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Keith Wymbs Head

Live Streamed Linear: A Competitive Necessity

Increasingly, consumers expect their video anywhere, on any device and want to view that content with DDVR controls like time delay, pause, or repeat.

Between 2011 and early 2014, the number of urban television consumers watching time-shifted content increased from 30% to 43%. As a result, live streamed linear feeds of sports, news and entertainment content are becoming a competitive necessity.

Pay-TV operators can add value to live broadcasts by creating VOD assets in real time. Though customer satisfaction and loyalty are important objectives for operators, so too is monetization. Live-to-VOD capabilities offer new ways to enrich live TV experiences and package live content alongside targeted advertising.

Fixed Function, Hardware-based Infrastructures Cannot Keep Up

To keep a competitive edge, content providers also need to be able to easily prepare their technology infrastructures for live linear streaming at the lowest possible total cost of ownership. That strategy starts with a continuously upgradeable video processing and delivery infrastructure that can bring premium live-streamed content to viewers no matter what device they’re using or where they are. Fixed-function hardware might offer good performance initially, but can be quickly surpassed by more cost-effective and highly-adaptive options. A software-defined video processing platform provides far greater flexibility and scalability, while extending the useful life of infrastructures as the industry evolves. By leveraging the most powerful general purpose programmable processors, the power and efficiency of a software platform can follow the same rate of performance and cost enhancements as standard IT infrastructure.

Software-Defined Video Enables Live-to-VOD

The flexibility of a software-defined video processing approach allows content providers to offer premium live content while extracting unmined value from that same content. They can enhance core live linear streaming services with catch-up TV functionality and multiscreen delivery. By integrating ad insertion capabilities, operators can even generate additional revenues through targeted advertising.

By supporting third party integrations, a software platform can allow DRM, ad-servers, and other video functions to be fully integrated into a unified system. Modular software-based platforms can also support a multitude of optional add-ons including video processing specific to device profiles, just-in-time packaging, or audio transcoding. Live-to-VOD features such as nPVR and catch-up TV can also be supported through modular software components. Other possibilities could include video analytics, content protection systems and ad-servers.

When built upon a software platform, a live-to-VOD system can quickly scale up through ground or cloud-based video processing. As processing and storage capacities of cloud infrastructures improve, video processing can benefit from increased performance while legacy hardware can be repurposed for less capacity-hungry applications.

Overcoming Live-to-VOD Multiscreen Challenges

Live-to-VOD services can be adapted to second screen devices such as PCs, smartphones and tablets. However, formatting live-to-VOD content to fit second screen devices is not as straightforward as simply playing back content on a TV set.

A live-to-VOD service needs to be able to repackage content, using recorded catch-up TV or nPVR content as mezzanine files, to a wide variety of devices supported by the pay-TV operator. The system needs to be both scalable and flexible to support edge servers and third party CDNs. With premium pay-TV content, it is also important that live-to-VOD services incorporate DRM technology to protect valuable content regardless of the device used for playback.

Whether it’s catch-up, start-over, nPVR, or pause TV, each live-to-VOD service implementation must also take into account the different types of screens and networks in use. Bandwidth, storage, monetization and security concerns can lead to complications that are quickly multiplied by the myriad viewer devices and scenarios involved.

By relying on a software-based approach rather than fixed-function hardware, live-to-VOD systems can be more easily upgraded to embrace new standards and features as they emerge. By also including a just-in-time (JIT) packager that can adapt video streams to network and device parameters in real time, pay-TV operators can be prepared for whatever comes next. Leading cable and satellite operators are already using software-defined video processing to enable multiscreen TV and time-shifting features. As the price to performance ratios of off-the-shelf hardware continue to improve and private cloud IT capabilities mature, the business case for shifting traditional video encoding and multiplexing to software-defined video systems is now compelling.

Box out: A New Video Delivery Platform for Advancing Live-to-VOD:

Elemental Delta Elemental’s video processing and multiscreen delivery solutions are all built with a software-based approach. This allows for the rapid addition of new live-to-VOD features and support for new types of devices as they are introduced to the market. For example, the Elemental Delta video delivery platform supports multiscreen delivery of advanced live-to-VOD services such as catch-up TV, start-over TV, and nPVR. The IP video delivery solution lowers storage, bandwidth and transit costs and helps content providers mitigate distribution expense by taking ownership of greater portions of the delivery infrastructure.

About the author

Keith Wymbs HeadKeith Wymbs, VP Marketing, Elemental (