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Overcoming OTT's Challenges with Metadata
Metadata can do far more than help publishers manage assets and customers find content. Employed the right way, it can help deliver a personalized viewing experience that improves ROI.
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Of course, it isn't. In fact, linear television generates the vast majority of industry revenue. But it is no longer sufficient for broadcasters to only create a linear feed and distribute it. Much of the evolution within the sector of content provision has been driven by consumers, who now demand TV anytime, anywhere, and on any device. As a result, we must assume that nearly all content broadcast on linear television will need to be available on demand. But this poses significant challenges, both technically and corporately.

Technical Difficulties

Preparing and formatting linear content for viewing on demand via an OTT platform is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. Until recently, to do this within 12 hours of the original program was a good result, but this fails to take advantage of the expansion of the Nielson rating measurement window. Making linear programs available within the first 3 to 7 days can increase ratings by 30-40%, according to Disney's Bob Iger and CBS's Les Moonves in year-end 2016 earnings calls.

As online streaming becomes mainstream, adherence to complex digital rights management laws becomes increasingly important to consider. Given that OTT content is usually accessible from almost anywhere, it can be difficult to prevent it being accessed by those who should not, either due to regional restrictions or perhaps depending on which platform is being used. Additionally, adhering to industry standards like the SCTE-35 standard can often be more difficult than expected, especially if legacy equipment is still used.

Return on Investment

As a rule, non-subscription OTT provision has never been touted as a money-maker. In a recent survey by Brightcove and Unisphere Research, only 16% of online video providers have realized at least a 50% monetization rate for mobile content delivery.

Even a popular service with many users may not be financially successful. Part of the reason may be the expense of providing the service, but we must also keep in mind the competitiveness of the OTT market. The sheer range of OTT options available to consumers is overwhelming and difficult to differentiate. Consumers also know what they want to watch and won't tolerate spending valuable time trawling through irrelevant content to find it. Of course, a portion of consumers will use multiple OTT services, but attracting an audience is still a challenge.

A low ROI is a worrying factor to consider when delivering OTT content. The problem is, consumers expect free content, but at the same time are not particularly receptive to advertisements. Ad skipping is a significant problem in the industry, leading to a reduction in the value of an ad and therefore increasing the reluctance of advertisers to get on board. If we accept that advertising is one of the most effective ways to monetize non-subscription VOD, this trend is clearly disturbing.

Metadata to the Rescue

The challenges of providing OTT services are complex and multi-faceted, but an answer to them is hiding in plain sight. Metadata has slowly become central to the generation of value, perhaps even to the provision of OTT as a whole. If metadata is correctly described within content at the time of broadcast, and with the assistance of a sophisticated system, all of these challenges can be negated.

Metadata can enable a system to automatically format C3 VOD files in under a minute, drastically slashing the production time. Content can be described with metadata to alert systems to potential rights management infringement, preventing content from being accessed when and where it should not. Better still, this can all be automated and triggered within a system depending on rules and protocols.

Perhaps most importantly, metadata can enable the personalization of viewer experiences on several levels, including ad insertion and suggested content. Personalization and ad insertion could be considered two sides of the same coin. Metadata-described content offers OTT providers a considerable amount of information about the viewer, including where they are, what they've watched in the past, etc. As a result, systems can automatically trigger a response to suggest similar content or that which is more relevant to a viewer's location. On the other side, advertisers can then insert ads that are more relevant to a viewer, or perhaps contextual ads based on the content being viewed at the time. That way, the ad is likely to gain more traction, therefore increasing its value both for the consumer and the advertiser.

Metadata improves the user experience by providing a highly-personalized service—something also likely to improve the appeal of a platform within a competitive market. It also means viewers are not required to search for content, as it can instead be suggested to them based on their viewing history and personal information. Naturally, the more content is being created, the more pertinent it is to enable consumers to find the content they desire.

Although there are significant challenges involved with the provision of OTT, it can prove valuable if done correctly. Indeed, as metadata has moved to the forefront, many of these difficulties have been overcome. Provided that the industry continues to embrace metadata, the process of creating, formatting, and distributing OTT content should continue to become simpler. OTT provision has been driven by consumer demand, it's up to the providers themselves to ensure they can keep up, and the sophisticated use of metadata remains one of the best ways to do so.

[This is a vendor-contributed article. Streaming Media accepts such articles and publishes them based solely on their value to our readers.]