The over-the-top (OTT) trend lines are there and perhaps have been for the better part of the past year. This is no longer a demonstration or trial. Broadcasters, content creators and service providers of all shapes and sizes are no longer experimenting with IP delivery of their content. TV Everywhere is a reality.
However, I’ve observed a great deal of what I’ll call ‘reality distortion’ around TV Everywhere and how large the challenge of deployment can be. Whether through lack of information or invalid data, many organisations that have already deployed TV Everywhere architectures or those who are preparing such plans don’t seem aware of advances in the digital media space that have greatly improved and simplified the technology required to bring those plans to light.
Make no mistake — the preparation, manipulation and delivery of live and on-demand video isn’t simple. However, we’ve advanced the state of the art in the industry to where real ‘server to screen’ can be achieved without having to reinvent the wheel. Speaking of that analogy, we’ve integrated many of the spokes (digital ad insertion, clipping and editing, signal acquisition, hybrid encoding) into the complete wheel of processing and preparation of digital media.
This is where so much of the confusion around these complex workflows is happening, in my opinion. Most organisations that decide to offer their content in an OTT/TV Everywhere-type deployment will need one or all of the components I mentioned above. But what many of them don’t realise is that all these components can be harnessed in one platform, providing a sizable return in scale, efficiency and cost.
Sure, you could piecemeal out a similar solution, but why introduce risk and uncertainty across disparate spokes in the wheel, where there are no guarantees that APIs for one requirement (and vendor) will work with another? The choice here appears clear for a growing number of broadcasters, content creators and service providers.
So what makes this complete TV Everywhere platform approach so compelling? First, it is imperative to understand how important metadata has become to video delivery today. When a signal begins its path to the viewer, all the associated information about the content must be associated with it at origin.
This means that closed captions, programme information, markers for ad replacement and user created metadata are merged in with the video and audio and travel with it all the way to the viewer. This data becomes very valuable and relevant when ad replacement is introduced, too. Given that each viewer maintains a unique connection to the cloud when the content is delivered, this data helps drive decisions about content personalisation and recommendations and enables individualised ad replacement.
Additionally, pure-software platform approaches are able to leverage the best of multiple environments and provide decisioning for optimal throughput and efficiency. This is critical when HD-quality video is part of the workflow. In this case hybrid encoding is the best solution for solving the more complex computational elements of the workflow. It doesn’t make sense to push all stream renditions into the cloud alone, nor is it most effective to process all content on-premise and send to the cloud later.
This is truly the state of the art in today’s complex media processing world. The approach exists today and is actively processing hundreds of channels and millions of minutes of video every day for some of the largest media brands in the world. Just like TV Everywhere is no longer an experiment, neither is server-to-screen a mystery. It is happening today.