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BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY INSIGHTS

Over the Top Content Services - Risky Road, Unless Assured

 
May 30, 2017

The last couple of years have been eventful for digital media broadcasting. The aggressive invasion of smart devices, combined with Internet penetration, has made digital content more pervasive, and paved the way for video and audio streaming. This digital content euphoria has resulted in proliferation of Over-The-Top (OTT) services, which, according to North American OTT TV and Video forecasts, are expected to touch (and stretch) $25 billion in revenue, by 2021. OTT is fast becoming the new normal, with a number of traditional TV providers, broadcasters and content aggregators flooding the market. HBO Now, CBS All Access, BBC iPlayer, and Viacom Noggin are just a few dominant brands that come to mind. The existing subscription video on demand (SVOD) market size, currently at 81.81 million dollars, is expected to grow to nearly 110 million by 2021. OTT clearly, is becoming the customers preferred, mainstream entertainment channel. Even from the business to business (B2B) perspective, digital media is gaining ground. In 2016 alone, digital media spend accounted for over a quarter of the total advertising spend by companies. Another report from Digital TV research predicts 20 percent annual growth rate of programmatic ad spends. While this growth opens an additional revenue stream for OTT players, it also mandates healthy audience volume.

With fierce competition from traditional players as well as new OTT entrants, both Pure Play OTT and Traditional pay TV players are trying to augment their market share with exquisite customer experience and rich content. However, delivering such rich content through a boisterous OTT ecosystem requires QA dimensions and considerations that are not just robust, but also divergent to legacy broadcasting infrastructure, which was originally built for restrained broadcasting such as terrestrial, cable and satellite television.

OTT providers must provision the right QA apparatus across the value chain from content acquisition and dissemination, to content consumption across divergent devices and platforms. Sensitized to this need, CIOs and heads of testing are constantly looking for innovative QA apparatus – strategies and solutions that can support their digital expansion, while being in line with the companys overall OTT mission.

Before delving deeper into the QA apparatus, lets first understand the OTT value chain with a real-life analogy a traveler embarking on a journey. Pre-travel arrangements from bookings, itineraries and reservations, to the small travel items in handbags, are important contributors in making the journey a pleasant and memorable experience. Similarly, for digital content, its pivotal that the to be broadcasted video and audio content be certified for quality, before its dropped into the Internet mesh for travel towards the end-user.

During the travel, the quality of the chosen road is another critical success factor to reach the right destination at the right time. A serene journey not only enables timely arrival, but also prevents physical exhaustion, ensuring the right frame of mind on arrival. Applying this analogy to the digital content context, once the content is dropped onto a content delivery or distribution network (CDN), network quality and bandwidth are important contributors for the successful delivery of quality content, in the intended shape, form and time, to end-users. A recent industry deal, between an American multinational streaming-media company and a telecommunication conglomerate, to ensure reliable and smooth content streaming, bears testimonial to the criticality of road quality specifically, the network bandwidth that carries digital content.

Having arrived at their destination, its natural for travelers to expect a pleasant stay and a good experience personal security at the destination, accessibility to essential commodities, quality of public amenities, and other aspects make up this stay experience. Though subjective, these aspects play a decisive role in customers satisfaction with the destination. If the destination fails them, the reason and joy of travel dissipates. Its therefore inevitable that the quality of the destination be uncompromising. While CDNs ensure timely content delivery, arrival of the content at the end-point the first instance when the end-user comes in direct contact with the transported content, is the most decisive stage of the content life-cycle. While most OTT players take extra care in upholding content quality at this juncture, most of them still believe that the OTT service is a seamless extension of their existing broadcasting services. But thats not true. In fact, the very first step towards getting their organization ready for OTT service delivery is to understand that the traditional quality parameters may not be applicable and that the assurance strategy, approach and methodology needs a relook.

While travel experiences are more implied and subjective in the real world context, the quality parameters for digital content are mostly quantifiable, and have a direct impact on the quality of the end user content trip. In my next post, Ill list some, along with four broad components required for deploying a robust QA framework that can enable OTT players plan afresh, and take a new road and route for their digital content journey.

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.