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How IP-based video transport empowers content providers

Malik Khan, LTN executive chairman and co-founder, discusses the benefits of IP-based networks

The media industry is undergoing a transformation in the way content is delivered and consumed. The worldwide expansion of broadband and wireless internet availability has combined with an increasing number and variety of connected consumer devices to displace the decades-old model of delivering one version of content to a mass audience through traditional broadcast, cable and direct-to-home satellite channels. 

Consumers today demand more content on more devices, and they expect it at the same high quality they know from traditional linear broadcast services, but with a much greater degree of convenience. Given the many differences in broadcast infrastructure, viewer preferences, and standards and regulations across global markets, interoperability and customisation have become critically important to revenue generation. To monetise content optimally, content providers must be able to pursue both consumers and advertisers across diverse geographies, devices, languages and cultures.

In working to meet consumers’ voracious appetite for greater content customisation, companies are increasingly moving away from one-size-fits-all delivery via the satellite or fibre links that traditionally have connected programmers to their distribution outlets. The high cost and limited capacity of satellite transmission limit the number and quality of programme variants that a content company can reasonably provide to consumers. The entry of global OTT broadcasters into the European market puts further pressure on content providers to shift to a delivery model that readily supports multi-platform distribution.

For all of these reasons, content providers today are looking to IP-based terrestrial transmission over both private networks and the public internet as an alternative — and much more flexible — means of video transport.

Overcoming the internet’s inherent obstacles to live video delivery

Both private IP networks and the public internet traditionally have enabled video delivery at a cost that renders them unsatisfactory either financially or in terms of video quality.

Private IP networks such as those using MPLS (multiprotocol label switching), for example, are expensive, and the cost of using MPLS networks goes up as the number of endpoints increases. Limited to a single carrier’s network, MPLS networks can be vulnerable to failure if that one carrier experiences a failure. These limitations continue to be a factor in working with MPLS networks.

The public internet, on the other hand, has basic architectural limitations that render it unreliable for delivery of high-value content, and particularly live programming. High traffic on ISP networks can lead to congestion and dropped packets, both of which can cause delays that ultimately undermine video quality and makes it impossible to maintain real-time video applications. As a unicast system, the public internet does not support the simultaneous delivery of a single feed or stream to multiple destinations. Rather, a unique feed must be sent to each target destination.

The limitations of the public internet are, however, being overcome through the application of innovative “overlay” technologies and with the creation of a network comprised of professional data centres using proprietary routing protocols.

Patented innovative technologies like LTN’s Rapid Error Recovery (RER) protocols and Dynamic Multi-carrier Routing (DMR) algorithms, combined with a global backbone network architecture and a fully managed video transport service, creates an extremely highly reliable video transport service over the public internet. Content providers’ appliances connect across this network to data centres where routing and processing intelligence enables traffic monitoring, data processing, dynamic routing, and decision-making that combat and overcome the underlying congestion and resulting loss across internet last miles, as well as aggregation, transit and peering points.

Because each data centre has access to multiple carrier networks, traffic thus flows between content providers and data centres, or between data centres, dynamically over multiple carrier paths as dictated by real-time performance metrics. Use of the data centre closest to each receiver, with multiple copies of feeds distributed only at that last-mile data centre, further adds to efficient video delivery. Reducing end-to-end latency to as little as <200 milliseconds while improving reliability and availability, this model allows for very exacting Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that match or exceed those available from satellite or fibre service.

Thanks to these developments, all which rest on top of the existing public internet, it is now possible to realise reliable, cost-effective delivery of live content. The ubiquity of the internet, increasing availability of last-mile bandwidth, and declining cost per unit of bandwidth all combine to make IP-based transport over the public internet a very promising option, now and in the future.

Leveraging IP to address modern business challenges

Highly efficient, reliable, low-delay, flexible, and streamlined media production, post production, and transport processes and workflows are essential to success in an industry undergoing massive disruption due to rapid changes in technology, viewing devices, and consumer behaviour. IP-based media production, post production, and transport address these requirements, yielding major benefits to business growth and profitability.

For example, IP-based media delivery over managed networks can enable content providers to cost-effectively monetise programming and advertising uniquely across all variety of platforms, destinations and devices. Providers can create multiple variations of content as are required and deliver specific versions or strands to the appropriate target audience with a cost structure that does not penalise them for content variation.

With the ability to produce or customise content for any group or geography, a content provider enjoys unprecedented flexibility in leveraging existing resources to tailor content for target audiences. Whether those creative and technical resources are housed within a single studio or distributed across multiple facilities, or even in public Clouds, the content provider can incorporate the specific ads, closed captioning, graphics, and subtitling and then send the resulting content for IP distribution.

When working with a provider of end-to-end IP-based transmission services, content providers also gain the freedom to test content and services in new markets without investing in new infrastructure and the cost of maintaining that infrastructure. Taking advantage of a highly optimised and highly scalable IP network, content providers can tune their production operations, service model, and content offerings to achieve the most economical and effective means of bringing consumers the content they desire.

By moving away from the one-size-fits-all model dictated by traditional models and toward IP-based video transport, today’s content providers can address the demands of the fragmented media marketplace and position themselves to take advantage of new opportunities and applications in live video.

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