The Sponsors Perspective: Delivering OTT With The MediaKind Universe

The MediaKind Universe represents our portfolio of solutions and services, designed to offer the best of media technology to cater to the needs of our customers’ workflows. Content owners, broadcasters, service and pure OTT providers will discover how our solutions can enable them to engage the consumer. Our broad portfolio of market-leading and award-winning offerings continues to evolve and adapt to shifts in the media landscape.


This article was first published as part of Essential Guide: Advertising, Regionalization & Personalization


Expanding The MediaKind Universe

Cygnus enables content providers, broadcasters and service providers to securely and reliably acquire, backhaul and distribute the highest quality content anywhere, ensuring viewers around the world never miss a minute of the action.

Aquila tailors’ content into many forms and for a variety of uses, that include both Linear and On Demand. In addition, the highly efficient, broadcast-grade service enables innovative consumer experience with flexible deployment and operating choices. 

Pictor embodies creative thinking for today’s challenging world of media delivery. Video is no longer stagnant nor immobile and no longer comes in limited flavors. Today’s world of video requires bold solutions capable of ingesting any type of video feed and format, dynamically storing video when and where appropriate, doing so on a heterogeneous mix of physical storage hardware, and streaming live and stored video On Demand to a wide variety of device types, each with their own technical requirements.

TV Service Providers need fresh solutions to engage consumers, personalize services and dynamically monetize across many different screens. Orion provides a modern, multi-device, multi-screen platform for immersive TV service delivery. Backed by powerful analytics, UI customization and dynamic ad-insertion features, Orion is the most comprehensive consumer experience solution for Live and OTT service.

The MediaKind Universe has a comprehensive portfolio for the entire OTT delivery chain. World class performance along with a cloud native architecture together provides a high-performance capability with a cutting edge devops model. Some of the key capabilities are:

  • Encoding Live and Encoding On Demand – high performance live and on-demand encoding for ABR and linear, underpinned by MediaKind’s world-class algorithm research
  • Packaging and VSPP – ABR packaging, storage and processing for a wide range of formats, with VSPP providing a hugely scalable cloud DVR on top
  • PRISMA – Placement Rights and Management
  • Stream Personalization – addressable OTT and ABR services for both targeted advertising and addressable blackout
  • Media First TV Platform – client and back office for all types of clients, with a fully cloud back office

VSPP

Our Video Storage and Processing Platform (VSPP) solution powers a unified solution for storage, processing and packaging, offering cloud DVR, on-demand, and time/place-shifted TV services with deterministic performance, reduced latency, and much lower CAPEX and TCO. Even more, its simplified architecture and workflow accelerate time to market, which translates into accelerated time to revenue for your advanced TV services. Not only will you be able to compete more effectively, but we’ll also open up a new world of possibilities with our open APIs ecosystem, replete with opportunities to help you expand your existing offering.

As a cloud-native video-optimized storage and processing platform, our solution has a simplified architecture that is componentized, scalable, and leverages Docker containers deployment model. It is built to support multiple services, multiple networks and multiple devices – cost-effectively and with massive scale-out and high performance.

VSPP has comprehensive format support, including HLS-TS and DASH-CMAF, with wide support for DRMs and is field proven at scale.

Placement Rights And Management

Placement & Rights Management is the core component for any application such as blackout, program substitution, linear ad insertion, or media composing.

This variety of use cases and applications find its common denominator in the capability to ingest a schedule (blackout, linear ad for instance), and translate that schedule in actionable commands towards the video head-end using industry standards interfaces (such as ESAM for instance). 

Sources of schedule information:

  • Real-time play list ingest from Automation Systems (BXF format)
  • Standards-based ESNI224 events scheduling and notification interface
  • Flexible schedule file ingest (XML, CSV, etc)

Processing:

  • Filtering based on configurable rules to locate specific media events: program boundaries, adspots, etc
  • SCTE-35 processing and injection, using schedules, segmentation descriptors, etc
  • Video headend control: source switching, SCTE-35injection, non-linear content replacement, overlays, text, crawls, etc
  • Time-based and in-band driven scheduling, either received via ESAM or based on a schedule.

Standards supported:

  • CableLabs ESAM[11]
  • ANSI/SCTE 224 [12](ESNI)
  • ANSI/SCTE-35 [8]

Stream Personalization

MediaKind Stream Personalization is a dynamic ad insertion solution, designed to enable broadcasters and service providers to personalize and monetize multiscreen video services. It customizes an individual user viewing experience to provide access to content that is uniquely tailored to them.

Advertising space within OTT video service delivery is not fully monetized today and provides a great opportunity for Broadcasters and Video Service Providers to generate new revenues. MediaKind Stream Personalization is at the core of an operator’s infrastructure delivering these opportunities with server-side ad insertion, ad blocker resistance, seamless ad stitching and embedded mechanisms to enable ad impression tracking.

Use cases:

  • Pre/mid/post-roll dynamic ad insertion
  • Bumper insertion
  • Ad impression and quartile-based tracking
  • Integration with MediaKind and 3rd party analytics
  • Server or client side ad impression tracking
  • Live, time-shift, VoD, catchup and cloud DVR operation
  • HLS, Smooth Streaming and DASH
  • Integrated with leading ADSs
  • Content blackout 

Standards:

  • ANSI/SCTE-35
  • ANSI/SCTE 130-3 ADS interface
  • IABVAST/VMAP

Client-Side Ad Insertion

As an alternative, it is possible for different content selection to be made by the client, rather than server-side ad insertion. In this case, the client watches for insertion opportunities and elects to insert replacement content when appropriate, where the replacement content has usually been pre-cached. This can be effective where the main distribution path is multicast, since this allows shared capacity along with some level of personalization. In this case, the ads are stitched inside the STB (or other multicast-capable client). Ad stitching on the client side is often not seamless and can introduce unwanted visual disturbance.

Content Owners And Broadcasters

The lines between different types of media business can be blurred. The great news is that the same architectures can work regardless of where in the content flow chain.

MediaFirst TV Platform can supply client and back office capabilities to content owners and broadcasters, as well as all types of network operators. MediaKind Packaging and VSPP are suitable for both live and on-demand services, providing live origin, VoD storage and, where appropriate, cloud DVR, including private copy. MediaKind PRISMA is applicable wherever a placement or rights decision needs to be made – often this will be at all stages through the content chain. MediaKind Stream Personalization can provide the personalization wherever it’s needed, whether a broadcaster wanting to target individual clients, or an operator addressing adverts based on sophisticated analytics insights.

For content owners and broadcasters, OTT offers a number of potential benefits:

  • A direct interaction with the end user, meaning a closer connection between the content and consumer
  • The ability to deliver content more widely. Given that the conventional screens already have a good delivery path, OTT allows reach into other types of devices and when away from the home.
  • The ability to expose a much wider range of content from the archives
  • OTT is inherently designed in a manner that maps well to public cloud architectures. It can often be appealing to move the infrastructure away from being managed directly by the content owner, towards being provided by a 3rd party. Some cloud infrastructure providers also offer processing as a component of their infrastructure; however, this needs careful consideration as it could cause lock-in
  • OTT can cost-effectively apply personalization via manifest manipulation. The presence of strictly delimited segment boundaries removes some of the complexity that was required for more traditional splicers. This opens up a new mechanism for regionalization or personalization, including targeted advertising. 

Real world considerations must include the cost-effectiveness of delivery and seems likely that a hybrid broadcast + OTT configuration will offer a good overall system for many years. In addition, there are some signs of content owners and broadcasters starting to take ownership of the CDN distribution path: notably BBC’s BIDI project.

Network Operators

For network operators, there are a number of attributes that make ABR (and OTT) streaming attractive:

  • Extended reach both inside and outside the home. It is becoming more and more common for second/third screens to be handheld devices or laptops, for which streaming offers simple connectivity
  • ABR headend scan be modern and relatively simple. A move to all- ABR would avoid the operational differences between conventional linear and ABR headends.
  • Operators can play the role of aggregating content from multiple sources: this can mean making available both the operator’s own content and streamed content direct from providers. The benefits here being that by aggregating content into one application, the annoying need to switch between different content owners’ apps is removed. The operator benefits from maintaining a connection with the subscriber, even when using off-network content
  • As seen previously, multi-channel live systems can have a very long tail, with a large number of channels having very low probability of viewing. Since these channels are by definition not ones that carry popular content with time criticality, ABR delivery is entirely suitable and can mean that network bandwidth is not consumed when there are no viewers.
  • Bringing broadband-only customers into the media market. Offering an OTT-only offering that appeals to customers who only today take broadband services is an easy way to hook those customers back into the subscription model.
  • ABR ad insertion by the operator is relatively simple and scalable by means of manifest manipulation, means personalization is readily achievable. 

However, due consideration is needed to the latency and delivery efficiency for the popular live channels – at least to STBs. Network operators have a competitive advantage in the form of owning the network and this opens the possibility to use more scalable, lower latency, techniques to achieve a better on-network performance than is achievable when operating as a true OTT service (i.e. no ability to manage content flow through the network).

In particular, when the network can be managed, it is technically feasible to offer both the delivery guarantee that eliminates the need for rate- adaptation delays and allow the optimal bandwidth choices to be made, ensuring the very best experience when it matters most and optimal use of the network resources. 

Therefore, a combination of both ABR and managed delivery would appear to offer the optimal set of capabilities. Exactly where the balance lies will vary by operator and will depend partially on the competitive environment.

Where Next?

Headend Convergence

In many media businesses, the OTT and linear ecosystems have evolved in parallel. This gave an advantage in terms of agility and time to market but can result in inconsistency and duplication. A key area to rationalize is the headend, where it is possible to create a converged headend, which is managed by a single control plane and shares resources where appropriate. This can provide both resource and operational efficiencies.

Multicast And Personalization

As adoption of ABR techniques increases, the peak demand will still occur for popular live events, which will be viewed on the main screen (at least, that will remain the preference). Since this is the most sensitive type of content for latency, the quality and latency of delivery will need to be provided at the same time as scaling up to an audience of maybe 100M viewers.

Introducing personalization into this environment is obviously highly desirable but might require more specific solutions to ensure that the viewer experience and network load match the requirements, while adding personalization. This is likely to need some measures closer to the edge, to avoid an explosion of unicast traffic.

It is likely that we will see advanced edge-of-network processing to permit personalization with scalability and also access functionality to allow broadcasters to use the more advanced network management capabilities that are offered beyond best-effort broadband.

Summary

In summary, OTT (and more generally ABR) delivery will have an increasing role in all forms of media delivery. However, achieving an experience that is at least as good as traditional, linear, viewing in terms of latency and QoE is not trivial under real-world conditions and with cost-effective scaling for popular live content. There are means to offer this type of experience, by enhancing the mechanisms used by ABR. The new ecosystem also offers great potential for increasing revenues through personalization to all types of clients, with the richer personalization mechanisms offered by ABR.

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