Thanks to Will Richmond, editor of #VideoNuze, for the guest post by iStreamPlanet’s Mio Babic on recent research we did with TDG around the opportunity in multiscreen live linear.
Ooyala’s VideoMind interviews iStreamPlanet VP of Marketing Robin Cole about OTT revenue opportunities, NAB, and more:
Watch the video: http://videomind.ooyala.com/blog/theres-money-be-made-online-tv
It was a typical Sunday in the iStreamPlanet Broadcast Operations Center in Las Vegas. Our broadcast ops team was monitoring one of the live sporting events streaming that day when suddenly we lost the satellite signal. It turned out to be from a solar flare, which can cause communications interruptions here on Earth, as our team witnessed when we lost the satellite signal. Once the solar flare was over, about six minutes later, we were able to get the signal back and the live event went forward smoothly. We called our other customers to give them a warning so they could check to see if their satellites were also going to be affected as they traveled through their orbit paths.
Although the occurrence of a solar flare strong enough to knock out satellite communications is rare, iStreamPlanet is investigating a few early-warning services from NASA and NOAA and from various satellite operators. With enough warning, we can try to make sure that we aren’t booking space on affected satellites and advise our customers to do the same. But it’s a good lesson: even with the industry’s most experienced team, and state of the art technology, mother nature can still surprise you.
iStreamPlanet’s Alex Zambelli writes a history of streaming media for the Guardian, with nods to the future of connected TV and 4k streaming. Read the article.
Alex Zambelli, Principal Video Specialist at iStreamPlanet, reviews the potential for 4K streaming using H.265 in his blog, and provides a brief history of H.264.
Another Super Bowl has come and gone and while the sports pundits go into Monday morning quarterback mode about the game, the technologists, those who know what it takes to deliver such a high profile, complex live streaming event, talk about the consumer experience and whether the live stream was a success.
Regardless of what anyone says, there is only one measure that defines the success of an online event: a large majority of satisfied online viewers. Still, many will argue the various standards used to define “success” creating a virtually endless debate on the topic. Frequently you see folks taking the position that no major stream outages (video unavailable at all), low buffering (verified using client-side analytics) and consistent delivery across multiple platforms (desktop and iPad being the two primary ones) qualify as a “successful event”. On the other hand, others will label events “successful” solely based on their personal experience. In his blog, Dan Rayburn cites what he perceived as Super Bowl Webcast Poor Quality, Player Broken, Bad Experience, highlighting his experience of the webcast and giving some comments on overall reliability and the future of online streaming.
Needless to say, an event of the Super Bowl’s stature is one of the most complex live events anyone will ever do. Unpredictability of various live event factors (not including power outages at the stadium) such as audience size, distribution per device, seamless delivery regardless of the end-user’s location are just a few of the considerations. Add to that the technology decisions that must be made like what video formats to use (RTMP vs. HLS vs. Smooth Streaming vs. HDS, vs. custom versions of Adobe HTTP Dynamic Streaming), browser plugins (Flash vs. Silverlight vs. non-plugin HTML5), security considerations including geo distribution, ad insertion models across various platforms, and other technologies outside of the video that are closely integrated such as Twitter or Facebook, audience Q&A or interactive statistics, and you have the makings for an ultra-complex web of closely interconnected and highly dependent functions that must work together to give the audience an engaging, rich media experience.
Outside of a buggy desktop video player experience that included issues with DVR timeline, timeline markers, ad logic in several scenarios, missing PiP (picture in picture) functionality on alternative camera angles and inconsistent player controls on various browsers and pause/ad logic on the iPad where video would stop if the screen was touched thereby forcing playback of the limited ad inventory, the XLVII Super Bowl online video stream played consistently for me on my home cable connection (Cox in Las Vegas) on Windows 7 PC, Mac OS X, and iPad (all over Wi-Fi). The top bitrate was probably a bit low for high motion sports content (looking at it with proxy tools revealed 3,000kbps delivered over a single CDN, Akamai HD network as an adaptive multi-layer bitrate stream), but my desktop video player consistently maintained no less than 1,800kbps for the duration of the event and the latency on the desktop experience was tolerable at approximately 6-8 seconds behind the cable feed.
Few companies know better than iStreamPlanet how complex streaming the Super Bowl can be based on our experience working on the event last year, so it is through this lens of experience that I call out a much needed commitment to operation excellence. By that I mean, while a stadium wide power outage during the Super Bowl could not have been anticipated, back up plans are needed for disaster scenarios that can adversely impact the general operation of a live streaming experience. Examples from Sunday’s game include open mics during the power outage and dropped alternative camera angels, although the main camera continued broadcasting. While the power outage may have been a catalyst for this confusion, live event operation excellence would have quickly recognized the disconnect, killed the orphaned microphones and focused on getting the sources back online.
Overall I would hardly call it a “poorly executed” experience, although I would have preferred to see a richer, more innovative experience delivered consistently across a larger number of connected devices.
So in response to the Monday morning technocrati quarterbacks that highlighted the shortcomings of the biggest and most complex online event 2013 will likely see, and eulogized the technology that helped bring it to millions of connected devices around the world, perhaps we should focus more on operational excellence that ensures quality on par with TV and drives more innovation into the connected device experience.
Today iStreamPlanet announced a partnership with Ooyala to combine iStreamPlanet”s live video streaming workflow with Ooyala”s platform for publishing, analytics, and monetization, creating a best-in-class, end-to-end live streaming video solution. Ooyala has a post on their blog about the partnership and why live is increasingly important to content providers and they offer some interesting data from Ooyala”s Video Index, including:
Viewers casino con postepay watch live streaming videos for far longer than VOD across all device types. For example, desktop viewers tuned in to live videos for an average of 40 minutes.
Mobile video viewers, tablet video viewers and audiences watching streaming live video on connected TVs and gaming consoles similarly displayed strong engagement patterns with sports, breaking news and special events.
It was an exciting 2012 that brought a tremendous growth in the consumption of online media, proliferation of mobile, rise of syndication partners such as YouTube and gave us a glimpse of what the future might look like with video on every device, complimented with second and even third screen experiences. Nonetheless it is time to close the book on 2012 and welcome 2013. To kick off what we feel will be an even more impactful year here are the five key trends we anticipate will further drive the industry and continue to change the world we live in:
- TV Everywhere becomes a dominant way to consume premium content online – Set aside cable subscriber churn and cord cutting, MVPDs and programmers own rights to the majority if not to all premium content and to maximize the value, both from the existing revenue streams and new revenue opportunities with digital ads, they will continue to add more and more content online. To watch it, you will need to authenticate.
- Even though there is a lot of noise around Connected TVs, gaming consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation will own a ten foot OTT delivered experience – Looking from an outside Connected TVs seem to be a logical choice. However, gaming consoles have two key advantages: 1) well established user base in 10s of millions of online connected users, and 2) maturity of the platform and developer base. While TV OEMs are good at creating quality hardware (TVs), Microsoft and Sony have a much longer history of creating software which should allow them to create more compelling user experiences that go well beyond simple EPG and VOD guides.
- Mobile video consumption (mainly tablet based) will surpass PC online video consumption for the first time – The number of mobile devices continues to grow and 2012 London Olympics clearly marked the rise of tablet based viewing with close to 40% of viewing done on iPads. With new tablet devices entering market (Google Nexus, Microsoft Surface, Amazon Kindle Fire) and increasingly users replacing their notebooks, laptops and PCs with tablets, expect this trend to accelerate and for mobile to ultimately surpass PC online video consumption sometimes in 2013.
- Live linear will be the fastest growing area with hundreds of new channels around the world being added every month – The latest announcements by the likes of Cox, Comcast and Verizon FiOS about making their linear channels available online or growing the number of their linear channels currently available online are only the signs of things to come. It started with video on-demand (Comcast xfinity services opened the flood gates) and the next logical move is to enable users to watch their favorite channels online on one or more devices. It is not only a matter of convenience (e.g., sitting on a train and watching ESPN Sports Center) but also an adjustment to tailor to a change in consumer behavior. Younger users who have grown up on the Internet and mobile devices are more likely to watch it on those devices than traditional TV sets.
- Cloud media workloads (next-gen VOD and LIVE) will evolve and further propel the growth of online media by making digitization and distribution scalable, less complex, more reliable and cost effective – The previous four trends indicate an exponential increase in the quantity of online video. Current hardware and software solutions simply can’t keep up nor can be relied on to accommodate this growth, even less to fuel it. Cloud is rapidly maturing, and when coupled with the new generation of media workflow software built specifically for the cloud to take advantage of the cloud’s inherent strengths, it will give us the means not only to meet this demand but also to accelerate it while dealing with the changing landscape of media formats and devices in a much more agile way. It is the beginning of a trend that will continue for years to come until media digitization and delivery is as seamless and utilitarian as getting power from your local power provider.
Once your live event is over, there are still a number of tasks for which you’ll want to plan. Live events are often made available for on-demand viewing immediately after the event, but you can schedule the availability of that on-demand video content for any time.
You’ll also likely be interested in your event analytics. Analytics from basic to detailed are available from your service provider, CDN, and through third-party analytics services. You should be able to gauge the success of your event based on any number of parameters, such as viewers, viewing time, sharing, as well as pinpointing viewers’ devices, geographies, and complete advertising analytics. Providers have the capability of providing very deep analytics to better track and optimize your video execution with real-time video quality monitoring, audience behavior and engagement.
As your event concludes, consider following this routine checklist:
- Will your event be available on demand? If so, when?
- Will your on-demand video have a different or separate monetization model?
- Will your on-demand content be served through the same content delivery network as your live broadcast?
- What analytics reporting will you require?
Viewing a major event online—be it a sporting event, a concert, or a keynote—is increasingly becoming a mainstream activity, as more and more viewers are tuning in via varied connected devices for longer periods of time.
Broadcasting an event online is a guaranteed path to expanding your digital video footprint with many opportunities for deep viewer engagement. The process is complex with a number of variables at each step in the video workflow pipeline, and is becoming more so with the rapid expansion of new platforms and devices.
But while the process may be complex, working with an experienced service provider will help ensure the success of your online event and provide you with the confidence to take full advantage of the rapidly growing universe of connected consumers.
Thanks for tuning into this blog series. To review all 6 steps in one easy place, download the whitepaper.
The online broadcast of a live event is judged primarily on the end user experience. Even if all of the other elements are flawless, it is this key aspect that could spell success or failure. It’s imperative that your player is developed to support all of the systems that you’ve put in place earlier in your video workflow as well as the overall strategy for your online event, for example, the ability to support multiple CDNs, your DRM or token authentication technology, or DVR controls.
Multiple Players for Multiple Devices
Just as you need to encode in specific formats for specific devices, you’ll likely have to create custom players or apps for each device you’re targeting to provide a great playback experience for each viewer: one for Android devices, iOS devices, desktops, etc. Live events accessed via content distribution platforms like Xbox LIVE and YouTube will also have specific requirements. Understanding, planning and developing for these platforms can add significantly to your workback schedule, so you’ll want to consider these platforms very early in your strategy to provide enough time for development and testing.
Additional things to think about with regard to player development include the CDN and their particular network. For example, Akamai’s HD Network has certain player requirements that you need to be aware of so you can match their network services to your player.
A checklist for considering the end user casino real money experience is:
- Do you require a custom player?
- Are you publishing to a website or a content distribution platform like Xbox LIVE?
- Will your plan require custom applications, such as mobile apps or apps for game console services?
- Will you require integration with a monetization model such as subscription or pay-per-view?
- Does the player support the redundancy you’ve planned, for example, multi-CDN support?
- Who will develop the webpage or app where the player will be integrated?
Another consideration is the webpage or application that users will go through to get to your player. It’s important to involve your web development team in the technical discussions with the team responsible for the player development.
Enhancing the User Experience
For the richest possible experience, rich media players can provide a deep level of customer engagement totally different from traditional broadcast. However, you’ll want to strike the right balance of enhancing the viewing experience without distracting or confusing your viewers.
Many players today are incorporating some level of social interaction by integrating live Twitter feeds, and enabling sharing or instant messaging within the player. Creating a custom player enables you to incorporate the elements that add to your event experience, such as on demand content easily accessed from the player, enhanced user controls, and ways to engage viewers after your event is over. Customer players and apps are necessary if you are interested in publishing your content on connected devices like the Xbox LIVE service.
In our sixth and final post, we’ll wrap up by looking at post-event analytics and replay.