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Tomorrow's Channel-as-a-Service Solutions Will Work in Minutes

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Research shows that 2018 represented the inflection point after which time, on average, consumers watch more minutes of video through OTT streaming than through scheduled linear TV broadcasts (source: Zenith via Recode). By 2021, video will constitute 82% of all consumer internet traffic and mobile video will comprise 78% of all mobile data traffic (Source: Cisco VNI 2018; Cisco VNI 2017). Broadcasters and media distributors are faced with a significant hurdle in their quest to provide media for public consumption: The number of endpoints served, and the need to create new channels—meaning branded media properties—in an extremely agile and cost-effective way can be daunting. For many broadcasters, live events are a major differentiator for their programming, as they can attract highly specialized advertisers into specialized content properties, which in turn benefits the bottom line for the distributor. The nature of live events is such that it enables the concept of “transient” channels, where a specific event channel may be brought up just for the duration of the event, and then get torn down again after the event is over. This new business model requires quick production configuration along with massively parallel distribution in order to satisfy all of the newly-available distribution points around the globe. This in turn, is driving media companies to create cloud-based distribution infrastructure as it is the only economically viable way to fulfill those distribution needs.

But it’s not just the available distribution infrastructure that limits a broadcaster’s ability to maximize their revenue. The distribution issues are compounded when a media company has to deal with multiple simultaneous events. Such a situation may force broadcasters to leave valuable material “on the shelf” as they lack the processing capacity to monetize that additional content. A classic example here being the huge number of alternative camera angles that remain unmonetized due to constraints in processing infrastructure. This again pushes media companies over to a cloud-based production model, so that they can make use of the cost-effective scalability of compute platforms in that environment. In effect, these companies are looking for highly scalable “channel in a box”-type capabilities which include live content passthrough, playout of pre-created material, branding, and encoding (and in some cases, packaging too).

To be sure, there are a number of solutions available which can fulfill some subsection of all of the functions that broadcasters require, but that still leaves integration headaches when trying to construct an agile system and it can take significant time to set up. It’s important to remember that production is only one part of the supply chain in getting media to the end consumer. Performing quality assurance on the content as it leaves the “plant” is well understood. But once the media has left the production “cloud” and has been sent to the content delivery network, there are any number of locations where network issues can drastically impact the quality of the viewing experience. There have been several sporting events in the pay-per-view arena where the delivered programming was of such poor quality that it eventually led to class action suits against the program provider. What is really needed is an end-to-end system that can fulfill all of a broadcaster’s production needs while simultaneously maximizing the quality of the final delivery to the viewer—all while providing the agility and scalability that are the underpinnings of this world of ever-expanding end points.

It is this end-to-end “closed loop” scenario that companies should demand as they go forward. Production capabilities and network monitoring with real-time feedback need to be combined into a single package. In order to be truly successful, companies must move existing playback, processing, transcoding, branding, encoding, and packaging capabilities into individual containerized services built to be virtualized. Those services need to be coupled with monitoring technology that not only notifies stakeholders but has the potential to take corrective action automatically. Such monitoring technology has already been deployed in the cloud model for several years at numerous telcos and CDNs around the globe. The containerization work must be done in such a way that it can be deployed on any available cloud platform, allowing broadcasters to use their platform of choice, or even to deploy on multiple platforms simultaneously to account for global variability or even an extra level of disaster recovery/business continuity.

The goal is not only to allow customers maximum freedom of choice, however: Setting up both a cloud-based production chain and a cloud/CDN distribution model are complex endeavors, which can take several iterations to get right. A proposed solution could be to offer media companies a collection of pre-set template configurations which can be recalled at the push of a button. These templates would set up encoder profiles, redundancy paths, packaging systems, and multiple network probes to enable all of the most typical configurations. With the right technology partner, the dream of self-healing, self-scaling, and self-optimizing end-to-end solutions that can be set up (and torn down) in a matter of minutes can finally be a reality.

As capabilities and integrations evolve, a number of additional capabilities could be created which connects the entire media pipeline as a whole rather than as disparate parts that exist today. One such challenge is latency through the supply chain, both as an absolute measurement for a single distributable and also across multiple platforms and delivery networks.

By carefully choosing the right technology and experienced partners, content providers can dramatically reduce the time it takes to launch new channels and services—resulting in generation of new revenue streams much sooner than was previously possible. By any standards, these new capabilities will represents a real advance in the state of the art for the global media distribution market.

[This is a vendor-contributed article from Telestream. Streaming Media accepts articles from vendors based solely on their value to our readers.]

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