Share

4 Ways Content Providers Can Improve Video Service Quality

Nivedita Nouvel, Vice President of Marketing at Broadpeak

Today’s television viewers have extraordinarily high standards when it comes to video service quality. They expect crystal-clear video on every screen, including TVs, PCs, smartphones, and tablets. Providing a superior quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE) is how content providers can retain viewers’ attention and, in turn, generate revenue. Yet delivering a high QoS/QoE is not easy.

One of the major challenges that broadcasters face when launching an OTT multiscreen service is the lack of control over the video delivery chain. Oftentimes they are at the mercy of CDN and network service providers when it comes to quality.

Leveraging the latest advancements in OTT technologies, broadcasters can gain more control over the delivery of their content to improve QoE and reduce CDN costs. This article will examine the four steps that broadcasters can take to optimize OTT multiscreen video quality and delivery costs. The four-step process includes hosting the origin packager server and using a CDN selector, local cache servers, and centralized analytics. (See Figure 1.)

160229---Broadpeak---Broadcast-Beat---Figure-1Figure 1. The total solution for optimizing video service quality and reducing delivery costs includes an origin packager server, CDN selector, local cache servers, and centralized analytics.

Hosting the Origin Packager Server

The first step that broadcasters can take towards improving QoE is hosting the origin packager server. The origin packager is a key component in the OTT delivery chain. After video has been encoded, the origin packager server makes it available in multiple adaptive bitrate (ABR) formats (e.g., Apple HLS, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, and MPEG-DASH), simplifying broadcasters’ ability to deliver content to any device, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, and TVs.

In addition to packaging video into various ABR formats, the origin packager server is also responsible for streaming that content to video cache servers located further down in the delivery chain. By processing content on-the-fly upon user requests, broadcasters can dramatically reduce the need for storage space.

Hosting an origin packager server also gives broadcasters more control over the quality of their content. Content providers can define exactly how they want to encode the content as opposed to sending a single feed to a CDN provider who then encodes and packages the content on behalf of the broadcaster. With an origin packager server on premises, broadcasters have the flexibility to host their own encoder and create streams in the encoding format and packaging protocol of their choice.

For broadcasters working with several CDN service providers, hosting the origin packager server eliminates synchronization issues between feeds, which are fairly common under a multi-CDN approach since each service provider has its own way of packaging content. When the origin packager server resides in the facilities of the broadcaster, the time stamps for content will be the same or similar since the CDN service providers are all receiving the same stream. This enables broadcasters to deliver a more consistent OTT multiscreen experience.

For live TV channel providers, hosting an origin packager allows them to offer popular non-linear TV services, such as time-shifting, start-over, and catchup TV, bringing added value to their OTT multiscreen offering.

Using a CDN Selector

When broadcasters are considering their CDN service provider options, they should know implementing a multi-CDN strategy is highly beneficial for OTT multiscreen delivery compared with relying on a single CDN. Oftentimes, the best CDN for delivering video content in one location may not be the same for another region. Additionally, some CDNs perform better with certain subscribers, and some are more expensive than others but provide a better QoS, which is critical for delivering premium content. Enabling operators and content providers to balance traffic between multiple CDNs ultimately makes sense from a QoE and cost standpoint.

CDN selectors simplify the overall management and delivery of OTT multiscreen services by providing broadcasters with a centralized view of consumption analytics. Using a CDN selector tool, broadcasters can monitor service quality and allocate a CDN based on various criteria such as geolocation, timeframe, NSP, and QoS, efficiently balancing the load of traffic among several CDNs.

CDN selectors also give broadcasters the power to negotiate costs and service quality with CDN service providers. For example, if a certain CDN is underperforming, broadcasters can use the CDN selector to assign traffic to another CDN.

CDN selectors are available as both a product and a service. There are CAPEX and OPEX advantages to each approach. A CDN selector product is ideal for a large content provider with an established headend and clear view of the target audience for their OTT multiscreen service. This type of broadcaster could opt for a CAPEX option to invest in and is looking to manage the CDN process without having to pay a monthly service fee. They would typically see a ROI for purchasing the product in less than two years.

Smaller broadcasters that either don’t have the capability of hosting the server, want to avoid CAPEX as much as possible, or have less insight into their OTT multiscreen audience, would find a CDN selector service as the best fit. CDN selector as a service offers broadcasters a more flexible pay-as-you-grow business model.

Deploying Video Cache Servers

Broadcasters can benefit greatly from deploying local cache servers in operators’ datacenters serving the regions where most of their customers are located. Deploying video cache servers gives broadcasters increased control over the delivery chain by enabling them to develop direct relationships with operators to reduce transit costs, differentiate themselves from the competition in terms of QoS, and make sure that the value of the content is preserved.

When a certain video asset is popular with subscribers, whether it’s live or on-demand, a very high volume of content is streamed through the CDN to the network service provider. Broadcasters are responsible for paying CDN service providers based on the volume of content that travels on the network. By putting a local video cache server in the network of the operator, broadcasters can dramatically reduce CDN costs when sending popular content through the CDN only once. That content will remain cached in the premises of the network service provider, and broadcasters only pay the CDN service provider for contribution links (i.e., only a few Mbps per second of a video). All content requests coming from end users who are in the network of the operator will be served by this local cache.

Video cache servers also eliminate contention points between the CDN service provider and network service provider, which can impact video consumption. Network service providers control the heart of the delivery chain – the backbone network – as well the last mile and the home gateway or the mobile base station that will allow the end-user to access the content. CDN as a service operators sign transit contracts with network service providers that can differ in terms of transit capacities, resulting in end users not always being able to achieve the same QoS. Through video cache servers, broadcasters can optimize the quality of delivery, ensuring content is streamed from a location closer to end-users, reducing risks of bandwidth fluctuation.

The Power of Centralized Analytics

The final step in ensuring superior QoS/QoE for OTT multiscreen services is employing a centralized analytics solution that provides feedback from CDNs, local cache servers, and players. By utilizing analytics, broadcasters can gain valuable insight into what is going on in every single part of the delivery chain.

Content providers can gather a wealth of useful information from the video servers, such as number of sessions in a period to check the popularity of a service, the number of sessions in error to trigger investigation on root causes, used bandwidth resources compared to available resources for capacity planning, and the number of sessions streamed from various points of presence (PoP) to check if the topology of the network is adapted or needs to be updated. Analytics information can also be collected about QoE from the perspective of the end user, such as video start-up time, number of freezes, completion rate of content, errors, etc. (See Figure 2.)

160229 - Broadpeak - Broadcast Beat - Figure 2Figure 2. Video analytics solutions can be used to compare the values related to different criteria, e.g. the number of sessions created by network type.

Leveraging the analytics information that is sent by the various players and servers, broadcasters can dynamically switch streaming from one CDN to another to improve QoS. For example, let’s say that at the beginning of the day a broadcaster is delivering content equally via three CDNs. Throughout the day, analytics might reveal that one particular CDN is performing better than the others. The broadcaster can instantly adjust the delivery ratio to 50/25/25.

Conclusion

Delivering a superior QoS/QoE for OTT multiscreen services is no longer just a pipe dream for content providers. Utilizing a combination of the CDN technologies described in this article, broadcasters can optimize video service quality on every screen and decrease video delivery costs. At the end of the day, this will lead to increased end user satisfaction, a boost in content consumption, and more revenue for content providers.

 

 

About Nivedita Nouvel

Broadpeak - Nivedita NouvelNivedita is in charge of communication and product strategy and positioning. Before joining Broadpeak, she worked for three years as a Product Manager for Envivio (H.264 encoding specialist), and for Thomson, where she was in charge of the IPTV and Mobile TV Service Platform.

She graduated from Télécom Bretagne engineering school and holds a Master of Science in Satellite Communications from UCL, London.

Broadcast Beat - Production Industry Resource