The Right Side Of Digital Transformation
Today, we barely realize how new-age technologies, and the platforms and applications built upon them, impact our day-to-day lifestyles. All we do is whip out our smartphones from our pockets and begin watching a series that has become the talk of the town. But watching anything online is not the same as it is on the television. With your latest episode buffering, there are wide-ranging technologies behind the curtains that are simultaneously ‘at play’.
How online platforms augment the media browsing experience
Online media browsing players, or over-the-top (OTT) platforms - such as Netflix, Hotstar and Saavn - are seeing rising demand as the Indian OTT market grows at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23 per cent and is slated to become one of the top ten markets across the globe by 2022. This development comes on the back of increased digitization and, with it, the people’s proclivity of turning towards online to meet their entertainment needs.
However, alongside this unprecedented growth, are a number of challenges that OTT platforms must first address.
Delivering content largely depends on the application as well as to whom, where, and format in which the content needs to be delivered. Every application poses a unique challenge to platforms. Primarily, the three most significant factors are the geographical location of the end-user, capabilities that are additionally required with the media, and scalability of OTT services being offered.
Geographical Location: The location of an end-user, or the audience in general, determines where the media has to be sourced from. This is because long-distance transmission causes content latency, or delays in delivering the content. Content delivery is relatively easy when the audience is restricted to a small area. It only needs the content to be stored in a single data centre. However, a layer of complexity is added when users are geographically dispersed around the globe, and accessing content around the clock, as multiple proxy servers have to be created in addition to the data centre, as close as possible to audiences, to prevent delays.
- Capabilities: Another challenge is the mix of capabilities required with OTT services. This refers to the format in which the media is to be distributed, such as web content, video or audio files, or live video. Online Video Platforms, moreover, have to go through the complexity of using and managing separate IT systems. They also have to store content in multiple formats for optimal browsing experience, since a user can access it using different devices supporting different formats. Additionally, with increasing customer awareness and growing cybersecurity threats, security has also become an important aspect in content delivery.
Scalability: Now, not all OTT platforms are as large-scale and financially-abled as industry bigwigs such as Netflix. They could be smaller players hosting content with minimal infrastructure. This limited infrastructure intensifies the predominant challenges in content delivery for OTT platforms, especially when they are scaling their operations. They also cannot swiftly tap into an increasing viewer base from a region that is beyond their target geography. The deployment of relevant infrastructure takes considerable time and simultaneously needs extensive capital investment, which can impact an emerging OTT platform’s scalability.
- Apart from these, performance is a key metric in media dissemination and not maintaining the Quality of Experience (QoE) onboard can heavily cost a platform. According to Limelight’s ‘The State of The User Experience 2017’ report, 43 percent of users leave a platform if they believe it is slow to load. However, such delaysare not only a product of the geographical location, but also other factors such as the congestions in the public internet infrastructure.
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The role of CDNs in the media streaming experience
These areas are addressed by Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) - a geographically distributed group of servers which work together to provide fast delivery of web content. CDNs have a global network of data centres and proxy servers that effectively store and source data from the closest-possible location to a video browser. This dramatically reduces the content latency. CDNs, moreover, have their own optical fibre network, which creates a private internet that is oblivious to the public internet congestions.
The prospects are further enhanced with the usage of sophisticated IT capabilities that CDNs generally have. CDNs instantly detect the device and the browser that a user is using, and then source the content in the most optimal format through transcoding and transmuxing. They can also effectively deliver live content, which typically sees a delay of approximately 30 seconds, in less than a second,to anywhere in the world. Edge caching technology, on the other hand, helps in optimum delivery of content across environments while simultaneously reducing the response time. Collectively, CDNs have an entire suite of software and services that their clientele can leverage to increase their QoE, decrease customer attrition, and ensure security.
What lies ahead for the OTT sector
This is an exciting time for the OTT sector in India. With competition heating up,it is now more important than ever for OTT players to deliver the most seamless media streaming experiences to stay ahead. CDNs therefore play a pivotal role in keeping users at the edge of their seats. With them, all that users need to do is whip out their smartphones from their pockets, and begin watching their favourite series.