Video: How is Technology Shaping the Future of Streaming Services?

The streaming market is defined by technology, but as tech advances, it becomes more and more transparent to the user as it not only better facilitates delivery of media, but also makes the user experience better. This article looks at the current streaming market from the perspective of Disney, MediaKind, Dolby and Twitch to discover how far technology has brought us and the current challenges.

Sardjono Insani from Disney says that’s it’s very easy, now, to launch an OTT service with the technical barrier being much lower than before with many decent platforms which have good features. This allows new entrants a quick route to market. The challenges he sees are now more in the business domain such as having the right content, retaining customers and meeting their expectations. Customers have exposure to the big streaming platforms which have good device integration and can invest heavily in the technology behind their services. Whilst off-the-shelf platforms can be very good and offer similar device integration, depending on your audience, you may have a few notable gaps between the service you can provide and the competition. Without a “smooth tech offering”, Sardjono suggests it will be harder to pick up and keep customers.

Sunita Kaur from Twitch sees customer engagement at the heart of the Twitch experience and one reason why it keeps customers and continues to grow. “What if TV could talk back to me?” is the question she uses to explain Twitch to those unfamiliar with the service highlighting the fact each video comes with a live chat feature allowing the viewers to interact directly with the hosts giving them an immediate connection with the audience. The future of her services will be around customer experience. Will the viewers still tolerate a 5-second delay? What if a feature is more than a click away? Answering questions like this help build the future Twitch. Sunita also touches on ‘partnerships’ which are an important monetisation strategy for streamers whether individuals or media giants. Partnerships, for example, allow microtransactions between viewers and streamers in the form of paid ‘super chats’. This voluntary donation route works well for the younger audiences who are no stranger to ad-blockers. Burkhard Leimbrock, Commercial Director for Twitch EMEA phrases it like this: “In the era of ad blocking, content that is voluntarily engaged with and actively created by an audience – the majority of whom is aged 13 to 34 – in real-time creates a powerful and rare new opportunity for brands.”

 

 

Raul Aldrey from MediaKind talks about using technology to transform live events as we know them now into immersive experiences such as allowing fans to choose camera angles and even clip up their version and share on social media. However, having 25 live cameras able to be delivered to the viewer with frame accuracy is still a difficult challenge. Once you’ve worked out how to do that, the next question is how ad insertion works. Raul feels there is a lot of space for innovation in the user experience including creating hyper-personalised experiences using AI to follow specific players and also, linking in with Sunita’s points, using microtransactions much more during the event.

Pankaj Kedia from Dolby is focused on the world of mobile devices. In his region, he says between 48 and 94% of consumers have upgraded or will upgrade in the coming year or so. This, he feels, means there is a lot of technical capability in the mobile device market leaving a gap between the technology that available content can exploit what the devices can do. He sympathises with the need to maintain a consistent user experience where locally-generated content (such as Bollywood) sits next to international content which may look or sound better. But his point is that content creation has become democratised and tools are more accessible than before. Money is absolutely still a factor, but HDR has arrived in low-end devices such as iPhones so it’s not out of the question to have high-end technology in all levels of content.

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Speakers

Pankaj Kedia Pankaj Kedia
Managing Director, Emerging Markets,
Dolby Laboratories
Sardjono Insani Sardjono Insani
Director, Media & Entertainment Distribution,
Walt Disney Company
Sunita Kaur Sunita Kaur
Senior Vice President APAC,
Twitch
Raul Aldrey Raul Aldrey
Chief Product Officer,
MediaKind
James Miner Moderator: James Miner
CEO,
MinerLabs Group

Video: Debugging Streaming Errors with Video Analytics

Errors in streaming often require deep knowledge that system specialsts and developers have, but getting them the data they need is often an uphill struggle. This video shows ways in which we can short circuit this problem showing some approaches that Bitmovin is taking to get the data to the right people. Bitmovin announced, yesterday, €25M of further investment in the company. We’ve featured Bitmovin many times here on The Broadcast Knowledge talking about codecs, low-latency live streaming or super-resolution. Reading through this full list makes it clear that Bitmovin’s interested in the whole chain from encode to delivery.

Christoph Prager sets the scene looking at an analysis of errors showing that only 15% have a clear reason with 65% being ambiguous. If an error’s ambiguous, you need data to drill into it and disambiguate the situation. This is exacerbated by the standard aggregate metrics which make getting to the root cause very difficult. Definitions of ‘buffering percentage’ and ‘startup time’ are very useful to gauge the scale of an issue or to find there’s even a problem to begin with. But for developers, they are like the foreword to the book they need to read to find the problem. This has led Bitmovin to think from the angle that errors are a lot more obvious when you have the data.

Daniel Hölbling-Inzko takes us through Bitmovin’s new features to expose data surrounding errors. Whilst these will be coming to Bitmovin products, they show what a useful set of tools for debugging would be and can inspire the same in your platform if you are able to customise those aspects of it. Daniel points out that the right detailed information can be useful to customer support, but it’s the deeper information that he’s interested it. Bitmovin can collate all the stack traces from problem places but also track segments from the time there was an error.

Segment tracking shows the status, type, download speed, time to first byte and the size of each of 10 segments from around the time the error was collected. Viewing these can help see trends such as diminishing bandwidth or just simply show that a problem happened abruptly. Daniel talks through three errors where segment tracking can help you pinpoint problems: ‘NETWORK_SEGMENT_DOWNLOAD_TIMEOUT’, ‘ANALYTICS_BUFFERING_TIMEOUT’ and ‘DRM: license request failed’. Because the requests are now split out individually it makes it easy to see where the 403 error is that is stopping the DRM or how the internet speed is dropping resulting in an analytics timeout. Daniel highlights that it’s the trends that are usually the most important part.

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Speakers

Christoph Prager Christoph Prager
Product Manager, Analytics
Bitmovin
Daniel Hölbling-Inzko Daniel Hölbling-Inzko
Engineering Director, Analytics
Bitmovin

Video: The OTT Quality Challenge

Quality of Experience (QoE) has a wider meaning than Quality of Service (QoS) even though viewers have a worse time if either are impacted. What’s the difference and how are companies trying to deal with maximising enjoyment of their services? This panel from Streaming Media brings together Akamai’s Will Law, Robert Colantuoni from Disney Streaming Services, CJ Harvey from HBO Max. and Ian Greenblatt from JD Power detail the nuances of Quality of Experience.

The panel starts by outlining some of the differences between QoS and QoE. Ian explains that QoE is about the whole experience of the UI, recommendations, search, rebuffering and much more. QoS can impact QoE but is restricted to the success of the delivery the stream itself. QoS measures impairments such as rebuffering, macroblocking, video quality, time to play etc. Whilst poor QoS will usually reduce QoE, there’s a lot that a well-written player can do to mitigate the effects of QoS. Having good QoE is ensuring the viewer can put trust in each of their ‘clicks’, that they will know what will happen and won’t have to wait.

 

 

Measuring QoE is not without its challenges, afterall what should you measure? Rebuffering measured second-to-second gives you different results than measuring over 10-second windows. Will Law highlighted CTA 2066 which is a free specification. There is also a QoE best practices white paper from Akamai.

“Multi-CDN is the new norm” declares Will Law, as the conversation turns to how players should deal with CDN selection. The challenge is to be picking for the CDN which works best for the user. Robert points out that a great CDN in one geography may not perform so well in another. A player making a ping-based choice at the beginning of playback is going to make a much worse choice overall than a player which samples each CDN in turn and continues to pick the best. This needs to be done carefully though, giving each CDN time to warm up and usefully affect its pre-fetch capabilities.

Where QoE raises itself over QoS is in questions of perception. A good player will not simply target high bitrate, but take in to account colour volume depth, resolution and device to name but three.

There are plenty of questions from the audience covering load balancers, jarring changes between sharp, high budget productions and old episodes of 4:3 TV dramas plus a look-ahead to the next two years of streaming.

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Speakers

Will Law Will Law
Chief Architect, Edge Technology Group,
Akamai
CJ Harvey CJ Harvey
VP Product Management,
HBO Max
Robert Colantuoni Robert Colantuoni
Content Distribution Performance Architect,
Disney Streaming Services
Ian Greenblatt Ian Greenblatt
Managing Director,
J.D. Power
Tim Siglin Moderator: Tim Siglin
Contributing Editor,
Streaming Media

Video: Synchronising Geo-Redundant Origins

Synchronised origins in streaming means that a player can switch from one origin to another without any errors or having to restart decoding allowing a much more seamless viewing experience. Adam Ross, speaking from his experience on the Comcast linear video packing team, takes us through the pros and cons of two approaches to synchronisation. This discussion centres around video going into an encoder, transcoder and then packager. This video is either split from a single source which helps keep the video and audio clocks aligned or the clocks are aligned in the encoder or transcoder through communication site A and B.

Keeping segments aligned isn’t too difficult as we just need to keep naming the same and keep them timed together. Whilst not trivial, manifests have many more layers of metadata to synchronised in the form of short-term metadata like content currently present in the manifest and long-term metadata like the dash period. For DASH streams, the [email protected] and [email protected] need to be the same. SegmentTimelines need to have the same start number mapping to the same content. For HLS, variant playlists need to be the same as well as the sequence numbering.

 

 

Adam proposes two methods of doing this. the first is Co-operative Packaging where each site sends metadata between the packagers so that they each make the same, more informed decisions. However, this is complicated to implement and produces a lot of cross-site traffic which can live-point introduce latency. The alternative is a Minimal Synchronisation strategy which relies much more on determinism. Given the same output from the transcoder, the packagers should make the same decisions. Each packager does still need to look at the other’s manifest to ensure it stays in sync and it can resync if not deemed impactful. Overall this second method is much simpler.

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Speaker

Adam Ross Adam Ross
Formerly Software Engineer, Comcast