Is High-Value Content Streaming and Playing Properly?

By Dan Murray, Director of Marketing at Telestream

When OTT services were first launched several years ago, the quality of consumer experience was not a primary concern – the novelty factor of being able to access streaming content over smartphones, tablets, and PCs far outweighed it. Fast forward around ten years and the tables have turned – today consumers expect a comparable experience to linear TV – and they expect the streaming of live events too. In this environment, effective monitoring of OTT streams has become an essential pre-requisite for all service providers – both live and on-demand. In this article, we explain how OTT video monitoring solutions from Telestream and Nice People at Work (NPAW) provide end-to-end visibility—from encoding through consumption—to ensure a glitch-free viewer experience

Whether it’s a major soccer tournament, a star-laden music festival, or any high-value video event, you can be sure that viewers can’t wait to push play and access the live stream. But what if instead of music or sports they get unwelcome events like spinning wheels, play failures, or pixelated video?

In the case of any highly anticipated live media event, every second of technical dysfunction is a precious moment the viewer can’t get back. Frustrated and disappointed subscribers and sponsors could abandon the service, resulting in lost revenue and a tarnished media brand.

Whenever a technical failure or delay develops at any point in the streaming value chain, the first sign of trouble is usually viewer feedback, which typically manifests as complaints on social media or calls to customer service.

To keep live video streams playing smoothly, OTT streaming video providers need actionable data that pinpoints early indicators of service impairment. To be truly effective in measuring service quality and ensure a positive viewer experience, video service providers need visibility across both the video preparation and distribution journey and the user journey.  

The Benefits of Bi-directional Visibility

Telestream offers streaming media service providers an elegant solution for monitoring the quality of their video streams from the initial point of encoding throughout the entire distribution chain. Whether deployed on-premise or in the cloud, this proven, end-to-end solution monitors the quality of streams as they flow from origin servers throughout ABR packaging and distribution network.

While this powerful solution generates valuable, real-time data about the status of streams, streaming providers also need to quickly grasp the scale of the impact based on the number of viewers actively watching the video across a wide distribution of geographies and devices.

As a result of a new technology partnership with Nice People at Work (NPAW)—which provides the SaaS-based YOUBORA suite of end-client device analytics software—Telestream ABR monitoring customers now have the means to quickly assess and correlate what is happening on end-client devices via the centralized management system, iVMS ASM.

So, whenever problems or bottlenecks develop in the streaming value chain, this real-time end-device feedback can illuminate such critical questions as:

  • What segment of the audience is being affected?
  • How many viewers are being affected?
  • What problems are they experiencing when they access the stream, and
  • How long has the problem persisted?

Gaining Powerful, Real-time Insight into the Viewer Experience

By sharing critical streaming and viewership data, the Telestream iVMS ASM and YOUBORA OTT monitoring solutions give operations teams far richer insight so they can quickly troubleshoot and identify problems, triage their impact, and make informed decisions about the best way to restore high-quality streaming video services expeditiously.

The Telestream and NPAW solutions are complementary in their ability to aggregate, correlate, and analyze the shared data within an end-to-end distribution context. And, the datasets they exchange can display on either system.

This combined and correlated real-time data analysis gives users unprecedented, bi-directional visibility from both the video originator and end-user perspectives. By importing select YOUBORA end-user analytics into the iVMS ASM, Telestream correlates monitoring and player analytics to quantify the impact of network performance issues on audiences. Based on these findings, they can take immediate action, such as calling on streaming partners for help, or failing over to redundant paths or services.

Looking Upstream to Spot Service Quality Culprits

Conversely, by importing select iVMS ASM data into YOUBORA, NPAW customers gain insight into what streaming video anomalies could be causing the end-user problems YOUBORA is detecting. With iVMS ASM metrics, YOUBORA users can look upstream for the likely culprits of end-user play failures. 

This data analysis can illuminate such questions as:

  • What technical issue or delay is causing the buffering, freezeframes, crashes or other manifestations of a poor-quality video experience?
  • Where are the failures in the delivery chain?
  • Which devices are involved or at fault?
  • Why is this happening?

Together, both datasets provide the critical puzzle pieces that form a holistic picture of how mission-critical OTT video streams are flowing from start to finish. Because of this, their combined value is greater than either on its own, giving streaming service providers accurate, real-time visualization and analysis of their OTT video quality so they can take corrective action confidently, without guesswork.

The Value of Viewer Impact Analysis

With the ability to factor in YOUBORA end-client analytics into the Telestream iVMS ASM OTT video quality assurance solution, operators are better able to strategically appropriate their time, manpower, and other limited resources to fix the most pressing OTT video service problems first. This determination could be based upon many factors, including the number of viewers watching that single show or channel, or the high-value nature of the content or event being streamed. 

For example, problem A affects only a few people watching a live premium event, while problem B affects more viewers; however, they’re watching a lower priority channel. Or maybe most of the viewers are having a good viewing experience, except for a handful of people who happened to access the backup stream. Or perhaps a particular encoder is not sending packets correctly and the entire audience is impacted. 

Streaming video providers can use end-user impact analysis to determine where they should apply their operational resources to troubleshoot, contain, and fix problems, based upon how many viewers are affected and the value of the content they are consuming. If problems can be fixed immediately, the viewing quality may be preserved or salvaged for the rest of the show.

Having this end-to-end OTT stream monitoring capability also enables service providers to distinguish themselves in the marketplace as entities committed to providing quality assurance on their delivered video streams. It shows their distribution partners that they have visibility across the entire chain and that they can be proactive in getting problems addressed.

This “gold standard of OTT video monitoring” puts streaming video service providers in a stronger position because they can prove and document whatever problem is happening when they reach out to the responsible party for solutions. The data is what ends up shining a light on the solution, versus the politics, the parties’ reputations and not wanting to be found at fault.

Without these combined datasets—including OTT monitoring and end-user analytics—streaming video service providers have no way to know if their subscribers dropped their service due to disinterest in the programming, or some performance problem they were experiencing. They also don’t know which of their distribution partners to hold accountable for poor OTT streaming service quality or how their service level agreements (SLAs) are being upheld.

In instances of delivery trouble during high-value OTT video events, streaming video providers need to have a realistic picture of their entire streaming value chain—from content encoding to consumption. That’s the value proposition these Telestream and NPAW companion products deliver—finding and fixing the root causes of poor-quality viewer experiences before they adversely impact the media brand’s viewership, sponsorships, revenue, and reputation.

For more information, go to www.telestream.net/iq.

*The original article was published in InBroadcast and can be found here.

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