February 28, 2022

Technology blog: 24i’s modular, data-driven video streaming platform

We launched 24i Mod Studio in late 2021 as the new identity for our end-to-end video streaming platform. In this blog, 24i CTO, Thomas Christensen provides a look “under the hood” at the technology strategy that underpins the platform and why we’ve gone all-in on the modular approach. 

As a tech team, we are always striving for the best of both worlds: creating solutions that satisfy our customers and their end users, but don’t bust their budgets. We supply customers of all sizes, so our platform also needs to be equally suited to the needs of huge multinational telecoms companies offering multi-channel streaming TV, small OTT start-ups and everyone in between. 

The launch of 24i Mod Studio reflects exactly how we’re doing that from a technical perspective. As my colleague Kjeld Beijer explained in his blog, it’s all about demonstrating the modularity of the platform and the way it gives our customers the creative freedom to make their brand shine on a wide range of streaming devices and stand out from the competition. 

Turnkey with a twist: a streaming technology stack that works for all

The reality is that all streaming companies face many of the same universal challenges. They want to keep their operational costs under control, but also increase their reach to new devices - including Smart TVs. They need to optimize their UX to improve engagement and discourage customer churn. 

The Mods (bundles of functions and features) that make up Mod Studio help to solve each of these problems in an off-the-shelf product. This means customers of all types and sizes can improve their speed to market and don’t have to invest time and money in developing their own video streaming platform or front-end applications. 

Of course, some customers absolutely do want to develop their own apps, for their own very specific reasons. The modularity of Mod Studio helps here too, with certain Mods enabling customers to do their own building on top of our foundations. Because even determined self-builders agree it’s better to start with a foundation of an app that’s already 90% complete and develop the final 10% yourself than to start from scratch. 

From a technology perspective, we’re focused on three key elements - standardization, scalability and data-driven product development. To do this, we’re hard at work transforming Mod Studio into a containerized, microservices-based, cloud-hybrid architecture. That’s quite a mouthful, but let’s look at how we’re putting it into effect. 

Shared resources for wider device reach from a single video streaming platform

Let’s start with standardization. The Mods in our Appstage front end make significant use of the React Native software platform. This means we can bring the performance benefits of a native application alongside the flexibility offered by the world of web technologies and JavaScript. But there are some devices, such as set-top-boxes, Smart TVs and Roku devices, that aren’t best served by React Native. For these we have separate white label, but dynamic apps. 

Crucially, we’re reusing as many components as possible across all the whitelabel apps - shared players, libraries, tools and increasingly a shared data layer. This means it’s quicker for us to update the apps and add features that work across all the different device types. 

Of course, the beauty of our Backstage application management interface is that all this technology is pretty much transparent to our customers. They’re able to manage their content and user-experience from within the user-friendly Backstage environment. They can configure app layout, color, menus etc. for all their target consumer devices, code-free. This means they don’t have to worry about what code or software platform is being used on which device. 

As our integration layer, Backstage is also another key part of our standardization mission - simplifying the backend functionality. The Backstage APIs enable our apps to seamlessly work with the Mods in Videostage. This award-winning video backend supports all the key tasks required to gather content and bring it to the screen - from ingest and transcode to encryption, packaging, storage and delivery. This applies whether you’re looking for a pure-OTT VOD offering or a full multi-channel linear TV experience with catch-up, restart and network PVR. 

Thanks to our modular approach and Backstage APIs, we’ve already integrated dozens of third party solutions - from DRM providers and subscription management platforms to CDNs and analytics providers. And it’s relatively easy to hook-in additional solutions for customers who have very particular needs, or for those who want to maximize existing investments and “bring their own backend” to work with our Appstage frontend. 

Containerization and microservices bring scalability to our video streaming platform

Now let’s turn to scalability. For our customers, this means being able to reach more consumers, on more devices, without increasing their effort or reducing the quality of the user experience. For us, it’s also about being able to meet the needs of all our customers with a single platform and reducing the need for custom code, while still offering scope to add a custom “skin” to the user experience. 

We’re doing this by leveraging containerization and microservices wherever possible. This means we’re increasingly able to switch front-end and backend modules on and off for individual customers without impacting other parts of their applications or content preparation workflows. This is something we’ve been working on for some time, but we’re really accelerating this work in 2022 to fully deliver on our modular promise. 

Putting data at the heart of everything we do

The final piece of the puzzle is data. We’ve been working hard for over a year to enhance our data collection capabilities across our platform. More visibility of data is good news for us and our customers. With access to thousands of data points across the Videostage backend, Backstage integration layer, Appstage front-end applications and the video player platform, we are far better equipped to identify any issues that arise and take proactive steps to resolve them. We’re also working on dashboards and other tools that will expose more and more of this data to our customers. This will give them actionable insights on user behavior and identify trends that will help them increase engagement and revenue from their content. 

Once again, standardization is the watchword. We are transitioning towards a single, cloud-based data lake that gathers information from all our Mods. 

A platform for growth

As the name suggests, 24i Mod Studio is a creative endeavor that is constantly growing and developing. An increasing number of our Mods are cloud-hosted and others are being transitioned now so that we can offer a fully hosted and managed TV as a Service (TVaaS) solution as well as our current hybrid TVaaS offering.

There’s still work to be done on our mission of standardization, scalability and data-centric product development. But we are excited about the journey that Mod Studio is taking us on - it’s our modular, modifiable approach to the demands of our customers and their very modern consumers.

If you’d like to talk to one of our experts about what the Mod Studio video streaming platform can do for your business, why not get in touch.

By Thomas Christensen, CTO at 24i

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