Broadcasters Now Need To Care About Quality Viewing Experiences

Thanks to Over-the-Top (OTT) streaming video, content owners and broadcasters have a very different relationship with the end consumer – often a direct one.

In the past, viewers experiencing problems contacted their service provider of the content to find out what was happening. And there was typically an expectation that the whole experience was trouble free. Traditional TV services have become so reliable that we expect them to “just work” – almost at the reliability level of a light switch. Turn it on, and my highly anticipated video is right there for my viewing pleasure. In the event of problems, broadcasters did not need to deal with the quality of the viewing experience because they did not own that relationship. With OTT streaming video, now they can, and more often do. Broadcasters must be prepared to deal with content quality and delivery issues, which means having the necessary tools to determine what is happening with their content from the point of origin all the way to their customers’ viewing screens.

While a direct to consumer streaming service can open vast new audiences and revenue models for broadcasters, bad experiences can result in customer loss and damage to their brand. The demand for OTT delivery is a natural opportunity for growth, and broadcasters need to be aware of their customers’ experience. Video streaming quality is essential. The shift from live linear TV to a streaming video service doesn’t change consumer expectations – it must work.

Ensuring the experience for the viewer is a challenging task – UltraHD/4k, HEVC and HDR add processing complexity, delivery networks may or may not be optimized for video, access networks vary in quality, home networks are anyone’s best guess, and there are growing numbers of consumption devices. The challenge is very real. This dynamic OTT environment and the customer experience can come in to focus with a proper video quality assurance architecture. For any broadcaster with an OTT strategy, monitoring is not an option – it is essential.

The market is only slowly becoming aware of the value that video quality monitoring brings and the importance of the viewing experience. Telestream iQ developed its first monitoring solutions over eight years ago, but it has taken the relatively recent entry of new players to put a spotlight on this key QoS and QoE enabler, which, for these players, is clearly tied to subscriber churn.

Video Monitoring Strengthens Your Brand

Consumer churn is a key issue and the cost of switching providers has never been lower. Consumers can access enticing content from several sources: if the quality of experience with one provider is lacking – for example, if video playback suffers from delay – then the consumer will quickly move on to another provider. Simply download a new app, sign up for a free trial and start streaming. To make things worse, video abandonment and subscriber churn can happen without ever getting a call from your subscriber. You lose a customer and don’t know why or how to stop others from doing the same. This is the brutal reality of today’s market economics – superior streaming experience is critical in maintaining customer satisfaction and reducing customer churn.

Proactive OTT providers want to ensure that their streaming video services are available and of high-quality before they launch, and the quality is maintained during broadcast. For example, one content provider in Europe offering a stream service of live sports events wanted to make sure a high-quality experience for a large portion of their subscriber base located in Japan. Using a holistic approach for video quality assurance, the content owner was able to monitor, analyze and assure the quality of experience ahead of the event starting. Once the stream started, they could evaluate the streaming quality of the entire event across the whole distribution network.

This investment in a high-quality video experience is a key component of Customer Experience Management (CEM), which is a rapidly evolving discipline. The bottom line is that if the consumer is happy with the service they experience, then they are more likely to invest in additional services from that provider. A video service assurance solution with viewership information enables insights to customer experience and allows you can quickly triage video and network-centric impairments based on the audience that is affected. By using end user viewership data your teams can be hyper focused on only the most critical problems. Let’s face it, you have a lot on your plate. So, addressing the issues with the largest impact on viewership allows you to spend valuable resources wisely to protect your customers, investments, and brand.

OTT Streaming Involves A Multi-Vendor Ecosystem

OTT providers are encountering the challenge in assuring a high-quality viewing experience in a multivendor ecosystem streaming video presents. Within this ecosystem you have the content owners, Online Video Service Providers (OVSP) preparing the content, Content Delivery Networks (CDN) that are the transparent backbone of the Internet in charge of content distribution, the Access Networks Providers that give the devices a connection to the CDN and the applications that provides the playout of the content. All OTT Providers are unique in the sense of the content and what part of the distribution chain they manage, but what is constant is they all use a CDN provider.

If it can be proven that one CDN offers superior service, they can charge a premium – and some content providers are happy to pay for it. Broadcasters regard this guaranteed service as a shrewd investment, but how can they valid it. Active video monitoring and analytics is a cornerstone of their ability to ensure this guarantee. This is how broadcasters and content owners can be more confident that high-value video is reaching their customers.

OVSPs, CDN Providers, and Access Network Providers with video quality assurance system can, also, offer access to the broadcasters and content owners, so they can see what is happening with their content. This kind of transparency has a positive impact on customer loyalty. Not only does video monitoring help the delivery platform provider identify and resolve issues faster, but it strengthens their brand and helps them develop and market high-value services that are focussed on their customers’ needs.

Therefore, video monitoring is a critical technology throughout the distribution chain from before the origin server, right up to the final consumer delivery mechanisms. Broadcasters and content owners should validate the quality of what they send to the delivery platforms. Delivery platforms should make sure they’re receiving good quality content; ensure they’re encoding and packaging it correctly as well as validate what they’re sending to the CDN is of pristine quality. CDN providers should be using video monitoring to increase the value of their services.

A Holistic Approach To Video Monitoring And Analytics

Telestream iQ has been active in the video monitoring and analytics market for over 18 years. One of the key differentiators, we see is the ability to provide a holistic approach to monitoring – from content contribution throughout the distribution network to the end device. The ability to triage events and isolate areas of impact is the first step in to solving problems. Making use of network events and performance trends, OTT providers can even get ahead of problems. Focusing on strategic improvements where investment and energy will yield the greatest return.

On one level, a video quality assurance solution should provide a ‘red light / green light’ indicator of service health, which enables it to be used as a service provision management tool by non-technical managers. Simultaneously, when required, it can dive deep into a quality issue – even looking at data flows between two specific devices – so that issues are identified and rectified in the most efficient and timely fashion. That’s a decreased time to repair, and lowered personnel expenditure to achieve a solution. All by having the right tools for the job.

Over time, Telestream has identified a series of demarcation points where it is most valuable to position monitoring. If the part of the customer workflow that we identify as needing to be monitored has been outsourced, then we must follow it. Monitoring needs to follow the video wherever it goes.

A monitoring platform core value is not so much in the fact that it is virtualized, but rather in the depth and breadth of monitoring data it provides, combined with its intuitive user interface. Through this, content providers and broadcasters can ensure QoS and QoE. They can build businesses, grow strong brands and successfully tap into a highly-lucrative if fiercely competitive global market.

If you would like more information about Telestream video quality assurance platform visit: http://www.telestream.net/iq/overview.htm

“By deploying Telestream iQ solutions, we are able to rapidly decrease the meantime to repair of our Horizon and Horizon Go video platforms. This is done by monitoring both the quality of experience and quality of service, providing distinct insights into the real root causes.”
Florian Münz, Senior Manager, Service Deployment & In Life Entertainment Technology at Unitymedia.

This article was first published as part of Essential Guide: OTT Monitoring Uncovered.

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