When Linear TV and Digital Collide: The Rise of the Virtual MVP

August 14, 2018
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Over-the-top (OTT) adoption is on the rise, increasing 17 percent year-over-year. With such astounding growth, it isn’t a surprise that the industry is buzzing about OTT and how it is impacting other traditional channels. But more than anything, the rise of OTT has highlighted how these channels – linear TV and digital – are converging. Virtual MVPDs, in particular, are a prime example of viewers utilizing digital mediums to watch live content formerly only available on linear TV.

The Virtual MVPD Explained

One of the most common questions I received during comScore’s recent “State of OTT” presentation was, “What is a virtual MVPD?” Let me take a moment to explain.

MVPD stands for multichannel video programming distributor (yes, it’s quite a mouthful). What that means, in layman’s terms, is a service that provides multiple television channels – a.k.a. a cable or satellite television service like Comcast, DirecTV, DISH, Cox, etc. These were often formerly known as “operators” or “MSOs.”

virtual MVPD (vMVPD) is a service that provides multiple television channels through the internet without supplying its own data transport infrastructure (i.e. coaxial cable, fiber, or satellite technology). These services are also sometimes called “skinny bundles” as they often contain fewer channels than a traditional cable or satellite subscription. You may be familiar with some vMVPDs such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, Fubo, Philo, YouTube TV and Hulu Live.

Then there is what I call “pure-play” vMVPDs. These are the services that are exclusively vMVPDs, excluding services like YouTube and Hulu that have substantial non-linear, digital-only content such as user videos and original programming.  

The Next Frontier of Linear Content is OTT

It’s not surprising in the age of the rapidly expanding video ecosystem that consumers expect to be able to watch whatever they want, whenever, wherever and however they want. Traditional linear TV has long been a mainstay for providing quality content that viewers love, and OTT provides a dynamic environment in which viewers can experience this content on their own terms. It just makes sense that the two worlds are colliding.

In fact, over the past year, we’ve seen concrete indicators that more and more users are gravitating toward linear TV on OTT via virtual MVPDs:

  • Virtual MVPD use is still small but growing rapidly. In April 2018, 5 percent (4.9MM) of U.S. households with Wi-Fi internet streamed a pure-play vMVPD on their television screen. This is a remarkable 58 percent increase in households from the year before.
  • OTT viewers are spending significantly more time watching vMVPDs. Pure-play vMVPDs comprised 10 percent of all time spent on OTT streaming in April – a notable 53 percent increase year-over-year indicating that, not only are more users giving vMVPDs a try, they are highly engaged with them as well. In fact, nearly half of the time spent by OTT households with a vMVPD service is spent with the vMVPD itself
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About comScore
comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR) is a trusted partner for planning, transacting and evaluating media across platforms. With a data footprint that combines digital, linear TV, over-the-top and theatrical viewership intelligence with advanced audience insights, comScore allows media buyers and sellers to quantify their multiscreen behavior and make business decisions with confidence. A proven leader in measuring digital and set-top box audiences and advertising at scale, comScore is the industry’s emerging, third-party source for reliable and comprehensive cross-platform measurement. To learn more about comScore, please visit comScore.com.