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QoE survey: Viewers of OTT expect quality of experience to be higher than from broadcast?

By Shirish Nadkarni

The worldwide battle for consumer eyeballs is being played out between broadcasters and providers of OTT streaming — and, despite several inherent problems with streaming, it would seem that the OTT service providers are winning.

As the OTT landscape becomes increasingly competitive, video providers need to differentiate their streaming services to be successful. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the quality of experience (QoE) is critical to the commercial success of OTT, with a number of tools and techniques being employed by the largest of the OTT providers to create the most engaging experiences, both for live and on-demand content.

“There is an emotional link between the customer consuming the content and the content being watched,” says Xavier Leclercq, Vice-President of Business Development at Broadpeak. The company works with OTT providers of the likes of Disney, Astro, Netflix and HBO.

“What QoE do viewers expect from an OTT streaming service?”

This is a question that is crucial to the entire equation between broadcast and streaming and was at the heart of a survey conducted earlier this year by Broadpeak. 

Broadpeak is a French tech company that looks to deliver video with what it describes as a “compelling experience” that is important to the end-user, and works with content providers as well as with network operators.

Leclercq says: “42% of people tell us that they expect the experience to be as good as broadcast. What was surprising in the survey is that 50% of the people expect the experience to be even higher than broadcast!

“It must be remembered that broadcast is a very solid experience – it does not buffer, it is always available, there is no change in bitrate, and there is no latency. It is a good benchmark to start comparing yourself against. 

“I am a Formula-1 fan, and have found streaming to be superior to broadcast. You don’t have to miss the beginning of the race; you can always go back and watch the start …you have multiple angles available, so you can follow the stream from your favourite driver, and you can consume multiple streams at the same time.

“This is the best part of streaming – you can have multiple streams on a split screen, and watch the main action in the race, as well as follow what is happening in the pit lane.”

Leclercq sees more demand for streaming, and he expects expectations to rise even further, with customer dissatisfaction being expressed with broadcast quality.

Another key question in the survey was measuring the QoE. What came out strongly was that buffering is the biggest enemy, and no one wants their streams interrupted. “If it happens once or twice, you are likely to leave the programme,” says Leclercq. “If it happens all the time, you will almost definitely leave the service. The ability to put something on the screen quickly is very important to the consumers.”

What also emerged from the survey was the ability to hide, or at least limit, the impact of changing the quality of the video. In streaming, the quality can go up and down; and those changes – if you drop from the highest quality to relatively poor quality – are perceived as bad quality, and users felt that they were not getting the right experience.

The final major problem for streaming is latency. “In a close, tight match of tennis, for example, nobody wants to know what was happening a minute ago on broadcast,” says Leclercq. “Every good analytics solution will capture what has been happening. When you are streaming, there is a lot of data available – CDN (content delivery network) logs, analytics from the players – that builds a complete picture of what’s happening to a video delivery session.

“There are something like 250,000 servers deployed in about a thousand locations worldwide. But the main problem with global CDNs is that they are always limited in capacity and their footprint, and have problems of interconnection with the operators’ network.

“The other issue is that global CDNs sometimes have a bad day, and that will remain as a permanent black mark in the memory of the users.”

How are the problems of lack of capacity and “having a bad day” to be mitigated? The solution, according to Leclercq, is to have multiple CDNs to avoid dependency on a single CDN. 

“You introduce policies based on a number of criteria – you use different CDNs for different types of content. For example, you use one CDN for your live content and another one for your on-demand content,” he says. “You can introduce policies based on quotas, you can sign arrangements for a year, two years or three years, with a global CDN, depending on how much quota you want to burn with them.

“The location comes into play, as well, so you should know whether your users are connected to a mobile network or a fibre network. These factors come into play to determine how to find a best-fit CDN for your needs.” 

It is a tough and highly competitive industry to be in. “You need to be customer-focused, with the ability to address technical and commercial aspects to reach successful outcomes,” says Leclercq, who is an accomplished expert in maintaining client relationships, and has 15 years of international experience in technology – from coding, prototyping, architecting, consulting and selling solutions. 

With thorough knowledge and experience of providing video/content delivery and integration services to content owners and network operators, Leclercq gives regular lectures in academic and professional curriculums.

“As a leader I believe that maximum impact is reached by investing in people and cultivating collaboration,” he says. “You need to have the ability to formulate and coordinate a business-winning strategy, win international business and lead multi-disciplinary teams.”

Working closely with Broadpeak sales, marketing and innovation teams to help content providers and service providers deploy and enhance their video services, Leclercq insisted on developing long-term relationships with clients and partners through careful planning and value creation.

Broadpeak powers best-in-class video experiences with a portfolio of CDN for efficient delivery of ABR content, cDVR for on-demand access to live content, nano CDN (mABR) for combining ABR technology with multicast transport, Manifest Manipulator for advanced services like Advertising and Personalisation, Umbrella CDN (CDN selector), combined with multi-CDN client for maximum QoE on playback.

“In a lot of markets, there is a big demand for SaaS,” Leclercq says. “In India, for example, we have been doing extremely well, because in the last two-three years, we have had more than double-digit growth in the market, specifically for our SaaS solution. 

“We are in a very good position to get market share in India. We are growing at least three times more than our closest competitor in SaaS. That is because we have put heavy emphasis on building strong client relationships and nurturing them. We have gained a strong reputation for being customer friendly.”

In addition to building strong clients relationships, what are the pros and cons of using 4K live streaming? How best to use SDN design for communication between the ISP and the CDN to offer an efficient and reliable live streaming service … and what does the future hold for increasing the quality of video streaming to mobile devices? 

To learn more, IBC has scheduled a 45-minute talk by Xavier Leclercq on December 4, starting at 1.15pm, on “Latest Achievements in 4K Live Streaming”. If you are attending IBC 2021, here’s an opportunity to build a friendly relationship with Leclercq.

Question: Will OTT service providers outshine broadcasters in battle for eyeballs?

Please email your view/comments to maven@editecintl.com

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