Anyone can access services like Netflix and Disney+, regardless of whether or not they own a TV. OTT platforms require an internet connection and nothing else, meaning users can access content on a wide range of devices as long as they have a subscription to the service. 

The subscription format also makes OTT services flexible. There’s less commitment required to access Apple TV Plus, as you can subscribe and then opt out with no fees or consequences for cancelling. 

Finally, not all OTT platforms don’t force you to sit through ads, but that is beginning to change depending on what tier you subscribe at. If you pay for the premium tier you won’t encounter ads, but on cheaper plans such as Netflix’s Basic with Ads or HBO Max’s ad plan, you will have to.

However, for people who can’t stand ads, there are plenty of of OTT platforms and services that scrap ads altogether.

Why trust our journalism?

Founded in 2003, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

Today, we have millions of users a month from around the world, and assess more than 1,000 products a year.

author icon

Editorial independence

Editorial independence means being able to give an unbiased verdict about a product or company, with the avoidance of conflicts of interest. To ensure this is possible, every member of the editorial staff follows a clear code of conduct.

author icon

Professional conduct

We also expect our journalists to follow clear ethical standards in their work. Our staff members must strive for honesty and accuracy in everything they do. We follow the IPSO Editors’ code of practice to underpin these standards.

Trusted Reviews Logo

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the best of Trusted Reviews delivered right to your inbox.

This is a test error message with some extra words