Guest post by Paul Ragland, VP Sales, Irdeto & Shawn Michels, Senior Product Manager, Media, Akamai
As we charge into 2014, operators aren’t just toying with the idea of granting consumers access to content from a variety of connected devices; it is now the standard. This shift in viewing consumption has driven operators and technology partners to ‘look under the hood’ of their platforms and re-assess content delivery and management schemes.
- Operators are also wrestling with complexities surrounding content preparation and protection and find themselves asking:
- What technologies are available to both simplify and scale my media content workflows?
- How can I create a flexible workflow to adapt to (and monetise) different content formats such as live programming, VOD, long form, short form, different resolutions, etc.?
- Will my content still be safe and secure if migrated to the cloud?
- How can I maintain my existing content infrastructure while delivering high-quality, fast and flexible user experiences that meet consumer needs?
These questions point to a wide uncertainty within the industry about the protection needed for the types of content being delivered over different devices. How can operators achieve the right content protection mix and content management scheme in a seamless, scalable fashion while ensuring a fantastic, consistent and unique user experience? The answer could be found in the cloud.
5 Key Steps to Making Multi-screen Work in the Cloud
1: Fully assess the platforms, delivery models and devices you need to support. Delivery to a variety of devices and over-the-top (OTT) is inevitably complex and can be perceived as an unmanageable environment by operators not prepared to meet the demand. The cloud can help here, but the first hurdle is to accept that ultimately, the consumer dictates what platforms you must support (Apple, Android, Windows and Linux devices, included) and which services you must offer (Live, VOD, catch up, etc.). As you can imagine, there is no “one size fits all” approach to delivering content in this fragmented environment. The cloud offers tremendous scalability and the highest level of reliability that will be needed to support all OTT / TV Everywhere services. For example, the OTT delivery of live sports events to mobile devices is becoming increasingly popular, which can cause a huge burst in traffic. It’s difficult for any in-house solution to support that in a cost effective way. As such, building out a roadmap to evaluate which devices, platforms and services are needed will be the starting point in streamlining content delivery and, ultimately, advancing end-user experience through the cloud.
2. Embrace the cloud to manage complex security and DRM schemes. Security and DRM requirements also vary based on the studio or content owner. Different types of content require different security measures. Since hardware-based systems don’t allow for the agility it takes to meet these varying requirements, operators must learn to embrace the cloud. The shift to cloud may seem inevitable, but a solid strategy must be in place. Simply moving to the cloud without a defined strategy leads to the same complexities and frustrations. Re-evaluating and centralising processes and infrastructures in the cloud enables operators to take full advantage of the business, process and technology advancements of a truly cloud-based workflow – one that does not introduce complexity, limit visibility or impose unneeded strain on existing resources.
3. Choose your multi-screen partners wisely. In this unmanaged environment, it’s important that your multi-screen solution providers can ensure content delivery in the right size, right format, and at the right bit rate. Managing content is vital, as you’ll need a content preparation, rights and content security solution workflow that is agnostic, flexible, scalable and able to make order from chaos. Preparing this content should not introduce unneeded levels of complexity into your content preparation workflow, but actually save time and money in both the short and long term. And ultimately, the right multi-screen partners will allow for better agility into the cloud. The cloud can be a good tool to extend geographic reach, bring new services to market quickly and cost effectively, amongst other things. A good partner should be able to tie subscriber information to content preparation, user policies, user experience and other components seamlessly into a cloud service.
4. Always make your first goal a quality user experience. As an operator, you only succeed (and monetise) when you can deliver your content in the best possible package to the end user. Minimal application downtime, little to no wait times and highly targeted content recommendations all keep end users coming back. This can be accomplished, but only if workflows, transcoding, and other delivery components meld together seamlessly and cost effectively in order to have real impact. Hosting these processes from the cloud makes efficiency and cost-savings a reality, and delivering UI through the cloud also ensures that there is a consistent user experience on any platform. Additionally, there are consumer benefits like channel change time, video startup time and geographic reach, which are all optimised with a good multi-screen solution and cloud service.
5. Ditch the disparity and reduce your costs. Everything from platform assessment to user experience should be seamless, not siloed. Finding a trusted partner or team that can bring content preparation, DRM, delivery and user experience together makes the process simpler and better prepares you for long-term success. The cloud also leads to lower costs in the long-term for operators: A) Removes large CAPEX on set-top boxes inherent in the broadcast business model – consumers bring their own devices in a TV Everywhere world and B) OPEX of the cloud is continuously being improved, so operators will benefit from moving their operations into the cloud. All of this makes you better able to compete.
Clear Skies with a Good Multi-screen Cloud Strategy in Place
Achieving centralisation and efficiency seemed near impossible at the onset of the multi-screen revolution. Experience has taught us that what operators are really looking for is simplification without sacrificing the user experience. A cloud-based, one-stop shop is not only efficient for technology implementation, but also satisfies legal requirements and core business objectives. With a trusted partner in place to take care of the DRM and user experience components, the content owner is freed up to take ownership of the brand experience. The trick is ensuring your multi-screen partner(s) do not lock you into their own preferred vendors – there must be flexibility so you can stay ahead of the curve and avoid bottlenecks.
If operators are slow to adopt a cloud infrastructure, they’ll miss the boat on the new market opportunities that their customers want. Missed opportunities can be hidden anywhere from improper online content protection to time wasted figuring out the right DRM solutions. A successful adoption of cloud-based workflows and rights management can mean increased control, visibility and a reduction of complexities. It is also an opportunity to attract new customers, and can also mean a reduction of costly hardware-based bottlenecks and aging resources – all without sacrificing content security or user experience.