By Gary Learner, GM
Thanks to the convergence of the media ecosystem, many of the compliance and quality metrics used within the linear broadcast world now are being applied to the over-the-top (OTT) realm.
In particular, FCC regulations regarding closed captioning and loudness are being extended to include internet-delivered content with hard timelines in place for increasingly demanding compliance requirements.
The FCC’s regulatory requirements governing closed-captioning have largely been established through the 21st Century Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), which broadened accessibility requirements to include internet-delivered content. The next notable CVAA deadline for OTT content falls on July 1, 2017, and it requires captions for live and near-live clips to be available within 12 hours, a significant reduction from the 15-day window now in effect.
Seeing the continued closing of this window, broadcasters and content delivery entities are already gearing up to make captioning available on live and near-live streaming content in the same way they deliver it for live linear broadcasts. Because the same content is often offered via both broadcast and streaming services, much of the infrastructure is already in place to enable ongoing compliance as captioning requirements evolve.
In the United States, growing discontent with wide variations in audio loudness led to the December 2010 passage of the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, known as the CALM Act. Originally designed to prevent television commercials from being louder — perceptually louder, that is — than the programs they accompany, this act could possibly be extended to apply to OTT content. That move may not be necessary, however, if the FCC is successful in its push to recognize OTT providers, along with cable and satellite service providers, as multichannel video programming distributors (MPVDs). If this is the case, and it likely will be, then compliance issues including decency, captioning and loudness will apply immediately to OTT content.
While these regulations present video program owners and distributors with the challenge of implementing scalable, cost-effective monitoring of closed-captioning and loudness, they also increase the accessibility of content and enhance the overall quality of the viewing experience. In fact, broadcasters have begun leveraging the presence of captioning as a competitive differentiator for OTT content. Because viewers consume so much of this content on mobile devices, often in loud and/or public places, viewers often lack access to information provided via the audio track. If a captioning track isn’t available, consumers will look for a version that does offer captions.
By making content easier to consume and by enhancing quality of experience, closed captioning and loudness mitigation improve the perceived quality of the overall product. Although many features and capabilities come and go as OTT services and mobile device technology evolve, attention to quality metrics and other quality-oriented features has become a differentiator.
As the regulations governing captioning and loudness for both broadcast and OTT services move toward uniformity, so too should the technologies and workflows used to maintain compliance. Broadcasters and other content providers should be able to monitor across all platforms without dedicating multiple separate pieces of equipment to their broadcast and OTT feeds.
Verizon Digital Media Services’ end-to-end platform enables a simpler, more streamlined approach to provide you with all of the tools you need to prepare, deliver, display and monetize your content for distribution. Broadcasters shouldn’t have multiple pieces of equipment to monitor their broadcast and OTT feeds. With us, it’s all in one place; customers can reduce the overall cost of compliance monitoring for all aspects of their broadcast service.