Feeding the content beast

  • With Adrian Pennington

Feeding the content beast

Viewers are looking for hybrid experiences entertaining content at their fingertips - for free or subsidised by ads - with the flexibility to forge their own navigation paths. In short, consumers don't want to be constrained by the silos of the business models. How is the industry meeting their expectations? By Adrian Pennington...

Ashley Horne, Technical Director, Simplestream

Much like a viewer deciding what to watch, one of the greatest challenges OTT faces is the paradox of choice for content monetisation. It’s clear that leading subscription-based streaming platforms such as Netflix have proven that a purely SVOD model is vasty difficult to maintain as profitable. Then the issue arises: how to make the most of the audience you have, how to grow it, and how to monetise? To this there is no simple answer, yet a feature that must be offered by all vendors is the flexibility to choose. 

Picture this: you’re a sports service with a core group of fans but can also charge for a PPV event. Or, again, you own an archive that can be sold to the end-consumer via a streaming platform. Or, maybe, you are a news service that wants to advertise within the video content but only ad mid-rolls to catchup, or a child-friendly content service that wants a barker channel. No matter what the customers’ needs, there must be a set of products that can be configured to achieve this.

Looking ahead, the integration of marketing tools for attribution is going to become more important than ever to inform business decisions and the content owners choice of monetisation. This aspect goes beyond the mere use of analytics toolsets. It relates to tangible, data-driven insights. Realistically, as a content provider, I wouldn’t want to know that a given title, let’s say Breaking Bad isn’t popular anymore. However, I would want to be suggested that I would get a 30% growth in viewership if the first three episodes were on a free trial.

Alon Werber, CEO, Pixellot

One of the principal challenges is "feeding the content beast" and the cost of producing live content that is attractive to specific audiences as well as supporting GenZ habits for short form and personalised content like TikTok videos. The growing demand for more sports is a case in point and creates demand for more content that is both visually appealing and engaging. This is becoming crucial in order to differentiate, attract and retain subscribers. However, the cost of producing high-quality live content can be prohibitive, especially for smaller OTT / IPTV providers.

We address this by providing a cost-effective way to produce high-quality live content and highlights. Pixellot's AI- automated solutions reduce the need for human operators and create thousands of hours of content previously unavailable before. Pixellot's technology is easy to set up and deploy making it ideal for OTT / IPTV providers that want or are mandated to produce live sports content on a budget. In this way, both high-quality full games, as well as short-form highlights, are easily and automatically created, serving all audience type preferences.

Coming down the track fast is Generative AI. We already see how new and innovative services like Chat GPT will automate game recaps, create social media posts, and optimise workflows. We see this as a major development at Pixellot, and we have a dedicated working group to lead this change within the company. 

There will also be more live streaming of everything from concerts to news since live is always more engaging than pre-recorded content and can create a differentiator. This is driving content development strategies.  

Srinivasan KA, Co-founder & CRO, Amagi

We are going through a transformational era in the media industry where there is an acute mismatch between what viewers want and the business models that OTT platforms are able to offer. Viewers are looking for hybrid experiences with streaming applications. They want entertaining content at their fingertips - for free or subsidised by ads - with the flexibility to forge their own navigation paths. In short, viewers don't want to be constrained by the silos of the business models - be it AVOD, SVOD or linear. 

To meet viewer expectations, the media industry at large needs to rethink the concept of ‘artificial scarcity’ which has underpinned their core business model, i.e. even if a piece of content can be globally made available at a single instance, they restrict that content availability due to distribution window policies. Amagi is focused on enabling a future for OTT platforms where they don't have to worry about technology to aid different experimentations between their business models and are simply focused on curating the best content for their viewers.

FAST is emerging as a great growth opportunity for OTT platforms, driven by a confluence of two factors - plateauing growth in subscription-based approach and the promising opportunity of targeted performance-based advertising offered by CTV. Innovation in CTV advertising is a key catalyst to advance the growth of FAST. The richness of CTV lies in its ability to hyper-target viewers based on the context of what they are watching.

By delivering non-intrusive, highly contextual ad experiences and personalized content that amplify the power of ‘connected’ in CTV, OTT industry can accelerate the shift of ad dollars from traditional linear television to OTT/FAST.  

Ken Rubin, SVP, Actus Digital 

TV stations that begin to simulcast their traditional over-the-air or cable channel broadcast to IPTV/OTT experience two large challenges, maintaining streaming video quality and including the correct advertisements on their OTT simulcast (which may differ from the original). Actus OTT StreamWatch, integrated into the same Intelligent Monitoring Platform used for traditional broadcast, provides one interface to monitor quality for all. It alerts engineers immediately when there are issues and shows them where the issue entered the distribution chain so they can quickly remedy them. The same platform also provides superior tools for ad-verification and sends notifications when SCTE triggers are missing or are improperly formatted, ensuring dynamic ad insertion accuracy.     

One trend that continues to challenge FAST/IPTV/OTT channels is adapting to the varying conditions their streams are subjected to, by a multitude of playback devices and CDNs, which may affect the streaming quality and performance of one or many renditions within their adaptive bitrate streams.

Actus owners rely on OTT StreamWatch to make easy work of this complex problem.

They use  quality dashboards and reports with multiviewers that show not just which channels are currently having an issue, but also which renditions and where the issue originates. They tune into any rendition at any probe-point to monitor the current state of the live stream... or select from charts and graphs that analyse HTTP-level, manifest-level, and encryption-level errors to inspect the manifest and media to see precisely what type of impact viewers experienced days or weeks earlier. 

Tim Pearson, VP Global Solution Marketing at NAGRA

Piracy continues to be a major challenge as D2C services create a broader surface attack area for pirates. Add well-publicised hacks of leading DRMs, resulting in increased levels of CDN hijacking and operators face a double-hit on their revenues. NAGRA Active Streaming Protection is designed to address streaming piracy head-on and offers a framework of tools through which to protect both the content and the service.

As consumers adapt to a smorgasbord of content available to them, they seek super-aggregators to help them structure entertainment content. Changes in consumer behaviour define new terms of engagement which require a forensic understanding of behaviour to maximise both acquisition and retention.

NAGRA OpenTV Video Platform empowers operators to not only offer super-aggregated services but also understand behaviour thanks to AI-powered personalization and analytic capabilities.

As AI continues to gain traction across OTT services such as recommendations/ personalisation, a spectrum of options is evident. NAGRA notes online and offline AI starting to be used in solutions together with a range of pricing depending on the scale of AI influence required. With margins tight and advanced AI algorithm access expensive, we forecast a further graduation of services as the ROI of AI powered personalisation becomes evident.

As content creators continue to face high demand from D2C services, the increasing trend for distributed production exposes security vulnerabilities not previously anticipated. With set monitors, dailies and rough-cuts being viewed remotely rather than on the movie set or in the edit suite, the risk of interception piracy is high. NAGRA notes an increased demand for its security solutions that protect content from the camera to the glass of the consumer’s screen. This includes threat-identifying analytics that conflate data from multiple sources to identify different types of suspicious activities.  

Shuki Eytan, GM, Media & Telecom, Kaltura

We are seeing that for many of our multiple media customers there is no single, overarching monetisation strategy for attracting new customers and viewers. In order to generate growth, they need to invest in SVOD, AVOD, and additional value-added services, from smart home connections to interactive educational programming for children.

There is also an increased focus on creating a more holistic advertising experience by connecting online and broadcast campaigns. This primarily increases efficiency in terms of ROI, and by executing all the campaigns through one unified CMS, provides more actionable insights and is more easily quantified. 

Due to the ongoing economic headwinds, reducing costs has become critical for technology suppliers. Midsize media and telco providers are seeking to reduce TCO, and are constantly innovating and adapting their offerings. We have seen extraordinary demand for front and backend solutions that were designed for Tier 1 suppliers but have been modified to also meet the needs and price sensitivity of Tier 2 and Tier 3 companies.    

Eric Gallier, VP, Video Customer Solutions, Harmonic

Today’s sports streaming environment is increasingly fragmented, which makes it a challenge to keep viewers engaged. Fans have numerous options for consuming live sports content. Harmonic’s VOS360 Media SaaS supports advanced features such as multiview and individually addressable ads, enabling service providers to deliver a more exciting live sports streaming experience. By adopting our VOS360 platform, sports streamers can drive viewer engagement and increase their monetization.

Another challenge in the video streaming space is delivering targeted ads with low latency. It is technically challenging to target on a per-user basis against both geographic and demographic data. Harmonic’s VOS360 Ad is a proven solution used by some of the largest names in live sports.

The migration to the cloud is an ongoing trend that will intensify over the next year. With cloud-based solutions, content owners and service providers can improve workflow efficiencies and monetisation. In particular, we foresee advancements in cloud and hybrid playout solutions to streamline the delivery of broadcast and OTT channels. Harmonic is leading the charge for innovation with a fully orchestrated cloud-native solution that supports the entire media workflow including broadcast and OTT transcoding and delivery with content monetisation compared with other video platforms that are just a playout service running in the cloud.

Innovation in targeted advertising will be another key trend, especially server-side ad insertion (SSAI). The total addressable market for SSAI is growing at more than 30% CAGR, making this a key technology trend to watch for streaming applications.

SSAI empowers content owners and service providers to maximize ad revenue and deliver streaming services with enhanced addressability at scale.  

Craig Kierce, Head of Sales for 24i in North America

Streaming services continue to wrestle with business models. Difficult economic times drive subscriber churn, in turn driving interest in FAST and AVOD. But offering consumers a choice of wallet-friendly ways to watch isn’t always easy. It requires a flexible streaming platform, like 24i Mod Studio, which allows services to test new business models and combine them in innovative ways. Examples include offering the opening episodes of a series as AVOD to encourage subscription to an SVOD package to watch the rest. 

Business models are also a challenge for FAST channel providers and we see a trend in which many are going direct-to-consumer with cost-effective apps using 24i Mod Studio. They’re typically using D2C apps alongside existing channel aggregator relationships to gather more valuable usage data. 

AI has been a big trend for a while now and our customers are already seeing the benefits, says Stuart Huke, Head of 24iQ. Viewers who interact with AI-generated content recommendations from 24iQ have been shown to subscribe for 276% longer than those who don’t. And in AVOD services, they watch over 44% more within their first month on a service than users who don’t interact with recommendations. The conversation has now shifted to the role of generative AI. 

At this stage, we are looking into a number of potential use cases for Gen AI. For example, freeing up editorial time by auto-creating attractive content collections based on prompts like ‘box office smashes,’ or ‘plot twists you didn’t see coming.’ There are also potential benefits for speed of delivery, such as automating trailer creation for every piece of content for more effective personalization; expanding depth and breadth of search results; and enhancing metadata, which continues to be an issue that is not going away. Bottom line, gen AI needs to provide a value proposition that is better than what ‘traditional’ AI/ML can do.

Nik Forman, Marketing Director, Friend MTS

The key challenge our OTT/IPTV customers face is the perennial problem of maintaining and growing revenue against a backdrop of increasing customer churn and slowing subscription growth. One of the ways they seek to address these issues is through investment in content, but this extremely valuable programming is a prime target for pirates. In order for live and on-demand content to remain as viable a revenue stream as possible, OTT/IPTV services need to protect it against illegal redistribution.

Partnering with security experts such as Friend MTS enables OTT/IPTV services to deploy advanced security such as watermarking, global monitoring and enforcement, which provide a real-time visibility of the piracy landscape, and the vulnerabilities that are exploited. This visibility allows operators to identify sources and scale of piracy, and to use this intelligence to address these issues and to engage with diverted audiences that are served by the pirate community, thereby increasing subscriber numbers and generating revenue.

The continuously increasing deployment of advanced OTT security solutions has recently been gaining real momentum. With the growing emphasis on addressing post-distribution vulnerabilities for the most popular and valuable content, highly automated and scalable solutions are being deployed by OTT service providers, sports leagues and other content owners. We expect live sports to continue to be the driving engine of this key trend with its demand for real-time protection including dynamic blocking of pirated streams.

Combining global piracy detection with watermarking allows service providers to rapidly shut down sources of illegal redistribution. We expect increased adoption of various combinations of advanced security including real-time blocking to address the ever-widening spectrum of threats to legitimate revenues.