What’s working, and what’s not with OTT video experience

Published December 11th, 2017

At OTT TV World Summit in London, three panelists shared their opinion on what technique or approach they have seen that is helping to make the online video experience better, and what is not. Here’s what each had to say.

Adaptive bitrate streaming

Gary Hammer, SVP Sales and Business Development at SmartLabs, focused on one of the fundamental buildings blocks of the OTT video revolution:

“Adaptive bitrates have revolutionized viewing on multiscreen devices. We’ve certainly seen greater customers satisfaction with the quality of the video. It’s much better than just high, medium, and low, and you’re stuck with whichever one you chose.”

Virtual channels

Barney Withers Green, Sales Director, Media & Entertainment Solutions EMEA at Verizon Digital Media, zeroed in on the oldest form of video distribution, the linear channel. However, the way these channels are being put together online is undergoing a quiet revolution:

“The concept of virtual linear, or pop-up channels. Gone are days when you can just deliver a prescribed channel. Whatever your content, you can create an engaging, customized channel. Our customizers have seen a huge amount of success with this.”

Data delivers hidden truths

Data is one area that is receiving a huge amount of focus in the media industry. Henrik Eklund, CEO at Newstag, is seeing a lot of user data since his news video service launched. Moreover, aspects of the aggregate data have surprised him:

“What surprised us the most is when we launched this concept of crowd curation and looked at the aggregate data, we assumed it would be really narrow and be about the Kardashians and Trump. But that’s not really the fact.”

Recommendations

One of the areas where user data is applied most frequently is in the area of content recommendations. Mr. Hammer does not believe recommendations are necessarily helpful to everyone, especially pay TV operators.

“I’m going to be controversial and say recommendations. In a service provider environment, the experience is disappointing. They are not typically drawing from an infinite source of content. They have different relationships with different content providers, and the quality of the metadata is often different. The quality of the recommendations is disappointing.”

Mr. Eklund also thinks recommendations have been a disappointment. However, he thinks his company, Newstag, may have the answer:

“We have a really fast-moving environment, and 50,000 stories with all of them being consumed all the time. We have data that would be interesting to translate into a long-form experience. If this data can be translated to my mood, I think they can be valid again.”

Balance between latency and buffering

One way to fix latency, a measure of how far a live stream is behind the original event, is to reduce the amount of video that is buffered by the client device. However, a smaller client buffer means the video playback is more vulnerable to freezes. Mr. Withers thinks many haven’t got the balance right yet:

“Latency is the big thing we are seeing lately. People are trying to get the most out of HLS, trying to balance buffer ratio and latency. There’s a lot of people that are trying to get the balance between the two and some of them aren’t getting it quite right.”

Why it matters

Not every idea is a good one when trying to improve the streaming media experience.

Adaptive bitrate streaming, virtual channels, and lots of user data seem to be working.

Recommendations and latency reduction techniques are not.

Source: N Screen Media

Global OTT Streaming Video Viewing Doubled - Study

Viewing was done on more than 2.4 billion devices, up 9%, said Conviva, which provides measurement and analytics for seven of the top 10 U.S. subscription video-on-demand providers, according to the company. The U.S. accounts for 58% of OTT viewing, followed by Europe with 21%, Asia with 19% and the rest of the world with 2%. “Conviva has seen the viewing hour growth rate accelerate over the past several years as more consumers move their TV-watching from traditional linear pay TV services to a very wide variety of OTT services offered by both pure-play OTT publishers and MVPDs as well as pay TV providers diversifying their service offerings,” the company said in its Streaming Market Year in Review. “Conviva expects to see continued accelerated growth over the course of 2018 across both existing and new customers.” The number of view plays initiated in 2017 rose 74% to 38.8 billion, with 54% of those coming in the U.S. By December, the 64% of traffic on Conviva’s platform came through video apps, compared to 36% from watching video through browsers. That’s the opposite of a year ago. Video app activity grew 160%, while browser video rose 23%. In the U.S. there are 1.04 billion unique streaming apps on devices, with 2.2 apps per devices and 2.9 devices per person. Conviva said the peak in concurrent video connections was 9.75 million. There were spikes in both live sports and original content. In-home devices, such as Xbox and Roku, showed the highest completion rate for video programming at 46%, with a 71% growth in viewing time per device, Conviva said. Streaming video programming was more likely to be interrupted when viewed on a mobile device. In terms of quality of OTT video, Conviva said that of the 47.1 billion attempts to start watching a video, 38.8 billion were successful. It took on average 4.84 seconds for a video to start, a 23% improvement from the previous year. Buffering issues improved slightly. While watching a half-hour show, the average viewer spent 0.95% of their time, or less than 18 seconds, waiting for a video to rebuffer. “The OTT market continues to see explosive growth not only in the number of viewers, but the amount of time spent viewing as well,” Conviva said. While the data in the report is based only on Conviva customers, Conviva says its customer base covers close to 60% of the internet population and measures seven out of the top 10 SVOD providers in the US, as well as many other OTT providers globally. Source: Broadcasting cable