Home : Internet Terms : OTT Definition


Stands for "Over-the-top." OTT refers to data sent over the Internet that bypasses traditional mediums. Two common examples include OTT content and OTT messaging.

Over-the-top Content

Over-the-top content refers to movies and television shows that are delivered directly to users. Instead of requiring a cable or satellite television subscription, OTT content can be downloaded and viewed on demand. Popular OTT mediums include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBO Now. Free services like YouTube and Vimeo are also considered OTT, though they compete less directly with television providers.

OTT services do not offer a list of channels. Instead, shows and movies must be selected individually and watched on demand. While traditional providers like Comcast and DIRECTV offer on demand content as well as live shows, their monthly fees are typically several times those of OTT providers. Because OTT service is relatively cheap ($8 - $15 per month), many users purchase multiple OTT subscriptions as an alternative to cable or satellite TV.

Over-the-top Messaging

For many years, text messaging (or SMS messaging) was the standard way to message someone using a mobile phone. In 2009, WhatsApp introduced a free way to message other users without using SMS. Apple introduced iMessage in 2011, which uses Apple's own free messaging service rather than SMS or MMS. As these alternative messaging options grew in popularity, many cellular service providers increased their monthly messaging limits for users and many plans now offer unlimited messaging.

NOTE: Both OTT content and messaging still require internet access, such cable, DSL, or a cellular data connection. Therefore, many Netflix subscribers still use Comcast for their Internet connection.

Updated: March 18, 2016

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