Over the Top TV has become a necessary Value-Add service, not only for the Telco / ISP giants but also as a “prime” focus for other distinguished players such as Direct-to-Home Service Providers, Cable Network Distributors, Content Owner Companies. Broadcasters and Producers are also lured to venture into owning their own OTT-TV service platform and reach out to the Consumer segments directly.
OTT Services have proven their capabilities of delivering Content & Consumer experience over a vast spectrum of devices ranging from Smartphones, Tablets, Desktop, Laptop, Smart TV, Set-Top-Boxes, Play-Stations, Wearable goggles & watches; and multiple platforms still counting as the technology unfolds to new frontiers. If we look back into the window of history, none of the single services till date have made such huge impact by creating its footprint into all consumer segment devices.
OTT services are bound to expand further; just like Smart Car Dashboards. It is not far when our fridges, washing machines, gas stoves, kitchen shelves, etc. will also get connected dashboards. OTT services would be the first to engage the Consumers there too!
Consumers already have IPTV, DTH, and Cable-TV etc. to choose from. Why confuse them with one more Service Offering? Does it carry any weight?
All existing services relate to the delivery of Content on a “managed” delivery network, where the delivery chain is primarily owned by the service provider; IP network, Satellite communication, Cable Network etc. The consumer receives those services only on the End Delivery node, which once commissioned, is fixed. This bounds the end-user on receiving the services only at a single fixed location.
On the other hand, Over-the-Top TV relies on the Public Internet to deliver services. As long as the consumer is connected to the Public Internet, he can access all the services irrespective of his location and Service provider. This gives the Consumer, the flexibility to access services via any preferred device. Thus, with a single subscription, the user can access services on multiple devices (ranging from wearable devices, phones, Smart TV, Set-Top-box to Laptops and play-stations). Service Owner can implement Policy Control with options like allowing concurrent access from all devices or one device at a time
Hence, Over the Top TV, equips the user to consume services anywhere, anytime and over a multitude of gadgets, resulting in a paradigm shift in the viewing behavior of the consumers. The benefits like power of reaching out to end consumer directly and flexibility cum choice in the hands of consumer together offer a win-win proposition to all the parties.
OTT-TV ecosystem encompasses a plethora of functional services and components. Till date, no single vendor has offered an end-to-end solution under a single brand umbrella. It is a conglomerate of services and components, each contributing their functional role in harmony or independent of other components in realizing and guaranteeing a feature rich platform.
Figure 1 OTT-TV Middleware
Middleware with its core services is the heart of the OTT-TV platform. Designed with fully compliant SOA standards, it integrates its services with other components and 3rd party solutions and controls their operations.
Partnerships play a pivotal role in bringing together quality components and services. QoS and stability of the complete platform rely on each component. Thus, solution partners for Encoders, DRM solutions, Content Delivery Networks and other components are very crucial in bringing up the Quality platform with optimal cost factors.
*Note: Middleware being a fully compliant SOA implementation, is completely flexible in integrating with any number of existing services already owned and operational with partners.
Content Acquisition: Integrates with the Content provider’s repositories to acquire raw content into the CMS using various push/pull based mechanisms. It can be fully automated or a manual process based on the content provider (ftps, rsync, mirror scripts etc.)
Content-Encoding: Automated workflows to encode the content (VoD and Linear TV streams) as per the defined bitrates and resolutions (QCIF - HD). Provides transparency & control into the Encoding process from CMS. Firmware, Software or Cloud based Encoders from OEM Partners are used for Encoding.
Content Packaging: Rich GUI based CMS portal to package content (Titles, Channels) into various forms and categories (Movies, Videos, Series, Seasons and Episodes). Define types of subscription packages, Create Region specific packs with local currency & Assign it to Title(s).
Content Deployment: CMS portal provides complete control of Content Life-Cycle Management, from manual deployment to rollback vs. scheduled go live from a specified date to auto roll back on expiry. Same is applicable for Subscription packs.
Content-Rights Mgmt.: Inherited from content publisher’s contract/license, covers extensive content security features, option to apply DRM protection, region restrictions, expiry based on license/contract etc. Provides fine control to tweak settings for each individual Title.
Reporting & Analytics: Customized reports providing insight into content consumption, subscriptions, and viewing behaviors. Can be filtered by Region, Device Type along with min/max thresholds etc.
Notification Push Server: Operator can send In-App notifications for offers, new content, upcoming events etc. Selective notifications can be sent based on filter criteria like region, age, subscription duration etc. It uses platform services like GCM, APN, WNS while also integrates with the SMSE / Mail servers.
Playout: Delivers streaming URI to the client device based upon content security, region restrictions, streaming profile suitable for device type etc. Integrates with CDN and DRM servers for issuing a CDN authentication token or a DRM key for encrypted content.
Catalog & EPG: Defines the home screen Categories (Live TV, Movies, Series, Albums etc.) and Catalog items for each, manage daily promos and banners. The operator can change catalog items from backend and refresh changes to the Client apps.
Digital Locker: Realizes a rich personalized experience for the end user, it provides features like general personal preferences, User defined content grouping, playlists, ordering, wish list, the choice to view subtitles, saves play position for partially viewed VoD etc.
Swipe Controller: Handles transition of the on-going stream from one Device to resume on the other device from a current playing position of the former. The user can swipe/throw running stream from his phone or tablet to a Smart TV or PlayStation app.
Search & Bookmarks: Extensive search functionality, the user can search keywords from Title name, Casts, Producers, Synopsis and other meta-data. The user can also add the selected Title(s) to wish-list.
Subscriber Management: User authentication, authorization & accounting can be provided as a part of the Middleware or integrate with Customer’s existing Subscriber Admin Systems. Capabilities to integrate with Social Media platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc.
Recommendation Engine: Personalized tips to the user on recommended titles based on subscribers viewing history, calculated with native rules defined in the system. Can also customize and integrate to import data with recommendations from third party systems like IMDB etc.
Customer-demanded features like Channel Blanking, Time Shift, Catchup Recorder, Offline Viewing capabilities with content watermarking prior to download etc. could also be a part of OTT-TV platform which is taken up on a need basis.
Ad Server: Integrates with Customer’s existing or a third party VAST / VPAID compliant Ad Service Provider for Monetization. The platform can leverage on Dynamic Ad insertion and other strategies provided by the vendor.
Social Networking: Integrates with Social Networking platforms for user authentication or validation. Allows posting & sharing Content from within the App on these Platforms.
Payment Gateways: Integrates with Payment Gateways, PayPal and Wallet Service Providers for a specific region and currency for subscription payments which were done out of In-App purchases. Can also integrate with Voucher based payment models on a need basis.
Telecom / ISP: Majority of the Telco ISP companies already own some sort of Digital media flavor as a value-add service. Few others own a complete IPTV solution with re-broadcasting rights for their own IP network. Their existing platform can be readily upgraded by adding OTT-TV related service components enabling them to deliver next level of enriched experience to their user base. Besides Subscriptions and Ad monetization, additional data consumption by end consumers also gives an additional edge to ISPs.
Direct to Home Providers & Cable Network Operators: To cope up with the paradigm shift in viewing behavior for Consumers TV segment, Cable Operators and DTH providers are piling up rich features in their Set-Top-Boxes. Though these additional features are welcomed by consumers, but they alone are not sufficient to fulfill the Consumer expectations of having access to the TV from all his devices. Globally many Service Providers have already realized the need for the OTT-TV add-on to retain back the customers and to give them extended freedom bundled along with Cable / DTH services.
Broadcasters & Production Houses: Because the Content owners did not own any delivery Infrastructure, they were relying on the partner delivery networks to distribute their content. The capability of OTT-TV to deliver content over a public Internet and a boom in Consumer devices has given a long sort after freedom to the Content Owners. A majority of them have already ventured into OTT-TV services and few others have put it on their wish-list by declaring their interest publicly. They are set to gain every penny by putting their vast archives of VoD libraries and premium content at the Consumers disposal.