DVR and Ad Insertion Moves to the Cloud: Ericsson’s View

Cloud DVR usage is growing. Subscribers, or perhaps seasoned time-shifted TV addicts - are demanding more from their cable providers. Competitors, like OTT providers, are waiting in the wings to snatch up the disgruntled cable user. A service provider needs to be ready to offer the best quality of service and features to retain those viewers. Cloud DVR brings their personalized content to them, when they want it. But Cloud DVR isn’t a trivial deployment and the challenges are considerable. Legal issues, storage concerns and performance requirements must all be considered. Assessing the status of Cloud DVR and also Cloud for Ad Insertion is Itai Tomer, Head of Cloud DVR at Ericsson.

The Broadcast Bridge:  To what extent are operators now delivering DVR via the cloud rather than via the set top?

Itai Tomer, Ericsson:  Consumer demand is fuelling an enormous increase in the number of new services, applications and features that are available today. The consumer does not care if video is recorded or from live TV – they simply want to receive it on all devices at any time.

This is changing the nature of the user experience and in order to match this heightened consumer expectation, service providers now need extensive storage to account for the proliferation of smart devices and the concurrent rise in user profiles. The additional storage and extra amount of time shifted content also requires additional saved content to act as a buffer depending on the amount of time the user is saving.

Service providers also require the ability to deliver seamless access to an unprecedented amount of live and recorded content, with the flexibility to watch it any time. They are recognizing the limitations of traditional in-home DVR and as a consequence, we are starting to see a steady rise in Cloud DVR adoption.

Cloud DVR solutions are enabling service providers to redefine the way TV services are deployed, by harnessing a mixture of different, agile technologies to deliver time-shifted short and long-term content. Cloud is a critical enabler in the evolving TV and Media landscape and by incorporating cloud capabilities within their existing infrastructures, service providers can deliver the personalized, high quality experience that their subscribers want.

There is also the possibility of leveraging hybrid architectures, utilizing a combination of both public and private cloud. The ratio of shared to private copy will vary, depending on the type of content recorded, with the most popular content recorded more frequently, with the storage requirements dependent on whether the program is private or shared. This is particularly attractive to larger enterprises as it offers greater flexibility, scalability, resilience and high availability to providers.

Hybrid solutions also offer a route towards a fully cloud-based structure, enabling providers to understand the complexity and risk of various different applications and workloads. In this instance, the opportunity to adopt a dedicated server system is an attractive option as it enables the provider to move towards a virtualized cloud environment at a later date, when the business or market is more favorable to such a transition.

The Broadcast Bridge: What are the benefits of migrating these services to the cloud?

Itai Tomer:  The importance of delighting the TV consumer every day cannot be understated; the consumer is evolving faster than ever before and the only way to keep pace with them is to deliver a consistent, compelling and personalised user experience. Given the clear desire for TV Anywhere access and the limitations of traditional in-home DVR, the benefits of migrating services to the cloud are relatively straightforward.

The flexible cloud infrastructure enables an array of exciting new TV Anywhere capabilities, infinite archives, catch up TV, pause TV and even recording in the past. This allows service providers to upgrade a number of services, and tuners and expand storage on the fly while reducing CAPEX and OPEX, due to the price of cheaper set-top-boxes (STB), reduced truck rolls and maintenance.

The Broadcast Bridge:  Are technical challenges and regulatory issues hindering rollout?

Itai Tomer:  There are a number of technical and business challenges that service providers must overcome before they implement Cloud based DVR services. Viewers are consuming unprecedented amounts of streamed and recorded content every day, and at times, are watching and recording content simultaneously.

We can already see that copyright laws vary from country to country and at times asset by asset. In the U.S. for instance, the landmark Cablevision decision deemed a unique copy saved per user as the standard, although we are still seeing MSOs looking to readdress that decision independently. In Europe it varies according to region with issues ranging from high costs (in terms of deploying a private copy solution), to securing the rights to the content and consolidating within a variety of regions with different regulations.

Cloud DVR offerings also require a highly complex ecosystem. Shared copy deployments allow for a single file to be saved and streamed out to many viewers, but while more optimized solutions require significantly less storage, it does demand a very scalable and resilient origin server. A private copy system requires a unique copy of a program to be saved for every subscriber that requests it, meaning recordings cannot be shared. Each single, unique copy of the program has to be saved for each user, which requires a huge, growing volume of storage, very high recording and playout concurrency and that can be problematic to sustain.

Furthermore service providers need to ensure they are able to deliver huge throughput capabilities in order to process the large volumes of recordings. Cloud DVR often requires a complex architecture with multiple single purpose server farms, big data centers of dedicated storage services and all of the interconnects to make it work. Furthermore, the back office systems can be varied, with each deployment requiring unique content transformation options and an enormous number of distribution choices to pick from.

The Broadcast Bridge:  Moving to ad insertion, to what extent are operators using the cloud to deliver ad insertion across live and on-demand services?

Itai Tomer:  Generally speaking, operators are yet to fully embrace the cloud to deliver ad insertion across live and on-demand services. Adopters are actively working with vendors to influence the outcome of their in-deployment solutions, while others are in “wait and see” mode. A few operators, known as innovative and technology leaders, are driving the monetization requirements and strategy for cloud delivery of ad insertion for live and VOD, including dynamic insertion of ads in cloud-recorded shows and VOD content, but generally speaking, it’s early days.

One thing is clear though: operators agree that changing viewing habits combined with OTT video and innovation in Cloud DVR technology have changed the game for advertising. Consumers are viewing content on TV and on multiple devices, at their own convenience and operators know that advertising budgets will always follow the consumer’s eyeball.

Itai Tomer, Ericsson

Itai Tomer, Ericsson

The Broadcast Bridge:  What are some of the different ways this is happening?

Itai Tomer:  Key operators are in the process of deploying flexible and scalable cloud-based ad insertion capabilities for VOD and time-shifted content services across multiple OTT devices and STBs. Ultimately, the aim is to maximize monetization of existing content assets while enhancing customer satisfaction, all without complexity.

There are two different ways this is happening:

  1. Full-blown server-side ad insertion for legacy RTSP streaming for Cloud DVR time-shifted and VOD monetization services, with out-of-the-box integration with leading ADS vendors.
  2. Network/Client-side ABR-based dynamic ad insertion for Cloud DVR time-shifted and VOD services across multiple screens, with ad content anywhere – pre-ingested into the origin or on the cloud.

The Broadcast Bridge:  What are the benefits of using cloud for this? But what are the limitations?

Itai Tomer:  For a cloud-based multi-platform solution, key benefits include: flexibility, scalability, simplified management, fast time-to-market, quicker ROI, and enhanced customer satisfaction.

Existing technology is ready to deliver targeted and even personalized 1:1 ads based on device, content, user and location. However the current inventory of ads, although growing, is very low at the moment – plus they are expensive to create.

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