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OTT: The Future of Content Delivery

A recent study from Juniper Research predicts global streaming subscriptions will surge to 333.2 million by 2019. Consumers are moving towards mobile video and, in turn, away from traditional broadcast TV.

While the hype surrounding “cord-cutting” has grown (likely an initial effort to save consumer dollars), competition among content providers is also increasing. The broadcasting and content delivery space are experiencing rapid and continuous change, but one thing is for certain - there is no shortage of opportunity.

OTT streaming allows content providers the ability to reach new markets. While traditional TV providers face physical network limitations, OTT opens the door to reach a global audience wherever an adequate Internet connection exists.

As a result, content licensing agreements are also evolving to meet the demands of video providers who are no longer geographically limited. In addition, streaming video is more closely connected to social media, since viewers are watching on the same devices as they use for social media, or are using mobile devices a second screens in their living rooms.

Video providers are using social media to better grow and engage their audiences. This can be a double-edged sword, however, as viewers can air their grievances on social networks for all to see.

As a number of broadly reported stream failures, such as the summer’s HBO Now outage illustrate, stream failures are not tolerated. And while these social networks keep providers closer to the content by monitoring feeds and getting real-time feedback from viewers, by the time a failure hits social, the damage is done.

What changes are occurring in the streaming industry? For one, the selection of video service providers continues to grow, and competition is increasing. At the same time, it has become much easier for customers to switch services.

When a viewer experiences slow starts, grainy pictures, or buffering, they simply move to another provider – unless the content is exclusive. In that case, the viewers express their displeasure far and wide, and the provider’s brand – and viewership - will suffer.  As a result, video providers are under pressure to deliver sufficient playback quality to their viewers.

Of course, in this competitive market, the benchmark for quality continues to rise, as the leading providers offer content in 4K/UHD and HDR formats. A viewer who will tolerate 10 seconds for a stream to start today will probably expect 5 seconds or less in the near future. So, what is the key to keeping the growing number of streaming consumers happy?

The answer is video intelligence, because a quality playback experience requires many different complex elements to work together successfully. These elements include the streaming device, origin servers, content preparation systems, the Internet, content delivery networks (CDNs), access networks, the home network, and all of the connections between these elements. Many different vendors provide these elements, increasing the management challenge.

Managing this complexity requires quality visibility based on appropriate measurement at critical points along the delivery pipeline – video intelligence. Without video intelligence, an OTT video provider is blind, relying on social media to sound alarms when reactive customer management is required. With video intelligence, proactive quality management and improvement is possible, and those using it can drive the OTT industry beyond broadcast quality. I, for one, am looking forward to a BBQ world.

Whether short or long term issues are affecting the stream, content providers must rely on quality analytics to ensure the content stays in front of the viewer. In OTT streaming, quality will always be key to securing the attention of your audience.

--Kurt Michel is Senior Director of Marketing at IneoQuest Technologies