ITV is on a mission best summed up as to make OTT streaming “like telly only better”.
“Live streaming is an integral part of the viewer's journey with ITV and we have made it seamless with catch-up and VoD,” said Tom Griffiths, director of broadcast and distribution technology, ITV at the BVE keynote, and headline session of the Streaming Forum.
ITV Hub, launched last November, is the broadcaster's front-end showcase for VoD content and live channel streaming.
Live streaming of ITV channels now accounts for 30 per cent of traffic on its PC and mobile platforms, rising to 50 per cent during major live events (such as the Rugby World Cup 2015). “That is an incredible result based on where we were two years ago,” said Griffiths.
With increasing demand for live streamed content, though, comes the challenge of delivering on the viewer's heightened expectation of quality.
“The days of tolerating buffering are going,” he said. “People expect it to be on, and on instantly, and to match the quality of linear TV. They are looking for a positive experience.
“There are only two types of content people view; either a live event stream or linear channel or on-demand,” he added. “They will use the platform most suitable for them, whether that's an iPad or TV. Streaming is merely a transport mechanism, like DTH and DTT. Our job is to make delivery invisible to the viewer's experience.”
A key part of ITV's technology strategy has been to host playout and streaming outgest from dual playout centres managed by Ericsson, to separate encoding operations, and to build in greater monitoring of the files from origination to final delivery.
“To be successful you can't take disparate systems for VoD and for broadcast. They need to be brought together into a unified chain in order to deliver efficiencies, scale and flexibility.”
ITV evaluated moving playout and streaming operations to the cloud but decided the economics didn't stack up.
“We might have moved to at least a partially cloud-based solution, but our assessment was that for a service that is 24/7 365 the economics of cloud didn't work. Next time we do a playout refresh a cloud environment may make sense.”
The broadcaster is also planning possible implementation of HEVC, MPEG-Dash and UHD.
“As far as possible try and forward plan,” recommended Griffiths. “This market is changing extremely fast so we have to build flexibility into our solutions going forwards.”