CNN delivers news and information through its basic cable and satellite television channels, numerous affiliates and its website. News never stops and the amount of content generated by CNN continues to grow. As content is increasingly viewed on mobile devices and video streaming services gain widespread popularity, consumers are untethered from the living room television and empowered to access the news anytime, anywhere. So Turner Broadcasting System embarked on building CNNgo, an integrated content delivery platform that allows viewers to watch both live and on-demand content on any device. How was CNN able to combine these two traditionally separate viewing experiences into a single, engaging and unified interface?
An innovator in the news industry
With its debut in 1980, Cable News Network (CNN) was both the first television channel to provide 24-hour news coverage and the first all-news television channel in the United States. Owned by Turner Broadcasting System, CNN has expanded its reach to a number of cable and satellite television providers around the world. In 1995, CNN launched its website, CNN.com, one of the most popular news websites in the world, with widespread growth of blogs, social media and user interaction influencing the website.
Challenge: A shift in viewership trends
The rise of internet and on-demand video services now gives the average consumer a plentiful amount of content to choose from and the ability to select specific and personalised content. Dictated completely by the broadcaster, traditional linear television requires the viewer to watch whatever is on air at the time they tune in. Creating a platform that allows online viewers to programme their own CNN newscast and focus on the stories that are most important to them became a high priority for the news network.
When watching a traditional live linear news broadcast, a viewer can experience a number of less-than-ideal scenarios. For one, tuning into a developing story requires a viewer to independently piece together missing context and background information, making the news more difficult to absorb and less engaging. In addition, after a viewer has watched a live news report long enough, content tends to become repetitive, causing the viewer to lose interest and perhaps change the channel.
Another challenge for CNN to address was the increasingly dynamic nature of real time television broadcasts. Eight percent of smartphone and tablet owners use second screen devices while the television is on, often browsing topics related to what they are watching. Whether it’s searching for additional information or posting to social media about the content they’re consuming, multitasking on a variety of screens has become the norm. The CNNgo application not only delivers live and on-demand video news, but creates an all-in-one platform that offers additional and related content, right at the viewer’s fingertips.
“CNN’s motivation was the desire to create a converged experience for our consumers that would bring together the CNN broadcast as well as the vast digital content and archives that CNN possesses. This convergence gives viewers the ability to watch what they want, when they want and to consume as little or as much of a particular story as their interest allows,” said Rajin Persaud, vice president of CNN’s next generation business and product strategy.
CNN endeavoured to expand its online video experience while maintaining existing distribution relationships, despite the emergence of competing OTT services. A tricky proposition, CNN built out its innovative digital extension to fuse both live linear programming and on-demand content in a single application.
Solution: Delivering content with Elemental
Prioritising the implementation of a platform that could provide high-quality video processing, manage large quantities of content and offer flexibility to scale, CNN turned to Elemental for its software-based video solutions. After comprehensive development and research as to how to deliver the best consumer experience, CNNgo went live in late 2014 to many of CNN’s cable television service partners.
Elemental Live powers the CNNgo app to create live and VoD content for viewers. CNN uses Elemental systems to capture, encode and stream satellite television feeds over an IP network. Live content, encoded within the RTMP adaptive bitrate format, is repackaged into HLS and HDS streams for delivery to two separate origin servers. The origin servers also host the VoD files for viewers to stream nPVR content. Elemental Live encoders have the ability to produce adaptive bitrate video streams, which ensures uninterrupted video delivery to end users facing high network traffic or bandwidth constraints.
To distribute encoded content, CNNgo uses Elemental Delta, a video delivery platform designed to optimise the monetisation, management and distribution of multiscreen video across IP networks. By incorporating Elemental Delta into its workflow, CNNgo simplifies content management, reduces storage and distribution costs, adds time-shifted services, and allows for monetisation of content in multiscreen delivery deployments. Through integration and customisation, Elemental software helps CNNgo fuse the two prevailing modes of TV viewing: live and VoD.
“Elemental Delta has been an amazing product for CNNgo. It helped simplify our workflow and allowed us to gain as much efficiency as possible. Our positive experience with other Elemental products made it very easy to transition to this type of origin infrastructure and gives us complete flexibility to leverage features like content monetisation and ad insertion,” said Euan McLeod, VP content platforms at Turner Broadcasting.
Benefit: Bringing the internet to television
Through innovation and a forward-thinking mindset, CNNgo has managed to bridge the gap between traditional live linear television and on-demand viewing. With CNNgo, viewers have the ability to watch live news coverage, see segments from the past 24 hours, and watch hours of legacy CNN archive footage. The app also includes some of the news network’s most popular shows, such as Anderson Cooper 360° and Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, which can be easily accessed via related links that automatically appear based on keyword searches.
By embracing the notion of choice and allowing consumers to watch the news stories they care about most, CNNgo creates a more dynamic user experience for viewers as compared to watching traditional cable news. CNNgo’s start-over capabilities eliminate the problem of tuning into a news report mid-story by enabling the viewer to watch a live broadcast from the beginning, while catch-up capability allows the viewer to select from other recently-completed shows. With a traditional linear TV broadcast a viewer may be inclined to change the channel on a live news report that has become repetitive; however, the CNNgo platform curates and provides additional content in real time for every story or show, keeping the viewer engaged with CNN for longer periods of time.
“CNNgo is a model of innovation for the news industry as a whole. Something like this has never been done before by any other news organisation anywhere,” said Persaud. “Our cable and satellite partners are fully embracing what we’ve delivered with CNNgo, and it adds to their consumer value proposition.”
Available with a paid TV subscription through CNN’s multi-system operators and telecommunications partners, CNNgo is accessible live anytime, anywhere. With increased viewership, the CNNgo app has recently expanded its availability to the Apple TV platform and is currently available in more than 86 million homes. As CNN continues to push the boundaries of news content delivery, CNNgo provides a next-generation product that gives viewers unprecedented control over their TV news experience.