Learn more about streaming video OTT with some questions and answers. Focuses specifically HLS, DASH, Closed Captioning, Video Monetazation and more.
What challenges can I expect ingesting live linear video?
Long content rights contract negotiations. With individual negotiations regularly going over the year marker, get ahead of this problem by starting early acquiring content you want when you are ready to go live.
Managing video workflow requires complicated signal re-design. A roadblock I often see is that physical signal acquisition is underestimated. There are two main ways to acquire signals from your broadcasters (satellite and fiber), and the architecture necessary for getting them to your encoding partner is extremely complex. Items to watch for include signal type, format conversion and aspect ratio conversion as well as management of the feeds.
After that you’ll need to work on getting your content transcoded for the web
What are the challenges for getting the video signal from the video encoder and delivered to the broadest range of end-user devices?
There are issues around what online formats you’ll need to support based on what devices you want to reach. There are currently three main formats: HSS, HDS, and HLS (the industry is aiming to reduce this to two in the coming years – HLS and DASH ). There are no industry standards around what bit rates to use or what frame sizes to support; it will be up to you to evaluate and decide these things. Each container has its own sets of pros and cons that you’ll have to work around to get the best user experience. For example, HLS is very easy to read, so when you’re trouble-shooting, it’s much easier to debug a HLS stream because it’s much more readable. On the flip side, with HLS you can’t mix HD and SD in the same stream, which is something you can do with DASH. Assuming you’ve encoded your VOD library into H264/MP4, which is the current industry standard, you should be able to rely on the CDN to convert those files in real-time dynamically into whatever container is best for the end-user device.
What are some typical compliance pitfalls to watch for?
One of the more common compliance issues that our customers overlook is closed captioning. There are many types of captioning, but here we are referring to the script displayed on the bottom of the programming for the hearing impaired. It is now a law that anything that has aired on television must have captions when presented online as well. There are many ways to do this, and they are all very technical. The captioning info needs to be added from the content provider, and needs to remain through every stage of the workflow, or you will risk losing it. Depending on the type(s) of captioning you use, there are very specific challenges with each. For example, SCTE 35 tones may need to remain in the video signal throughout the broadcast and online workflow. There have been documented cases where the FCC pursued those who were deemed in violation of the requirement.
You will run into additional compliance issues with limits around ads served on pages that host children’s programming, Personally Identifiable Information (PII) requiring specific security specs (e.g. SSN, age, address, name, etc.), and requirements around providing an audio-only track on Apple devices for apps delivering HLS video. Further, there are compliance recommendations around adhering to the CALM Act (loudness mitigation currently for broadcast ads only), and blind assist, which is a separate audio track that gives clues about people and positioning on the screen (e.g. Nora takes the book and walks off stage).
On a global scale, don’t forget country-specific rules about what videos you can post as many countries have exacted laws prohibiting hate-speech, incitement, etc.
How would you monetize your extensive high-quality video library?
There are four main models, three that have been widely used, and one less so. Ad-supported (e.g. YouTube) is where the user watches advertising in exchange for free viewing. A subscription model (e.g. Netflix, Hulu) is where users pay in advance for access to a library of content for no additional charge. PPV (e.g. VUDU, iTunes) charges no up-front fees, and users pay per piece of content. Finally, we have the Freemium model, which is where users can watch ads against the video, but have an option to pay and remove the ads (e.g. Spotify). In our experience, customers using this model have had challenges getting a return because few people choose pay for the upgrade. None of the major US players are using the Freemium monetization model for video.
Q5: What are some ways OTT providers can enhance the overall end-user experience?
A major measurement of success is the number of minutes end-users spend consuming the content, and widgets have been found to increase this metric. This is increasingly true when the same content can be viewed on various competitor devices and platforms. Many successful providers have added “widgets” around the content being delivered. Widgets such as social interaction functionality encourages sharing and drives engagement, which makes the OTT site stickier. Recommendation engines, as well as search and discovery functionality, helps users find content in an over-saturated market, which increases mindshare. Casual gaming can also increase viewer engagement when they would have otherwise left the site. In real time, having good client metrics around how users are engaging, and the ability to enhance the playback experience, can have a marked impact on retention. Overall, doing extensive testing and debugging of the holistic user experience can also have a significant effect on your ability to retain customers.