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June 6, 2017

Building on the travel analogy of my previous post, and the need to assure not just the route, but the entire digital content value chain, let me list broad components that make up a robust QA plan for assuring OTT content. To facilitate better understanding, in this post too, Ill use the travel analogy to explain and substantiate my viewpoint.

As stated in my previous post, most trips begin with pre-travel preparations the reservations and travel planning. The planning phase is applicable to OTT as well. Before percolating digital content onto CDNs, OTT providers must ensure top notch quality of pre-transmitted content, and also pre-empt issues as early as content aggregation. In the preparatory phase, content rights and digital asset management are aspects that need special attention. Rights management systems must be intelligently tweaked to not only meet the needs of neo-digital delivery, but also assure maximum content monetization through rights consolidation, compliance, reduced revenue leakage, and augmented operational efficiency. OTT providers must also, at their discretion, put in place additional measures, such as leveraging subjective and objective quality models, to uphold the quality of the original digital content, specifically fidelity, bitrates, frames per second, and resolution. The discretion is generally based on specific needs such as content type, customer base, and device types.

Akin to travelers choosing the best route, content providers have a choice of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) such as Akamai and Limelight, to reduce network latency, and ensure faster content delivery across the globe. Most CDNs cache content at multiple delivery points, and then serve it from the point nearest to end user access. Given the need for content caching, and paramount focus on CDN quality, key network parameters such as throughput, round-trip time, and packet leaks, must be validated from multiple delivery points. Collected by leveraging tools such as Witbe, these metrics facilitate better control over CDN services, and proactively prevent security breaches at the customer end read shift left. Armed with these metrics, OTT players can also foresee and preempt issues that could spill into subsequent phases.

Talking of subsequent phases, OTT players must strike the right balance between distribution quality and effort spent, by shifting some quality effort to the next stage Content Consumption. This shift-right strategy also makes business sense, because testing network performance at end-user premises helps ascertain the absolute quality of the network. At the content consumption stage, validation of performance management techniques such as Adaptive Bite-rate streaming, also have a direct bearing on the quality of service and overall customer experience. At this point, the measure of quality also encompasses transmission performance (adaptive bit rates, buffer time, and lag length/ratio), consumption coverage (device types, operating systems, and browsers), and functional utility (play, pause, and stop).

Finally, customer experience (the stay) can be enhanced by offering end-users a Feel at Home experience, which can be attributed to factors such as application security (privacy and privilege management), accessibility (compliance with global standards, including WCAG, ATAG, and MWBP), ease of use (enabled through A/B testing), CEA compliant multi-lingual closed captions. Few OTT providers have also invested in artificial intelligence and machine learning, to enhance customer experience with personalized content suggestions.

Through the right combination of such approaches, tools, methodologies, and most importantly, quantifiable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as Net Promoter Score and CEE analysis, OTT players must balance OTT idiosyncrasies. When continuously gauged for further enhancements, the QA KPIs play a pivotal role in customer loyalty and increased market and revenue share. Having understood the practical challenges in planning the OTT trip, its time to hit the road.

Dhasuruthe is a Quality Assurance Consultant and Architect at TCS Assurance Services with 12 years of industry experience. Prior to this role, he has successfully managed multiple strategic initiatives of telecommunication & broadcasting customers and has won the prestigious TCS Top 10 award for project managers. Over the years, he has worked with global organisations to strategise their quality transformation programs with uncompromised focus on customer experience. He is currently responsible for assurance solutions and consultancy for media, publishing and information services customers.


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