At BEIT: Learn Why Operators Need to Align Linear With on Demand For Hybrid TV Success

As consumers flock from linear to on-demand viewing, operators are under pressure to ensure their assets conform with these changing consumption patterns by being available for TV Everywhere as soon as possible. Many broadcasters face the same challenges as they deploy direct to consumer online services where most content is consumed on demand after the scheduled time, even sometimes for major sporting events.

Technical and business challenges associated with migration from traditional linear to hybrid or even pure OTT-ABR (Adaptive Bit Rate) services are discussed by Meir Lehrer, Vice President, VSPP Portfolio Development at MediaKind, at the Broadcast Engineering and Information Technology (BEIT) conference at NAB 2019, for which The Broadcast Bridge is media partner.

The primary business challenge will be ensuring that the correct rights have been secured from content providers for conversion to on-demand formats, where there can be scope for viewing in different ways, for example showing clips and edited highlights. “The most complex part will likely be negotiating rights with all the different linear channel content providers, and perhaps ever more granularly than that, to enable assetization of events on their channels,” said Lehrer. There will have to be agreement with rights holders over valuation of events extracted from content.

Lehrer identifies the biggest technical challenge as being fine-tuning the integration and timing of system parts to create a fully automated solution for live-to-file conversion. Without such automation, operators and broadcasters will be unable to cost effectively manage the constant workflow associated with converting the ongoing stream of live and linear assets to files for on demand access.

Lehrer divides this linear-to-file workflow into five components:

• Transcoding of linear content from traditional CBR (Constant Bit Rate) to multi-profile ABR with typically either H.264 or HEVC codecs.

• Scheduling of specific events/programs or entire linear channels to be recorded and protecting all recordings from data loss with video-specific optimizations.

• Absorbing linear metadata about programming and converting it into consumable VoD (Video on Demand) metadata for file-based assets (whether CBR over QAM or ABR over HTTP).

• Creating frame-accurate advertising insertion points on linear content.

• Streaming all content according to the correct protocol per device.

The metadata conversion is especially critical to ensure that the user experience is as good as possible. “The benefits of doing this conversion properly are that navigating VoD assets through existing VoD UIs, that is catalogue screens, will be more intuitive and will look much more natural,” said Lehrer. “That is they will look like a typical VoD asset, not one that was created from a different source.”

As Lehrer noted, linear events typically come in as an XML type flat file or in a traffic feed. “Each of these would need to be captured for all relevant channels and converted into VoD asset metadata file formats that match the existing VoD service architecture of the operator. Ideally this would be done so that assetized linear events can be dropped into existing VoD workflows with the least operational impact on the Operator/Broadcaster.”

Lehrer added that this may mean converting the content into the Cable Labs ADI 1.1 or 3.0 metadata formats, or perhaps something like the file format used by the Rotten Tomatoes review and aggregation website. “Most of the information for the linear-to-VoD metadata creation can be culled from the flat file or traffic feed,” said Lehrer.

Other technical challenges include ingesting linear assets and processing them in the most accurate and optimized way to ensure subsequent viewing on demand is as free of glitches as possible. At the most basic level, audio, video and subtitling streams must be accurately aligned, which does not always happen.

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