As consumer demand for high-quality video content on a wide range of devices continues to increase at a steady rate, many DTH providers are looking to enhance their current offerings with an OTT multiscreen service. In fact, according to research firm Parks Associates, multiscreen services now reach 66 percent of pay-TV subscribers in Western Europe, 21 percent in Eastern Europe, and 9 percent in Asia.
Deploying an OTT multiscreen service can be easy utilizing an integrated video preparation solution that includes systems for encoding, packaging, recording, and playout. However, service providers do face a number of challenges. This article examines the key trends that DTH providers should take into account to ensure success in the OTT multiscreen environment.
Scalability is Essential for OTT Content Preparation
In order to deliver any type of content to any type of device across any type of IP network, DTH providers must adopt a scalable approach to content preparation. On the content creation side, workflow optimization and automation have emerged as important tools in delivering OTT multiscreen services quickly and cost-effectively. A metadata driven workflow is the ideal choice, as the downstream workflows can be automated based on a set of rules that are executed depending on the metadata within the content.
As Time-Shifted TV Increases, PVR Moves to the Cloud
The world of television is changing, not only with regards to the explosion of devices that consumers now watch video content on, but also with respect to when that content is being watched. One clear OTT trend is that time-shifted television viewing is increasing, while live TV viewing is starting to decline. According to research published by Nielsen, over the last year, time-shifting of television content grew by almost two hours, averaging 13 hours per month.
Meanwhile, the same Nielsen study found that viewers averaged nearly 134 hours of live TV viewing a month in 2013, down nearly three hours from 2012.
To address the shift in consumers’ viewing habits, the industry needs to optimize the delivery workflow for time-shifted content. One way to do that is by using certain mechanisms, such as just-in-time packaging (JITP), also known as packaging on the fly (POTF), to encode once as a multirate TS and then package, including encryption, at the latest stage in the delivery chain. With these mechanisms, the origin sever or edge cache server will only store one copy of the multirate file and will package/encrypt on demand depending on what format is being used.
While JITP/POTF is an elegant solution, it requires more processing since packaging is done upon each request, additional network traffic if packaging is done at the origin server, and more edge storage if packaging is done at the edge server when compared with an MPEG-DASH-based solution. DASH is, of course, the next-generation MPEG standard that aims to unify all adaptive streaming protocols into a single delivery format, enabling a service provider to encode once for all devices. Despite its drawbacks, the JITP/POTF approach may be the perfect way to transition to a full DASH solution. The JITP/POTF architecture is expected to become more prevalent as demand for time-shift TV services continues to grow.
Emerging Business Models for OTT Multiscreen
As the audience for OTT services has gone up over the last year, many DTH providers are contemplating how they can monetize OTT multiscreen offerings. Through advanced Web technologies, service providers around the world are turning their unicast sessions, both VOD and live, into channels for targeted advertising. Not only does this benefit the viewer by providing them with personalized content, it also offers DTH providers an opportunity to boost their revenue streams. In the future, it’s likely that service providers will offer an opt-in process, where the user declares his or her interest in specific topic and receives advertising corresponding to their individual taste.
Other methods that have emerged for monetizing OTT multiscreen services include launching value-added services such as start-over TV and cloud DVR, pay-TV content based on the recording or viewing window, and extended storage capabilities. For example, many of the catch-up TV services today are free for a certain period of time. In U.S. Hulu offers as a pay service the first seven days after a live broadcast. In France, M6 Replay is offered free for the first seven days, and is a pay service after. In UK BBC i-player is free for the first seven days and pay after 30 days. DTH providers could adopt a similar business model to where they would offer free catch-up TV content for the first week after a broadcast, and pay content afterward. Operators like the BBC are experimenting with this concept and monetizing content based on the recording window. In terms of the extended storage capabilities, DTH providers could adopt a business model where each subscriber is entitled to a limited storage capacity (e.g., 500GB) and has to pay to extend the storage capability for OTT multiscreen content.
Throughout the end of 2014 and beyond, it is expected that there will be additional technology advancements and business models that will arise, allowing service providers to deliver affordable, high-quality OTT multiscreen services to their subscribers. As the leading video infrastructure provider, and an active player in developing and accelerating new standards like MPEG-DASH, Harmonic is helping pave the way for global OTT multiscreen deployments. Harmonic has helped several DTH providers, including D-Smart in Turkey, launch OTT multiscreen offerings, ensuring they have the scalability to deliver high-quality live, VOD, and catch-up TV content to a wide range of devices, including TVs, PCs, set-top boxes, smartphones, and tablets.