The Sponsors Perspective: The Paths To Streaming Distribution - A Tale Of Two OTT Use Cases

The consumer video market is growing fiercely competitive between content creators and content aggregators and OTT live and OTT VOD formats are growing increasingly fragmented. Consumers are benefiting from the tremendous choice of content and sources for that content while their tolerance for a negative Quality of Experience (QoE) continues to fall. Providers find themselves in the stark reality of having to balance getting to market faster, with greater unit cost efficiencies and with persistent QoE.

This article was first published as part of Essential Guide: Live IP Delivery

The following examples highlight how two leading players have effectively balanced these three business priorities. Each example illustrates the operational challenge, the execution approach, and resultant business impact. Each example furthermore focuses on a different OTT use case: one on multiscreen VOD and the other on OTT live streaming. 

Delivering On The Seamless Multiscreen Experience

BT TV, a subscription IPTV service offered by the UK’s largest telecom service provider, BT, has adopted Telestream’s Vantage Media Processing Platform. This move creates a robust, high-speed multiscreen OTT media processing solution with automated quality assurance to better serve millions of their customers.

The company evaluated all the available transcoding options and found that Vantage offered high quality content in the widest range of multiscreen formats, with media processing times that are significantly faster than any other platform. “Vantage contributes significantly to our business agility and the fast turnaround times of our multiscreen files allowed our new App and Web product to launch on time ….” explains Peter Harvey, Head of Content Operations (VOD and Digital Media) at BT Technology. 

Employing Vantage has allowed BT to launch enhanced features into the BT TV APP & Web player, enabling customers to access multiscreen versions of any rented or purchased content with the minimum of delay. The project supports the BT TV APP across iOS and Android devices as well as Amazon tablet. This project was fueled by BT TV’s need to enhance its business agility and support business development goals focused on its OTT VOD operations. The decision to integrate Vantage into BT TV’s video infrastructure was made to enable the shortest possible delivery times for multiscreen formats, which was paramount due to the time constraints of the project and large volume of content to be processed.

Vantage is being used to analyze the technical properties of VOD content, extract and create appropriate metadata which is used to drive Vantage workflow decisions and to transcode VOD content into high quality multiscreen formats for OTT delivery. “The Vantage Workflow Designer has proved popular with our team as an easy to understand, yet powerful and dynamic toolset. Vantage has given greater control of our VOD processing, reducing manual effort and helping the team to work more efficiently. It has reduced multiscreen media transcoding times by up to 30 percent, which was key in selecting Vantage,” commented Peter Harvey. 

Achieving World Class Results In OTT UHD Live Streaming

During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, owners of certain Hisense 4K HDR connected TVs who downloaded the UHD version of the Fox Sports GO app were able to watch every one of the World Cup games and watch in UHD 50p with HDR color. This was made possible by an exclusive agreement between Fox Sports and Chinese TV manufacturer Hisense.

Prior to the start of the World Cup, Kevin Callahan, Fox Sports vice president of field operations and engineering stated, “For the most popular sporting event in the world, it’s a natural that some of our viewers would jump at the chance to see World Cup matches in the brilliance of UHD/HDR. Fox Sports’ goal is to offer our audiences the most extensive and most engaging coverage of their favorite sports. We were excited to work with Hisense to offer live streaming UHD/HDR content. The real challenge was ensuring that the viewing experience was seamless.” 

Connected directly into Telestream Lightspeed Live where it is encoded to the exacting standards required by the Fox Sports Go app and Hisense, a special wide color gamut UHD video feed, via SDI from Host Broadcasting Services (HBS) enabled the unique UHD 50p HDR 10 stream. In this use case, that standard is an HLS package containing a Main 10 profile—level 5.1 HEVC/H.265 compressed bitstream with HDR 10 metadata. As one might expect, the quality was brilliant.

For the UHD/HDR stream, the resultant Lightspeed Live HLS package was delivered direct to Akamai where it was distributed to the Fox Sports Go app on Hisense TVs. “We were confident in Telestream’s ability to take on a production grade UHD/HDR live stream, and the results bear that out,” says Clark Pierce, senior vice president of TV Everywhere and special projects, digital technology and integration, for Fox Sports. “The ability to work in HDR10 makes an enormous difference in both quality and performance.”

Latency is always a challenge when encoding live events. Using the Lightspeed Live, the FIFA World Cup UHD feed had incurred no additional latency, and in fact, was frequently ahead of the standard HD feeds being delivered. Telestream has been able to confirm a smooth and efficiently-delivered playback experience by using Telestream IQ probes to monitor performance across the delivery chain.

More than 4.2 million people visited various Fox Sports digital platforms on day 2 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, a 77 percent increase from day 1. Spain vs. Portugal, for example, attracted 819,000 unique viewers. This year’s event has seen a confluence of technology coming together to reap new benefits for consumers and broadcasters alike. The event has demonstrated that organizations can deliver UHD with HDR to TV platforms over-the-top more efficiently with HEVC codecs. The number of total viewers that have UHD TV sets is growing, but more importantly, the number of avenues to receive 4K/HDR content OTT via apps is growing. The event has also provided a valuable proof point demonstrating that such high-resolution images can be provided without incurring cost burdens due to excessive data rates. Using the same technology for traditional HD streams, costs are proportionally lower which can further offset UHD production and delivery costs.

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