World’s First Through the Middle (TTM) Offering Reverts to Over the Top (OTT)

Operators have started to look to Through the Middle (TTM) offerings, in which they gain rights to present internet video within their walled gardens, as one response to the increasing amount of Over the Top (OTT) content. One of the early success stories of this strategy, from both an operator and user perspective, was the way Virgin Media implemented a backwards program guide (EPG) featuring the BBC’s iPlayer programming.

The BBC Trust has said it would look down on customized (‘bespoke’ in proper British English) versions of the iPlayer. Recent reports state that Virgin Media is giving up this level of integration. While British regulator Ofcom hasn’t yet finalized this ruling, Virgin Media’s previous contract only allowed it access to about half of the iPlayer’s content. Gaining access to the other half of content required a new contract -- and therefore giving up the high level of integration previously offered. It does appear as though Virgin will continue caching some BBC content locally in its internal CDN, providing a managed level of service – but without an integrated users experience.
This highlights the tug of war between content owners (such as the BBC) and operators (such as Virgin Media) – each of whom wants to be seen by the viewer as the key content brand.