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HOW TO WIN THE OTT RACE WITH A HOLISTIC MONITORING SOLUTION


Contributed by: Interra Systems, Inc.

Over the last few years, OTT video consumption has taken off rapidly and continues to grow at a rapid pace. More than 310 million connected households will have at least one OTT service by 2024, according to Parks Associates. Today, viewers expect a high quality experience (QoE) on every screen. Research suggests that if there is any buffering or issues with the audio/video, they will seek a different television service.

Issues can happen at any point of the OTT workflow, which can have a huge impact on streaming QoE. The number of streaming services beyond the current big hitters such as Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+, are on the rise, providing consumers with a range of choices to consider when opting for an OTT provider. Because of this, OTT service providers need to stay competitive and deliver the very best QoE, so having a robust, efficient and accurate monitoring solution has become more critical than ever. But to understand why QC and monitoring has become increasingly critical, it’s important to first become familiar with the inner workings of an OTT workflow. 

Errors Can Happen at Each Point in OTT Workflows

One of the first points in a video broadcast or streaming workflow is ingest. Video is received from multiple sources, including international feeds. Upon ingest, OTT service providers need to make sure that the original signals are of good quality. Sometimes the original stream contains errors or is of poor quality, and when it’s fed to the transcoder, the transcoder either fails or, in case of a stream with poor audio or video quality, the degradation continues further down the chain. A monitoring system can help with root cause analysis, taking the guesswork out, and improving efficiency.

The second critical point of the workflow for monitoring is post-transcode. During the transcoding process, a single stream is created into multiple different versions, each with a separate profile. Errors can occur during the creation of the manifest file itself, or the content might be over compressed, causing quality issues.

Another key monitoring point is at the post-origin server. After transcoding, content is packaged and put on the origin server. Profile alignment, encryption, and server related issues are prevalent at this stage.

The CDN is the next OTT workflow point. Here, high-level monitoring is needed to ensure that all of the files actually exist. Issues can also occur during the delivery phase, causing long join times or frequent stalling and switching during playback.

Finally, OTT content is delivered over the internet, which is an unmanaged network. The quality and bandwidth of the delivery changes based on network congestion. Since service providers have minimal or no control during the last mile delivery for OTT content, quality is never guaranteed. By monitoring ABR streams at the edge, service providers can gain insight as to where and what type of problems are encountered, and improve quality of experience.

Choosing Between a Holistic vs. Disconnected Monitoring Solution

Having insight into the complexities of an OTT workflow gives us a better idea of why monitoring at every stage is essential. Deploying an end-to-end OTT monitoring solution can mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful OTT offering.

There are a wide range of OTT monitoring solutions on the market. But not all monitoring is created equal. Interra Systems has built its comprehensive monitoring suite from the ground up, for both linear and OTT video, taking into account the needs of flexible licensing, software scalability, and performance.

Here are several key benefits of choosing an end-to-end monitoring solution like Interra Systems’ ORION-OTT compared with one that is fragmented and less cohesive:

End-to-End Monitoring for Quicker Error Resolution

Some monitoring solutions are created by gluing together technologies and products from different vendors. The problem with this disconnected approach is that the solutions were not initially designed to communicate with one another. They have a completely different user interface, different QoE and QoS measurements, and might interpret results differently. This means inconsistent results, causing more confusion about where the error is taking place. 

ORION-OTT provides a centralized management solution. It knows exactly what’s happening at each and every point of the workflow. It will provide all of the relevant details if there is a problem, no matter how minor it is. A centralized monitoring approach allows for errors to be caught very quickly. It’s part of what makes ORION-OTT an efficient monitoring and troubleshooting system. Being able to take consistent measurements at all points of the OTT workflow will assure the delivery of flawless quality on every screen at all times.

Superior Performance Enabled by Software

ORION-OTT's software-based architecture takes advantages of the newer, faster processors for optimum performance. A large number of the monitoring solutions available in the industry are built on custom hardware. Many of them are moving to a software-based approach; however, moving the entire feature set, including support of existing and new formats, is a lengthy process and requires a great level of experience in developing software-defined products

World-Class Customer Support 

The OTT workflow is complicated. Service providers need to work with a variety of standards, formats, devices types and changing video production and delivery methods. Due to the complexity of the OTT environment, customer support is crucial today. There needs to be world-class customer support and application engineering teams that work closely to solve problems promptly and efficiently. If a monitoring solution is fragmented, the customer support teams are likely to be disconnected too.

Conclusion

Monitoring video streams is critical to providing a good quality of experience.  It is an investment that pays in terms of higher customer satisfaction and retention. Partnering with a media QC and monitoring vendor that has holistic solutions for traditional linear and OTT channels, with a strong background in software and centralized monitoring will help service providers stay on track to deliver a high quality of experience to their customers.

This opinion editorial is contributed by Interra Systems, a BroadcastAsia exhibitor, part of ConnecTechAsia. Register now to visit their booth and others, 29 Sep - 1 Oct 2020.