2015 trends: When Netflix confirmed its first UK production, The Crown, last month it underlined the impact of the OTT service on the broadcasting industry here.

The epic, big-budget royal drama teams up screenwriter Peter Morgan, producer Andy Harries and director Stephen Daldry. Just like House of Cards, the UK commission proves Netflix is now a serious player with serious budgets in the UK industry.

Fellow subscription-based OTT player Amazon Prime Instant Video is also ramping up its activity in the UK. Its first UK commission, the third series of Ripper Street, launched last month. Amazon has also greenlit Left Bank Pictures to remake Sky1 drama Mad Dogs for the US market, and is piloting an adaptation of Philip K Dick novel The Man in the High Castle from UK indie Big Light Productions.

Of course, the UK commissioning levels Netflix and Amazon have so far been limited, and are confined to very few UK production companies.

But the OTT players are also buying up UK content for distribution. Netflix, for example, picked up Red Production’s Happy Valley for the US market. For producers who have been mourning the decline in valuable DVD income for years, subscription based OTT services are becoming a useful source of income.

Chief creative officer Ted Sarandos recently said Netflix aimed to offer at least 20% of local content in each market it launched.

The relationship between OTT players and content creators will only grow in the years to come, as they seek to take advantage of their ability to distribute direct to millions of homes and devices via the internet.

It’s part of a slow but undeniable shift in power away from the traditional TV players to tech companies which now have their own means of distribution through high speed broadband.

Other Silicon Valley platforms, perhaps Google/YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, could also start to create long-form content. After all, if a former DVD platform like Netflix can create content, so can anyone.

Traditional pay-TV broadcasters like HBO and Sky have recognised the threat, launching their own subscription-based OTT services HBO Go and Now TV. 

UK terrestrials, meanwhile, have seen their viewers increasingly make use of their free OTT services like BBC iPlayer and 4oD. Indeed, BBC3 is to close as a TV channel in 2015, and will only be available online.

Certainly, the wide availability of OTT services across multiple devices as well as their user friendly interfaces and access to vast libraries is challenging the revenue streams of traditional pay-TV providers and undermining the historic importance of scheduled terrestrial channels. This only looks set to continue in 2015.

Tim Dams

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