Expanding connectivity and improved broadband infrastructures have enabled the growth of simultaneous device usage across multiple screens. With live streaming and OTT driving new patterns of video and media consumption, how are broadcasters and solution providers improving their applications and delivery of content? Raymond Tan takes a deep dive to find out how closer are we in creating an optimal viewing experience that can satisfy users across all platforms and devices.
A confluence of factors is driving the delivery of content and changing how we view video, generating opportunities for cloud-based multi-screen solution providers.
Firstly, connected devices are increasing, from smart TVs to gaming consoles, and it is now possible to use any OTT device to watch live or on-demand content.
Secondly, the use of 5G and improved high-speed broadband access will make it easier to access high-quality content from anywhere, including remote locations.
Describing the impact of the above growth factors, David Gerbaulet, director, Business Development & Strategy APAC, ATEME, said: “Multi-screen technologies will continue to evolve as related areas continue to see growth. The amount of content that viewers have access to is also driving the use of multi-screen technologies.”
Streaming gaining momentum
next 12 months, the focus will be in improving technology that makes streaming
quality as good as broadcast, particularly for live broadcasts, said Eric
Gallier, vice-president, Video Solutions
“Some of the issues that the industry is looking to tackle include latency, scalable delivery and video quality. The use of public clouds for streaming offerings will become quite common.
“The cloud makes it easier to launch new services, is less risky and can scale, and can also be used whenever needed,” Gallier said. “Also, multi-CDN solutions have emerged to improve the scalability and security of OTT distribution.”
In the same vein, Richard Mansfield, director, Product Management at MediaKind, said that there is now a real expansion in the amount of streaming cases to the main screen, especially around live scenarios.
He maintains that new streaming offerings are increasingly bringing to consumers a highly flexible, personalised multi-device experience that is coming close to the standards in linear TV viewing with regards to latency and picture quality.
“Improvements in video encoding, such as Versatile Video Codec (VVC), will help address challenges faced in delivering the bandwidth required for these higher quality streams, whilst low latency technologies address the issue of delay,” Mansfield said.
Dan Murray, director marketing strategy, OTT Video Monitoring at Telestream, expects broadcasters in 2020 to continue offering new direct-to-consumer services, including exploration of additional revenue with personalised advertising.
He explained that operators and broadcasters are increasingly using cloud workflows to deliver services quickly and on-demand, while lowering upfront investment.
“While multi-screen technology is becoming widely adapted, the industry is working on low latency options to reduce the time gap between streaming vs traditional cable. At the same time, streaming services are pushing to offer the best picture experience including 4K and HDR.”
Issues still to overcome
There are still factors to contend with for multi-screen technologies to fully take off. Murray said a lot of changes is now happening at a fast pace: new services, advertising, cloud workflows, low latency and 4K/HDR. Working on all simultaneously is a major challenge. There are also challenges surrounding broadcasters shifting from SDI to IP production; streaming service security; and digital rights management (DRM) challenges.
Telestream today offers solutions for multi-screen VOD workflows, Advertising workflows, Cloud delivery, and Video Quality Monitoring solutions. Telestream Vantage, for instance, allows broadcasters around the world to standardise VOD workflows and advertising workflows for multi-screen. And Telestream Cloud enables operators and broadcasters to migrate these workflows across multi-cloud networks.
ATEME’s Gerbaulet said a key factor impacting how quickly multi-screen technologies get adopted is the quality of content, especially for live TV, which in turn is affected by the internet connection.
“There is also the issue of the large amount of content available which is leaving viewers feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Subscription fatigue will also be another key issue for direct-to-consumer players with some viewers potentially preferring a more laid-back experience with their preferred content available in one place.”
Among their existing multi-screen solutions, ATEME TITAN Live encoder offers encoding optimisation with high video quality and multi-profile output with low latency. The organisation’s new TITAN Playout solution can enable virtual programming to create personalised TV.
Harmonic’s Gallier sees the main challenges and issues as relating to the last mile, where poor connectivity can hurt QoS. For established OTT players, the challenge is to progressively incorporate new technologies, such as low-latency streaming formats, into their current offerings without impacting the viewing experience and quality of service.
“Launching a brand-new streaming offering in the public cloud that can scale easily, provides a 5-second end-to-end latency and a broadcast-grade picture quality is what today’s operators hope to achieve — and we achieved that in the Asia-Pacific region before a premier soccer tournament in 2018,” he said.
VOS 360 Live Streaming Platform leverages the flexibility of public cloud
infrastructures to meet the demanding and complex requirements of live
streaming. The fully managed
solution runs on a wide range of public cloud platforms, handling all stages of the media processing and delivery chain.
Gallier maintains that operators can use the live streaming platform to achieve real-time scaling to handle peaks in viewership, which is extremely useful for live sports; it also supports several unique cloud-based workflows, including low-latency delivery for OTT, dynamic ad insertion and live-video delivery optimisation through a multi-CDN approach.
In September last year, MediaKind launched a Universe Alliance initiative to provide content providers, service providers and operators access to all solutions that combine technologies from MediaKind and its partners. This enables customers to benefit from pre-integrated, application-specific packages which are designed for broadcast-quality IP video delivery at scale.
At IBC 2019, MediaKind launched a pre-integrated low latency solution for broadcasters and operators delivering live content to consumers using ABR technology for OTT or streaming services.
On the ground in Asia
The different industry players believe the seeds are already in place, and as multi-screening continues to increase, and as OTT streaming and video quality reaches the standards of linear TV, they are ready to move their customers to the next stage.
MediaKind’s Mansfield said they have several customers across the Asia-Pacific region, ranging from Australia to South Korea and from India to South-east Asia. “They use our technologies in a variety of ways depending on their infrastructure, choosing either on-premise, private or public cloud, or a mix.”
According to Gerbaulet, demand is being driven by customers wanting to refresh their setup and achieve cost savings. “We’re working to improve existing codecs, like MPEG-2 or H.264, and are also helping to develop new codecs (AV1, VVC) to create future-proof solutions using micro services.”
Harmonic has multiple customers in the Asia-Pacific arena, including PCCW Media, the integrated multi-media and entertainment group of PCCW based in Hong Kong, who is using Harmonic’s
VOS Cloud-Native Software for its Now TV, Now Player and Now E services. The use of the unified solution for IPTV and OTT content preparation and delivery helps PCCW speeds up the time to market for its new services.
Indonesia mobile network provider Telkomsel is powering its MAXstream OTT service using Harmonic’s VOS360 platform for better scalability and flexibility. During the 2018 soccer World Cup in Russia, the VOS360 platform enabled Telkomsel to successfully serve 550,000 concurrent viewers and a high QoE.
“Our customers in the Asia-Pacific region can easily and efficiently combine on-premises and public cloud resources by migrating video workflows back and forth. They fully understand how this deployment flexibility can help them to evolve at a rapid pace,” said Harmonic’s Gailler.
Murray said the company is working with many operators and broadcasters in Asia-Pacific in SDI to IP migration, 4K/HDR production in VOD workflows, and monitoring video services, including video production that uses Telestream products prior to multi-screen streaming and up to monitoring of live multi-screen OTT service quality.