By Peter Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer
Smart over-the-top (OTT) providers know that an end-to-end digital media platform streamlines workflows and data management processes. What's often overlooked, however, is how end-to-end translates into a more reliable platform and speedier, more responsive customer service.
The OTT industry is in a pivotal moment today. Even though the technology behind it is still relatively in its infancy, consumer expectations for streaming video are as demanding as they are for traditional television. To manage these consumer expectations, OTT providers should evaluate both the platform and the operations of their internal systems and external vendors. An end-to-end platform and a sophisticated operation are key to responding to issues not just speedily, but even before they begin.
All under one roof
OTT video distribution isn't a one-step process, but an entire workflow, no different than traditional broadcast television. From acquiring the video content, to ingesting it into a platform, to transcoding and publishing that content to a global CDN so it can be streamed to customers' devices at any time in any location at the right quality level – it all adds up to an entire technology stack.
That means when things go wrong, and they will go wrong, diagnosis and resolution require speed. Is it a regional problem? Is it a delivery problem? Is there a problem with the plant processing the signal? Or is the problem with the provider sending the signal? Is it the encryption layer? It could be any of those things and, even worse, the number of dependencies and integrations in the workflow are only continuing to increase as technology progresses forward.
If an OTT provider's backend consists of combined systems from multiple vendors, it can take forever to figure out which part of the equation is the problem, and that's if the vendors are working together to help solve the problem instead of pointing fingers trying to avoid blame. But if they have a complete end-to-end system, they can quickly take all of the data across this entire workflow and correlate it. If there is any issue primed to affect performance, an end-to-end provider can quickly identify and resolve it before it has a major customer impact.
How to fix problems before customers report them
TV is nothing new, and since streaming media behaves a lot like traditional television from the customer's perspective, their expectations for OTT performance are as high as they are for TV. When an OTT provider serves a blacked-out screen to viewers, it has already lost subscribers and, in turn money.
The solution is to resolve bugs or issues that could affect quality that might cause an inconvenience for customers before customers even notice them. This sounds a little like science fiction, but it's possible. For example, at Verizon Digital Media Services, we organize our data in aggregate with tools that look for correlations between certain data points that might indicate trouble later on. Think of us like a heart monitor in a hospital: the patient hasn't had a heart attack, but if the monitor shows a spike in their pulse, it's time to check it out just in case.
When a certain data point triggers an alert, it goes in a "penalty box" for an engineer to check out. Right on the front lines, the engineers tasked with this position have the power and control to mitigate the problem immediately. In this way, most problems are caught before the customer calls tech support to complain, or in the best case scenario, even notices something is wrong.
End-to-end is better for linear TV, too
It's easy to see how an end-to-end system is a simpler and more efficient solution for the technology of the future and today, but it might be a surprise to discover that it's also the best solution for the TV content of the past, too.
As difficult as it is to deliver on-demand video over the top, it is exponentially more difficult to deliver linear TV and live events. Working with legacy content owners comes with baggage. The broadcaster may only be able to air the media in some regions, or only if certain real-world conditions are met (like only airing a game if the stadium has already sold out). The complexities of delivering linear TV are almost as intimidating as the technology itself.
With an end-to-end solution, OTT providers can manage the shifting priorities and complicated contractual guidelines of linear TV all in one back-end console. Access can be the difference between seconds or minutes, or even hours, in an OTT provider's response time.
When it comes to fixing the problems that arise in an OTT provider's content ecosystem, time is of the essence. If providers wait around to hear about problems from users or customers, they're already compromising their business and their reputation. Because it allows for the speediest response time when it comes to resolving any issue, end-to-end is the future that smart OTT providers will seek to implement.
Ready to take your OTT service to the next level? Learn about Verizon's Broadcast/OTT Solution here.