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November 15, 2016

Whoever coined the adage seeing is believing perhaps had an inkling of the ease with which video content will be published and accessed over the internet. In todays digital era, the Media and Entertainment industry also encompasses gaming, special effects and even augmented reality applications. Thanks to the internet, particularly social media, videos of game previews go viral even before the game is launched. The success of Netflix, YouTube, Amazon PrimeInstantVideo, Vimeo, Hulu and many other video hosting and broadcasting sites, has proved the commercial value of Video on Demand (VOD). The entertainment industry clearly, is responding to changing consumer habits and preferences. For instance, video and streaming providers frequently premiere shows exclusively online, and very soon, we may witness big studio movie releases happening online.

In the midst of this change, digital advertising too is evolving, and cannot be left behind. Video ads have become a powerful alternative to text links on web content. With personalized content, in store experiences and customer testimonials, video ads are more persuasive than traditional forms of advertisement. When combined with the power of social media, these persuasive video ads can go viral in no time, resulting in significant reach and better returns for digital advertisers. Video clearly, is changing the rules of customer engagement. Customer support portals and even banks offer personalized experiences, by enabling two way video conversations between customers and support managers.

The Business Imperative for Quality Assurance of Streaming Videos

While the future looks bright, there is also an unseen side of video broadcasting. With the increase in the availability of video content, content providers have to focus on attracting user attention. As most customers access video feeds through their mobile devices, factors such as download cost and speed, buffering ratio, and video quality are important aspects to be assured. However, assuring video ads is much more than simply validating the video formats for device and platform compatibility. Its also about determining the right audience segments to target, optimizing the message content for effective recall, and ensuring a persuasive call to action that changes audience attitude, intention and behavior.

On the performance front, video content publishers and delivery providers need to make tremendous strides to improve server-side and network-level performance. In order to improve the design of ad systems, insights of real systems that are measurement-driven can be used. Besides ensuring systematic monitoring of the interplay between the quality of videos and the user experience for different types of content, such measurements also enable providers to optimally invest their network and server resources, and improve overall viewer experience.

Its also important to plan for performance and placement, while determining what works best for mobile and web platforms. In addition to the video formats and content, the metrics too, must be assured, before a video is launched. Typical metrics include click through, conversion, bounce and ad rejection rates. A pilot run on a small, targeted audience, is also a good way to measure initial feedback and opinion. After all, you wouldnt want a sour customer experience to go viral.

To ensure reliable and consistent last mile end-user experience, companies must maximize returns from their digital marketing budgets, by assuring all phases of the video distribution lifecycle – from sourcing to development and playback. This mammoth task requires new tools and techniques, and optimized processes and methods. Given the dynamically changing technology landscape and multimedia platforms, the immense diversity of video content assurance can pose implementation challenges. Without a holistic and intelligent assurance framework, companies could easily blow away their digital marketing and assurance budgets, without getting anything in return.

Presenting a Video Assurance Framework

A typical video assurance framework will deploy simple, yet effective, statistical techniques, to create a realistic performance workload. In addition to perceiving end user experience, the framework should also estimate optimal test cycle and realistic device mix required for assuring high endurance video content. Besides content quality, videos put through the framework need to be continuously monitored, benchmarked against industry standards, and assured for seamless, reliable and consistent long duration playback across diverse platforms. I have shared a more detailed overview into this framework in my paper published here.

Finally, automation is integral to the video assurance framework. A core automation engine integrates all framework components, also captures and reports defects, and significantly reduces manual testing effort. From a futuristic perspective, automation can be leveraged to extend the frameworks capabilities moving from auto testing video content to assuring video endurance levels on emerging wearable device platforms like Smart Watches and Smart Glasses.

These technology leaps and advancements present exciting times for video assurance. For businesses who have tasted success with pay per click and impression based digital advertisements, its time to move beyond the animated banner ads, and dive into the world of video advertising but with a balanced approach through an assurance framework that makes your video content the talking point on social and digital media.

Tapan Das heads Assurance Services for the multiple business verticals at TCS. He is responsible for strategy, delivery and ensuring service consistency to customers, in the software testing and assurance space. He also heads the Assurance Service Unit for TCS, Bhubaneswar. With over 19+ years of experience in IT industry, he has taken on varied roles in the organization. He has also worked with global clients in USA, South America and has considerable expertise in providing value added services to customers. His interest areas includes Next-gen digital Quality Assurance.


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