Live OTT services: How Soon Will it Become the De-Facto Delivery Platform for Broadcasters?
Within the broadcast industry, the only constant is change and, from a technological perspective, the pace of change is increasing at unprecedented rates. For broadcasters, the days of focussing solely on linear television and traditional advertising business models are long gone. Today, the smart money is on over-the-top (OTT) services and especially live streaming, creating the differentiator that provides viewing audiences with the ‘WOW’ factor that they crave. “All the excitement is about cable and streaming,” the chairman of US broadcaster, NBC Entertainment, Robert Greenblatt, said in a recent interview in the New York Times. “We are the forgotten business on some level.”
However, Mr. Greenblatt has good reason for optimism: he is holding onto a trove of in-house statistics he believes are the key to proving to advertisers that broadcasters can make the transition to the streaming universe. Nielsen ratings are down for the networks yet again — 10 percent this season. NBC has responded by learning to make money from viewers who stream its programs — and now itis learning how to put a number on it. The key is gathering statistics from services like NBC.com, the NBC app, video on demand and Hulu to determine how much money its shows are pulling in from streamers.
Take “This Is Us.” According to the network’s data crunchers, NBC has earned around 47 percent of the revenue generated by its 2016 pilot episode from advertising through digital views. Overall, 44 percent of the revenue NBC has earned from “This Is Us” has come through digital viewership.
The new source of revenue is NBC’s attempt to make up for a larger decline in advertising dollars. US television ad sales fell 8 percent in 2017, one of the biggest drops in years, Bloomberg reported. That’s why executives like Mr. Greenblatt need to make the digital business work sooner rather than later. “It’s not insignificant now,” he said to the New YorkTimes, “and I think over time it grows into becoming really significant.”
How do broadcasters adapt to the live streaming revolution?
Content programmers need sophisticated strategies to deliver to today’s live viewing audience. Success requires business creativity and agility, operational efficiency, and high-quality end-user experience. Operations need to address advertising workflow, subscriber management, digital rights policy and frequently-changing brand marketing initiatives. Programmers are leveraging social media as a live second screen to entice audiences to premium shows and increase audience engagement and want to synchronize the audience experience as tightly as possible across the broadcast, OTT and social domains. Finally, actionable intelligence must be gathered through the content delivery chain in order to spot issues and rapidly make upstream adjustments that ensure a quality viewing experience.
Although a growing number of consumers continue to cut the cord with their traditional TV service providers, many ofthose who have turned to OTT services are frustrated with the experience provided. Recent industry research indicates that viewers are embracing content everywhere, on a wide range of devices. However, the research also indicated that millennials, arguably the key demographic for streaming services, are already “overwhelmed with the plethora of options.”
Despite that abundance of choices, millennials indicated they were not completely satisfied with their current OTT services. This consumer frustration is likely to prove a strong driver for improvements in the OTT experience, including streamlined authentication, better content curation and personalization.
For broadcasters seeking to strengthen their live OTT business model, today’s live video encoding solution must be able to do more than ever before. It must understand program boundaries with frame-accurate precision. It must recognize SCTE markers or other cue points that inform systems where a program begins and ends and where ad breaks occur – including what kind of ad opportunities are available within those breaks. It must seamlessly integrate with automation to ensure that out-of-band messages defining production requirements can be incorporated into the live video stream, supporting dynamic ad insertion, alternative content and blackout rules, and sophisticated content protection and packaging rules. Together, these features enable a better OTT audience experience while unlocking prized live revenue streams.
Additionally, content-aware workflows provide new opportunities to improve the catch-up and replay experiences. New techniques to rapidly deliver IPTV/VOD version can improve ratings (and ad revenue) and support dynamic ad insertion (DAI). For syndication, open “growing-file” workflows make professional production formats accessible and executable in real time.
One of the most critical issues in building streaming revenues is the measures that a broadcaster or service provider puts inplace to ensure Quality of Service (QoS) and thereby Quality of Experience (QoE) for the viewer. With the range of consumption devices expanding on a daily basis this is a massive challenge.
Just because the content was high quality when it left the broadcaster’s premise it does not mean that it will remain so until the consumer receives it. There is an implicit need for broadcasters to monitor their content right through the distribution chain, right up the point of consumption – be that in the home or on the move.
In today’s increasingly cloud and virtualization-centric world, monitoring is no longer optional for video services. Irrespective of which environment a business inhabits, the expectation for 2018 and beyond is that monitoring solutions need to be portable and scalable to work in each and every environment. The traditional method of sending an engineer out to fault-findon proprietary hardware does not work in a cloud environment or virtualized data center architecture, so it is imperative that the monitoring is designed in as a fundamental function of the original design.
The demand for streamed content opens up excellent commercial opportunities – if you know how to fully leverage the available solutions