Buffering and latency are inherent to the way OTT is delivered, but that will change.
The OTT market is showing tremendous grown with revenues slated to reach $24 billion in 2021 in North America and $18 billion in APAC, the two largest OTT markets according to Research and Markets. However, there are multiple constraints in delivering live OTT video services, including quality of experience, latency and data costs for the user. Fabio Murra, SVP Product & Marketing, V-Nova, says buffering and latency are inherent to the way OTT is delivered and offers his viewpoint on how these challenges are best countered.
Quality of experience, latency and data costs can be solved by deploying new video encoding technologies that shift the bitrate curve to enable UHD quality at HD bitrates, HD at SD and so on. These technologies are readily available and can be deployed as a plug-in or a simple app update, in a completely transparent way for subscribers. This new approach can significantly lower data costs and buffering time for the end user, making premium application – like live sports – a commercially viable, mass-market offering.
The Broadcast Bridge: Do OTT services deliver 'broadcast quality'? Perhaps you think they exceed broadcast quality?
Fabio Murra for V-Nova: OTT services are widely deployed for lower quality content due to unpredictable bandwidth availability, both in the home and on mobile devices. The convenience of access of the services has been a key factor for mass adoption. However, due to these technical constraints, monetization has been limited. This doesn’t mean that innovation has stalled. For instance, pure OTT players such as Amazon, Netflix and YouTube have all announced the launch of OTT High Dynamic Range (HDR) 4K services in 2016. This shows that it is technically possible for OTT services to exceed broadcast quality, raising the bar even higher for traditional TV delivery as OTT services improve in quality, in addition to being easily accessible at all times.
Our work with Sky in Italy shows that it is possible to deliver broadcast quality services at half the bitrate of what is currently perceived as the minimum possible, effectively improving reach and quality of service. Our collaboration with Indian mobile video streaming service provider FastFilmz also demonstrates that the right technology enables the effective delivery and monetization of premium services everywhere. In this instance, 70% of consumers in India use 2G networks, which has prevented them from accessing mobile video services previously or in a cost-effective way. With V-Nova PERSEUS, FastFilmz has been able to offer quality video streaming even where piracy is the most prominent competition for TV and video services.
The Broadcast Bridge: Have buffering and latency been solved to the extent that an OTT delivered feed is indistinguishable from broadcast?
Fabio Murra: To this day, buffering and latency are inherent to the way OTT is delivered, due to the unpredictability of the network used to transport content. The industry is working at solving the latency issue, with MPEG-DASH using Gradual Decoding Refresh; HTTP streaming, and more specifically chunked-transfer encoding; and associated ISOBMF packaging. However, next generation video encoding solutions such as V-Nova PERSEUS have been developed from the ground up to offer low latency for distribution of content, regardless of the quality or network used.
The best way to solve the buffering challenge is by reducing the size of the data transmission required for a given quality. With V-Nova PERSEUS, FastFilmz demonstrated that it is possible to divide by four the size of the data used to deliver quality video services. In addition to reducing buffering, it also has a direct impact on the costs of an individual session for the consumer. External data from operators also shows that these users are more likely to spend more time on the service and to watch more content per session, increasing overall consumption by an average of >40%.
The Broadcast Bridge: How does this differ when streaming to mobile devices?
Fabio Murra: The main difference between the home network and mobile-based OTT services is the reliability of the bandwidth available. The number of relay masts in the area has a direct impact on the reliability of the 3G or 4G signal, which in turn impacts the quality of the network. In addition, streaming live content outside of the home can drain subscribers’ expensive data allowances.
Our work with FastFilmz has shown that high quality OTT content can now be streamed over 2G networks, an industry-first. The service can also scale as 3G and 4G networks become more available, delivering improved quality up to UHD delivered over 4G networks – at a fraction of the bandwidth used to stream other content.
The Broadcast Bridge: What additional constraints on the network and/ or QoS will 4K UHD streaming bring?
Fabio Murra: UHD requires an unprecedented amount of data to deliver the right level of detail. While it’s only been available to mature markets until now, OTT has the power to turn UHD video streaming to a mass market offering, regardless of the quality of the content.
By shifting the bitrate curve, V-Nova PERSEUS enables OTT service providers to offer UHD quality feeds at HD bitrates, HD at SD and SD at sub-audio rates. This shows that video encoding plays a central role in enabling subscribers from both mature and emerging countries to access UHD quality content delivered over OTT to the home and/or mobile devices.
With the rise in VR and 360 video for live content, including sports, concerts and news, this requirement for next generation video encoding solutions that provide a step-change in efficiency has become even more crucial. HD VR and 360 video services need to stitch several pictures together seamlessly, which requires the same picture quality at no latency. To reach mass market penetration, HD VR/360 video services need to be able to deliver UHD resolution to current HD-capable handsets, which can only achieved cost-effectively and with the right quality of service by using innovative video encoding technologies such as V-Nova PERSEUS.
Fabio Murra, SVP Product & Marketing, V-Nova.
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