What Is OTT?

If you chat, watch movies, or listen to music over the internet, you're using an OTT service

The meaning of "OTT" is Over The Top and it almost always refers to internet streaming services. This article explains what it stands for, and what's important to know about it for the average consumer.

What Is the Meaning of OTT?

The "Over The Top" term probably originated because the service is delivered wirelessly without using physical infrastructure on the ground. The wordplay suggests it goes above traditional channels like set-top boxes, cables, and transmission towers.

So, an Over-the-top (OTT) platform uses the internet as a backbone to deliver media content. It's wireless, and as it does not rely on physical cables, it's radically different from broadcast television or satellite TV. For instance, Netflix and Spotify are OTT services catering to video and audio listeners. On the other hand, NBC and WTOP-FM are not, as they rely on cable and FM to transmit their content. Also, cable TV usually has fixed program schedules, unlike OTT, where you can watch whenever you want or download content for later.

OTT services are typically delivered through streaming platforms, allowing users to access free or on-demand content through subscription or pay-per-view models where users pay for a specific video. Popular examples of OTT streaming platforms include Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Hulu, and Disney+.


Video and audio streaming platforms aren't the only types of OTT services. Instant messengers like WhatsApp and VoIP apps like Skype are also recognized as OTT mediums.

How Does an OTT Service Work?

Popular OTT platforms work on a subscription model. Before subscribing, ensure you have the optimum bandwidth to consume content in 4K, HD, and SD resolutions. For instance, Netflix recommends 3 Mbps for HD, 5 Mbps for FHD, and 15 Mbps for UHD/4K streaming. You can run a speed test to determine your ISP's speeds and upgrade if necessary.

OTT services usually have free apps you can download on all platforms, including smart TVs, streaming media players (such as Roku or Apple TV), game consoles, and mobile devices. One of the limitations may be the number of devices you are allowed to watch on depending on your subscription tier.

Once you have subscribed and downloaded the app, you can browse the available content, search for specific titles, and start streaming. Furthermore, most OTT services offer personalized recommendations based on your viewing history and preferences.

Here are a few more key features of OTT services:

  • OTT streaming is commonly ad-free with subscriptions or has limited ads if they are free.
  • Most OTT platforms now produce their original content and mix it up with syndicated or licensed shows.
  • OTT content can be downloaded on devices for offline viewing, but it is DRM protected to prevent copying or transfer outside the streaming apps.
  • OTT services capture and store viewing history, preferences, and behavior so that algorithms can recommend new content for each user.
  • Some over-the-top platforms like Amazon and ESPN+ also host live broadcasts, such as sports events or news.

Binge a Wider Choice of Content With OTT Services

The rise of OTT services has revolutionized the way we consume media. You can cut the cord to the television in your living room. Instead, take your pick of content and consume it from any device, anywhere in the world. OTT streaming allows anyone to watch anything piecemeal or binge it for hours. This has not only changed entertainment habits but has also disrupted traditional media industries resulting in new freedom for content creators and media companies.

  • How can I make my internet faster?

    If all of your equipment is working properly, you likely need to get a faster plan from your ISP. If you are paying for a fast connection and you still aren't seeing the speeds you expect, the easiest step to take is to restart your modem and router. If your faster plan is in place and a restart hasn't helped, check out our articles on How to Make Your Wi-Fi Faster and How to Increase Internet Speed for more help.

  • What are the best streaming services?

    It used to be easy, right? You got cable, turned on your TV, and watched what was on. Now you have to pick and choose the service and then what to watch. So, there's no answer as to what is best. Check out our article about the Best TV Streaming Services so you can get an idea of what might work for you. Pro tip: Try one for a month to see if it works, then cancel if it doesn't.

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