|Content is king – but quality reigns
|Dr. Hui Zhang
|Co-Founder and CEO
Dr Hui Zhang is a Co-Founder and CEO of Conviva; he brings 20 years of pioneering research experience to the design and construction of media control platforms. As a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Dr Zhang has established himself as a world authority on Internet Quality of Service (QoS), video streaming, network control and Internet architecture.
Dr Zhang’s End System Multicast (ESM) research group at CMU pioneered the overlay multicast architecture and developed the world’s first peer-to-peer live streaming system. His paper on ESM won the ACM SIGMETRICS Test of Time Award in 2012 for its significant impact on research, methodology, application and transfer in the last decade. His 4D research project advocated the network control architecture that separates control logic from data devices, and was the precursor to the Software Defined Networks (SDN) initiative.
The TV industry is undergoing a massive transformation in the delivery of content to consumers. There are new ways to deliver content to meet the demands of ‘TV Everywhere‘ and social entertainment. Over-the-top (OTT) video delivery – delivery via the Internet to any connected screen – is changing the economics of content delivery. Since the Internet was not designed for the quality video consumers expect, content providers are challenged to produce multiple Internet-streaming formats and different ways to advertise for each.
The TV industry is undergoing a massive transformation in the delivery of content to its consumers. With more devices for watching content, come new techniques of content delivery particularly to meet the demands of TV Everywhere and social entertainment. We have seen the popular uptake of over-the-top (OTT) video delivery or delivery through a facilities-based service provider that can be sent to any connected consumer electronics device, regardless of location. Yet, the fact of the matter is, the internet was not originally designed for quality online video delivery.
To meet the realisation of TV Everywhere consumers are coming to expect, content owners and publishers are faced with the technicalities of producing multiple internet-streaming formats use different types of authentication methods, and also have different ways of inserting adverts. Underpinning all this is a far greater challenge; maintaining high video quality despite external factors and optimising delivery without interruption to the end user.
Dr. Zhang suggests that there are a few hurdles to overcome. Here, he discusses the challenges with TV Everywhere or rather ‘content everywhere.’
The TV Everywhere paradigm
As imagined, there are a variety of new business and operational models emerging. TV Everywhere, an innovative business model, has been a welcome development within the Pay TV industry and is gaining traction. Park Associates research recently revealed 70 per cent of European PayTV area are able to access TV Everywhere. OTT services such as Netflix and Hulu have made significant strides and have proved popular with consumers particularly with attractive operational models alike Video On Demand (VoD). Its low-cost packages and access to content has caused broadcasters and PayTV providers to develop these innovative models to ensure they do not lose their large subscriber base.
Added to this, most multiscreen TV content has until recently been served as VoD. The simplicity of obtaining the rights to VoD content has allowed OTT providers to boost their viewership numbers. Despite this, the majority of consumers’ time is still spent watching linear TV in their home and come to expect this type of content on-the-go. Events such as The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics pulled in record number of online viewers around the world using different devices to witness history being made. Consumers want to watch more live content wherever they are providing an opportunity for broadcasters and Pay TV providers to take the competitive advantage and secure its position far ahead of OTT service providers.
To achieve this however, it is critical that certain elements are guaranteed. While the availability of different types of content is key, equally valuable is the assurance that the content will be delivered without interruption. Authentication and content access must be seamless and guaranteed and every viewer ideally needs to enjoy the high quality viewing experience on every size screen and from every type of network.
Getting to the finish line
In the race to gain this competitive edge, certain challenges need to be addressed before TV Everywhere or OTT can really take off. Firstly making content available by securing the rights to broader content distribution such as live content is necessary. PayTV providers have the benefit of being able to extend in-home access to live TV content, without incurring additional charges. OTT providers must negotiate new contracts for multiscreen live TV and do not have the large subscriber base and budgets to consolidate their case.
Delivering different types of content to different devices is especially complex when it comes to processes and distributing across networks. Live content particularly must be authenticated by subscribers on authorised devices before it can be viewed, adding yet another level of complication.
Coupled with the variety and availability of new content as well as the processes involved, consumers are in need of additional education about the realms of TV Everywhere services. Knowledge of what content is available across devices fragmented and is an area that is in need of support. What we do know however is that according to ABI Research, in addition to the computer, Apple’s iPad continues to be the most supported TV Everywhere device, particularly in the US market. In fact, it suggests that iOS and Android smartphones and tablets capture the lion’s share of device support, besting even the popular game consoles, reinforcing the importance mobility plays in the future of the TV Everywhere market.
Quality viewing = opportunities for revenue
Beyond variety, security and availability, quality remains a significant hurdle to overcome. We know that the technology is in place to offer wider reaching TV Everywhere services. Investment is being made in varying amounts across different regions towards building robust infrastructure that will deliver online video without interruption. The fact is a huge overhaul and massive investment is not necessarily the solution. Software is available today that can pre-empt the level of optimisation that is necessary to resolve quality issues and interruptions to video. By switching between content delivery networks (CDN) such technology can ensure that video is delivered optimally allowing for fast start up times, no buffering and at a highly sustained bitrate. To achieve this level of quality however, broadcasters, publishers and content owners need to be armed with the right data that illustrates the Quality of Experience (QoE) for each of their viewers. This knowledge and insight is extremely valuable as equipping publishers with real-time QoE data will mean revenue opportunities can be leveraged to help grow audience numbers and consolidate the brand. Publishers are particularly interested in seeing how long each viewer watches and how often each viewer returns to watch more. By eliminating buffering, avoiding video start-up failures and improving video bit-rates across all devices, a typical premium long form Video On Demand provider, with 10 million views per month, should increase revenue by approximately £1.9 million monthly.
The concept of TV Everywhere is exciting and clearly within reach, yet challenges remain. TV Everywhere will allow content owners to extend the relationship they have with current subscribers onto digital platforms in a personalised way and represents expansive opportunities for revenue. With this in mind, it is important to note that while variety and availability of content will determine the success of TV Everywhere, QoE will determine its purpose and will reign supreme.