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Consensus: QoE key to capturing eyeballs & retaining subscriptions in APAC region

By Shaun Lim

As viewers embrace new technologies and content formats, the future of TV and video viewing in the Asia-Pacific region will be characterised by greater choice, personalisation, and interactivity, predicted Alexandre Paugam, Streaming Market Development Director, APAC-EMEA, Harmonic.

Speaking with APB+, he stated, “Viewers are shifting from watching linear to on-demand content, with mobile devices becoming the preferred mode of content consumption.”

To address these shifting viewing habits, more content providers are turning to advanced engines that use machine learning (ML) algorithms that can recommend content based on personalised viewing preferences. 

As for what content resonates with viewers, Paugam believes local and original content remains the driving factor behind viewership on streaming platforms. “Interactive content such as live sports, e-sports, and gaming is becoming popular, offering viewers an immersive and engaging experience.

“Short-form video content is also gaining popularity, particularly among younger viewers, driving the development of new content formats and business models,” said Paugam.

With so many choices to choose from, today’s cost-conscious consumers are increasingly looking for more value for their money, even as they continue to crave quality content.

According to research from Bitmovin, value for money (54%) is the biggest factor when consumers are considering keeping a subscription, followed by the availability of their favourite content (48%).

Stefan Lederer, CEO & Co-Founder, Bitmovin, said, “We also found that the ability to access a streaming service on all devices was the third biggest priority for consumers when deciding to pick a subscription, and this aligns with the shifts we see in the APAC region.”

While rising costs of living are continuing to impact how consumers are spending their money, the potential growth of the video streaming industry is not to be scoffed at. Media Partners Asia forecast the industry to be worth US$72.7 billion by 2027, while Research & Markets expects Asia-Pacific’s video streaming market to grow by 21.8% annually, reaching US$372.2 billion by 2023.

This rise in over-the-top (OTT) video consumption, particularly for direct-to-consumer (D2C) streaming services, is compelling more video service providers to move from IPTV to all-adaptive bitrate (ABR) delivery, said Julien Croguennec, VP Sales APAC, Broadpeak.

“With all-ABR delivery, content providers and operators can deliver a superior quality of experience (QoE) to consumers, which is critical, especially for live sports,” he maintained.

Collaborate with ISPs/content providers

In a saturated content marketplace, fatigued viewers are looking for services that can offer them the best content and most compelling viewing experience, at an affordable price point.

While that may sound like a daunting challenge, Broadpeak’s Croguennec identified Netflix as the gold standard when it comes to QoE, and urged linear broadcasters to provide the same level of quality as Netflix when offering hybrid linear and OTT services.

He advised, “Moreover, broadcasters must effectively monetise their hybrid linear and OTT offerings with targeted ad insertion. Adopting a server-side ad insertion solution that’s cloud-based will enable broadcasters to deliver addressable TV at scale.

“Collaboration with ISPs and content providers is key. With Open Caching, broadcasters can make better use of existing infrastructure, simplifying local caching, reducing traffic across the network, and enabling a better video streaming QoE.

“Broadcasters can also tackle scalability issues by leveraging multicast ABR technology. Multicast ABR enables the delivery of one stream over the ISP’s network to address millions of viewers compared with one stream per viewer in a traditional ABR delivery scenario.”

Embrace OTT as a complement to traditional linear offerings to cater to the growing demands for online content, added Harmonic’s Paugam. 

To create a seamless viewing experience, he urged broadcasters to ensure that viewers can easily switch between linear and OTT content. Once that is in place, leveraging data is key to gain insights into what viewers want, and broadcasters should tailor content offerings to optimise advertising strategy and monetise content effectively.

“A great way to attract and retain viewers is to offer exclusive content, especially premium sports content and original content tailored to target audiences. Linear broadcasters can also partner with OTT providers to expand their reach and offer a wider range of content,” said Paugam.

A multi-device strategy that allows viewers to access their content on any device should also be complemented by investment in technology that enables broadcasters to deliver a compelling viewing experience to subscribers across all devices. “The best video quality and a seamless viewing experience is paramount,” he added.

QoE and the underlying technologies are what can help broadcasters stand out in an increasingly competitive market, concurred Bitmovin’s Lederer.

From Bitmovin’s perspective, one of the business imperatives from a technical perspective is ensuring high-quality playback across all devices, with the company’s consumer research highlighting the ability to use a streaming service across all devices as one of the top three reasons to keep a subscription.

“We live in a world where consumers are accessing their favourite content from multiple devices, often during the same day, so broadcasters need to have the technology in place to achieve that or risk customers abandoning their service,” said Lederer.

Another key consideration, especially for broadcasters in the Asia-Pacific region, is ensuring high image quality even over lower bandwidth in predominantly mobile-first markets, he added.

Tools to improve QoE & increase monetisation

To advance the split-and-stitch algorithm, which involves splitting the encoding job into multiple parallel encodings or segments, Bitmovin is offering Smart Chunking as a key update to its VOD Encoding solution.

Smart Chunking optimises content chunk lengths bitrate distribution, which positively impacts the visual quality throughout the whole content asset and achieves this at a faster rate.

As part of its Playback solution, Bitmovin is also offering Smart Lab, an automated stream testing solution that gives broadcasters the ability to test and guarantee the QoE for their audiences across more devices and platforms.

For Broadpeak, a new Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) application on the broadpeak.io software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, creates a fully managed, API-based SaaS solution that simplifies the delivery of targeted advertising in live and video-on-demand (VoD) streaming content, increasing monetisation for broadcasters.

“Broadpeak is also leading the charge for a superior QoE with our nanoCDN multicast ABR solution, which enables efficient distribution of live content to millions of concurrent users,” Croguennec added.

To empower broadcasters to deliver premium services to millions of consumers on every screen, Harmonic’s VOS360 SaaS solution simplifies all stages of media processing and delivery.

Running on all major public clouds, the end-to-end solution powers applications such as linear TV, VoD, live events streaming, playout, targeted ads, variant channel creation and FAST workflows.

Features such as low-latency streaming and enabling real-time interaction with in-app data improve QoE for viewers, while content-aware encoding cuts bandwidth and storage consumption by up to 50%. Based on artificial intelligence (AI) and ML, the company’s EyeQ technology achieves these results by accessing and adjusting encoding parameters to leverage the mechanics of the human eye.

“Moreover, VOS360 SaaS includes server-side ad-insertion capabilities, allowing broadcasters to seamlessly integrate ads into video content and provide personalised experiences, helping them monetise content more effectively and expand their business,” Paugam concluded.

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