In this blog post, Steven Kopec, Head of Service Management at Accedo explains how to go about adding OTT to broadcast infrastructure, how best to manage them, and what to watch out for in the process.
What is OTT?
Unless you have been hiding under a rock for many years, you will undoubtedly have heard of OTT, or “Over-the-Top” video delivery which, according to WikiPedia is described as, “the distribution and sale of audio, video, and other media services directly to the consumer over the internet via streaming media.”. With new devices, screen sizes, resolution, and audience engagement possibilities, OTT services offer broadcasters a wealth of monetization opportunities, but also plenty of challenges – including network complexities.
Better Late Than Never
If you are not already doing it, then I imagine you are under pressure to launch your OTT services and with good reason. With OTT, you can not only deliver your content to millions of more consumers and monetize and manage that content far more effectively, but your audiences are expecting you to do this and will go elsewhere if you do not.
What it does require, however, is some changes to your broadcast technology strategy. An alarming prospect certainly but not unsurmountable. Here are a few of the common questions our broadcast customers ask us when preparing to launch OTT services.
1. How does OTT change my broadcast infrastructure?
Believe it or not, distribution via OTT is not that far from how you are operating your distribution business today, whether you are using satellite or terrestrial options to distribute your content and channels. All of the same backend systems you need for your TV operation, are also needed for your OTT operations, and can help automate and simplify the operation of both.
That said, in order to support an OTT service, you do need some additional technology to make sure that your environment can support the proper formatting of content, schedule and metadata and the delivery of that content, schedule and metadata to your chosen video CMS partner (referred to as an Online Video Platform, OVP), such as Brightcove or Comcast Technology Services (CTS). That partner can then prepare your content in multiple formats that are needed for distribution on OTT platforms, and make sure your schedule for surfacing of content is respected and handled properly.
2. How do I manage my content?
Adding additional content workflows can of course add to complexity. Therefore, having one integrated traffic system for scheduling of content for both your linear and OTT service, can reduce both the overhead and the complexity of managing both. It also simplifies scheduling and billing for any advertising done on your platforms.
Your Air Master version of content will still reside in your Deep Archive, and can be delivered by any standard automation, based on the log that is delivered to the automation master for schedule, logo, commercial insertion and other customizations to your playout servers from your Traffic system.
At the same time, based on the schedule you’re using for your OTT service, you can also request the additional content for your OTT service to be delivered by the automation service to your Media Asset Management System, thus ensuring one integrated system.
Once the content is delivered to the Media Asset Management System, the content and metadata would be transformed to match the requirements of your OVP “video CMS”. In the case of OTT, a “mezzanine” format file would be created from the Air Master, and then delivered alongside the metadata and scheduled to the OVP. This would also include any pricing and packaging information for your OTT service.
Once this bundle is delivered, the OVP will ingest the contest and transform it for use in multiple devices, such as SmartTV platforms, iOS and Android devices and many STB devices, like the Roku and Android TV platforms.
3. How do I ensure a seamless experience and delivery of content across both broadcast and OTT devices?
Whatever your situation today, there are some pieces of the Broadcast and OTT puzzle that can be added to help simplify your experience and improve the delivery of your content to your customers, whether on traditional TV or on an OTT platform. If you already have in-house playout, can simply add some additional hardware and expertise and begin your OTT journey
However, if you are using a partner to playout your content, you need to ensure they can provide you with the following:
- A clear roadmap on how they will support the future of your business and your other OTT partners and vendors and
- A proven Media Asset Management service capable of delivering content to multiple different partners, such as your OVP.
4. How do I manage Broadcast and OTT together?
Once pieces of the Broadcast infrastructure are in place to support both traditional linear and OTT, the next question that comes is “how do I manage this all together?” With a traditional Master Control Room, there is a set of expertise available that knows how to manage the Broadcast piece of the puzzle, but what about the new OTT portions?
The expertise for OTT and Broadcast is very similar, especially if the MCR has expertise in terrestrial distribution via IP. Learning the new portions of the infrastructure, as well as the needed monitoring, can be done with either your internal team, or with a trusted partner.
Using the monitoring tools for OTT requires a new type of expertise and for a shorter runway, a trusted partner should be considered for running all your monitoring and management needs. Using a partner gives your business extra flexibility to scale up or down as needed, and access to only the expertise you need.
5. How do I get there?
Once you have the understanding of what you want to do,, you then need to make some important choices. Here are the top 2 to consider.
- Do you work with a technology partner to deliver your content or do you do it in-house? I.e. do you acquire the expertise or do you launch with a content partner who already has the expertise and a proven product and service in the market? It is important to remember that for as many partners are available, there as as many types of experiences and approaches to take, depending on your strategy and priorities.
- Do you want to own the experience with your customers and how much exposure to risk launching a new service do you want to take? If you want to have complete ownership of the customer relationship, you need to take on all the risk. In essence this means developing your own video experience, and delivering it direct to market, working with OVPs for delivery.If, however, you prefer to minimize your risk, your best option is to work with a content partner who already has a service in the market, and will help you get exposure for your content. While this is perhaps a safer option, you will forgo owning the direct customer relationship and access to associated analytics and data.
6. What could possibly go wrong?
After you have integrated all of your technology and systems, chosen your partner OVP, and started working on OTT products, things can still go wrong.
OTT relies on the internet for delivery of content to your customers, and this comes with a lower reliability than you might be used to with traditional broadcasting. A good SLA and setting proper expectations with your team and management go a long way towards mitigating that decrease in reliability.
The scope of OTT products can be daunting, where you might be releasing access to your entire catalog, vs. a small portion of that catalog that is presented in your linear products. You need to make sure that you are gathering data from your service, and focusing on delivering more of what your customers are watching, and keeping a clear eye on your service’s growth.
Technology is fallible, don’t forget that you are dealing with pieces of infrastructure that are scattered around the globe. Your OVP partner will get you closer to your customers, but local issues, such as internet connectivity, especially in emerging markets, can present you with challenges about how to deliver your content reliably to the people paying you for access.
Your customer service operations should scale up. Whereas in Broadcast, the Pay TV provider owns the customer relationship, you are now the front line to your customers. They will be contacting you for everything from not being able to play a piece of content to an error on their billing
7. How do I puzzle these pieces together?
When you have answered the questions above, it is now time to sit with your content and marketing teams to fully understand what OTT video service you are going to launch. It is also timely to bring in a seasoned third party to help pull the pieces together to ensure a seamless video experience and ensure your partner ecosystem deliver the best results possible.
Whatever your approach, having the best partners in place from the start is critical. At Accedo we have over 12 years’ experience working with broadcasters around the world as they transform their video experience and businesses going OTT, including Astro, MBC, OSN, Fox, MediaCorp, ProSieben, ABC, PBS, Channel 4, ITV, SBS, Viaplay and RTL. Let’s talk and transform your video experience together.