Random thoughts…. VOD/OTT is changing fast into the new TV – understanding the technology is key.

Technology is driving shifts in the pay TV marketplace that are having a profound impact on consumer behavior and the dynamics of competition. For all carriers and MSOs albeit fixed or mobile, these changes require an entirely new approach to accessing and delivering content ie. VOD. These changes bring with it major new operational and infrastructure challenges.

In this new era, the ways in which content is acquired, normalized, processed and stored must be optimized to ensure subscribers have a TV-caliber viewing experience whether they are accessing their selections over the dated legacy MPEG transport system or via streams or downloads over what is known in the cable industry as the DOCSIS broadband infrastructure is key. In an environment where consumers expect time-shifted access to their favorite programs as soon as they air, carriers and MSOs must be equipped to transition live content for on-demand access much faster than ever before.

Moreover, new VOD systems and OTT offerings must be sufficiently scalable and flexible to accommodate ongoing library expansion (daily/weekly in most cases), transition to more IP-centric distribution modes, new monetization opportunities, new encoding technologies and new television formats such as Ultra High Definition (UHD) and High Dynamic Range (HDR) too.

What’s required is a system for today’s world, quite literally, for all platforms to provide all these capabilities on an out-sourced, hosted platform. Today most MSO’s/Carriers would like to plan on expanding their VOD portfolio by more than tenfold over the next two years while providing subscribers access to content from any device inside or outside the home, the MSO realized it would incur immense infrastructure costs and require new staffing with new levels of expertise if it were to take a purely in-house approach to implementing the next-generation VOD system.

Over the past several years the carriers and MSO’s have experienced firsthand the cost savings, robustness and responsiveness of managing their own services through utilization of new forms of aggregation, compression and distribution support for classic VOD.

Cable Industry challenge

In fast-growing category, with MSO’s wanting to outpace competitors in offering a premium TV service that satisfies consumer demand for a consistent, high quality experience viewing content whenever and wherever they choose there’s been limited choices. Adding to the challenge, the MSO wants to be able to bring those experiences to subscribers on newly acquired systems across an expanding footprint.

While most have built a strong classic VOD business offering several thousand movies and TV shows for access on set-top boxes, the growing trend toward time-shifted viewing of pay TV programs and the need to offer movies on a scale matching the options available from over-the-top (OTT) distributors meant the company would have to greatly expand the on-demand choices available to viewers. At the same, US centric MSO’s understood this expanded portfolio of content needed to be available to subscribers on all the devices now commonly used for viewing long-form content, including smartphones, tablets, PCs and game consoles as well as TV sets.

Classic VOD platforms are not equipped to support these requirements. Rather than relying on traditional VOD content suppliers to meet its volume scaling goals, current MSO’s need to be able to work directly with studios and TV networks to bring content on board quickly and cost effectively under a more aggressive licensing program.

Equally important, most of the MSO’s need to be able to distribute content in accord with whatever licensing terms were assigned to each file at the outset and on an ongoing basis, ensuring that it could take advantage of expanded viewing options such as “download-to-go” and direct out-of-home access to on-demand content as licensing terms evolve. Similarly, it needed to be able to take advantage of new dynamic advertising opportunities, which meant it had to have absolute assurance that ad markers were accurately conveyed in metadata associated with each file along with policies that dictate when ad slots become available for new insertions.

Going forward, all MSO’s need assurance their new VOD platforms can adjust quickly to provide them to shift and offer an OTT service directly to their viewers, as well as they would be able to accommodate a shift in distribution modes as it moves from satellite distribution with local catchers to direct high-speed terrestrial delivery over gigabit Ethernet to locally positioned private CDN (content delivery network) infrastructure.

And it needed to be equipped to readily support video processing and HEVC encoding for distribution of its content in UHD and HDR formats whenever market conditions call for a move in this direction.

Whew….as you can see there’s a lot more to “new TV” than what most think. Your local carrier, broadcaster and cable MSO really are on the cutting edge to keep you entertained when you need and want your programming.

More coming….