“Live is King” in OTT

Despite the explosion in Over-the-Top (OTT) in the last year or so, it is still linear TV that attracts the majority of viewers by a long way. One of the major drawbacks of OTT has been its failure to address and capitalize on live content in a way that traditional live TV has done so. Live sport on traditional TV, for example, remains one of the most lucrative advertising channels available to broadcasters, yet in the OTT space revenues garnered from live sports is overshadowed in comparison. In order to bring live OTT experiences and revenues up to levels that are more reflective of live viewing demand media operators need to make live OTT as appealing, if not more appealing, than traditional broadcast TV.

The problem with live OTT today

Currently live content delivered OTT is not truly live. This is because current OTT platforms and CDNs lack synchronization of the first and second screen, delivering content to different devices with unpredictable delay. They are simply “best effort” and not optimized for true live delivery, and focus primarily on personalization, reliability, video-on-demand (VoD) and freedom of choice. For live content this has resulted in an OTT delivery system with delays lasting from seconds up to several minutes. This is one of the major drawbacks in watching live OTT content today and breaks many of the promises made around the second screen and social TV. Apple recently announced that the “the future of TV is apps,” but IPTV’s promise of interactivity and enhancing social experiences is not possible with these “best effort” live OTT attempts. While efforts have been made to increase television audience engagement with companion apps, any successful examples of these require no in-app video, restricting the boundaries of what is possible in terms of social interactivity and inhibits any kind of significant revenue potential. Moreover, this has left the industry facing a situation where viewers actually turn off social media and apps to avoid “spoiling” the action unfolding during live events. There’s nothing worse than watching a big live event, such as a soccer match OTT, and receiving a message informing you of the score or state of play a minute before it happens. Even a phone beeping with a message can be enough to make viewers think, “Did something just occur?” This is implicit in OTT services for end-users today. Audiences watching content OTT have different experiences depending on the screen they are watching content on. This is where the market has fallen short. To address this and take OTT to the next level and beyond a “differentiated” true live OTT TV delivery solution is required. One that not only enables real-time social interaction and engagement, but also lays the foundation for harmonizing all TV delivery.

True live OTT means synchronized audience

So what is true live OTT? As we have noted the OTT market has created incredible platforms for watching content on-demand, anytime, anywhere and on any device, but it has failed to create an environment where live OTT can thrive. True live OTT occurs when content is distributed to all screens in perfect harmony, delivering frame-accurate synchronization across all devices and in parallel with linear broadcast TV. This can be achieved by guaranteeing low and predictable delay, and makes it possible to offer companion content that integrates the second screen seamlessly into the first screen experience.

The true live opportunities – what does synchronized audience mean?

By allowing television audiences to view the same content at the same time, regardless of the device, and in line with live linear television a raft of new and unique possibilities arise. Broadcasters, content owners and service providers can produce different types of content for the primary screens compared to that created for companion apps or smart apps, depending on the application. For example, during a soccer match, synchronization will mean viewers can watch related content such as a player cam on their second screen while at the same time watch the full match action unfold on their primary screen in parallel and in perfect sync with the player cam on their second screen. This not only extends user experiences, but also allows media operators to engage with their audiences in unprecedented ways and opens up new opportunities to monetize content more effectively through introducing new business and advertising models based on more than one screen. It also allows media operators, previously left out of the OTT value chain, to enter this space and makes it possible for them to deliver compelling entertainment experiences that could potentially mean they “own” the second screen. In addition, harmonizing all TV means betting, voting and polling during live events can happen just tenths of seconds before closing, instead of tenths of minutes, representing a major shift in the potential of live interactive TV.

Integration of the first and second screen is also crucial because it invites audiences to stick with the content they are watching for longer. This will happen because they will now have a platform that invites them to interact socially and engage with live OTT content and with other users in real-time. This can also lead to better data feedback of services used, creating a more valuable input for ad decisions so relevant ads that closely fit with a user’s activity can be shown.

Furthermore, adding seamless and sophisticated integration of the primary screen with mobile devices is also game changing in other ways. Enabling the second screen to serve as an extension of the viewing experience paves the way for mobile devices to become sophisticated viewer remote controls and tools for social interactivity. This enables new features and functions, such as “Swipe-to-Swap” (instantly changing primary viewing screen between the first and second screen) and Fast Channel Change (changing channels without delay), to be introduced, enhancing the user experience further.

In conclusion

Synchronization and integration of the first and second screen, and in deed harmonizing all TV, regardless of the viewing device, then is key to enhancing quality of experience (QoE) for end users and providing media players with new ways to monetize live OTT content. The sooner broadcasters, content owners and service providers realize the benefits of delivering true live OTT, the sooner the market will begin to see the next wave of viewers, revenue streams, and content engagement that live OTT TV originally promised, but has failed to deliver until now.

Ted Olsson is a Product Manager at Net Insight. Highly experienced in the telco market, Olsson most recently worked at Ericsson.

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