QoE - The dire need for an OTT Service

September 08, 2016


With the proliferation of smart devices such as phones, TVs, tablets etc., media viewing is not restricted to the Television only and is being watched everywhere on every type of device that supports media viewing.

The audio-video content is delivered via OTT to these multi-screen devices over a communication service provider’s network. The availability of media ‘Anywhere’ has resulted in the peak bandwidth utilization of the CSP. Customer sensitivity is high because of comparison with regular HD broadcast.

OTT differs from the traditional way of viewing video in many ways. However, primarily it is the network bandwidth, access network, delivery network, compression and the capability of the video playing application that affects the user’s viewing experience. Identification and measurement of the metrics related to the QoS of streaming service is termed as QoE or Quality of Experience.

The statistical measurement of the QOE metrics, and subsequently acting on the analysis would enable service providers to find ways to improve subscriber engagement, enhance monetization opportunities and optimize viewing experience.

QoE in OTT Delivery – Challenges for Service Providers:

Imagine the feeling, when a viewer miss a second during a critical game being watched during a live event. The ramifications would be sour for the service provider.

The last decade has observed an exponential growth in the video delivery via Over-the-Top players. The service was initially provided by leading OTT providers in certain regions only, but in the last couple of years or so, the service has outreached to different geographical areas. Though the service is still in nascent stage yet the market is getting cluttered as more service providers are coming of age and competing to provide best of the service.

All this has been achieved because of the connected world. With the proliferation of multitude of devices, networks and customers rightfully demanding value for money, the challenges for the OTT service providers to deliver the best quality experience are increasing at a significant rate.

The ground work has been done, foundation is laid and services are getting delivered. But like every product or service, this service is not an exception and demands optimized quality of viewing experience. Because of degradation of services, the service providers are facing challenges that impact both advertisement-based and subscription-based monetization. These challenges can only be resolved if the following key questions can be answered by service providers.

  • How can I avoid subscriber churn out?
  • Is there a way I can find out what is happening in the delivery network?
  • What actions can be taken to optimize the service delivery?
  • Which component of the complete delivery chain is responsible for degraded services, is it the network, CDN or device itself?
  • How do I increase revenue?
  • Why the content viewing in a particular geographical area is below expectation?
  • Is there a way I can predict the behavior of my service for the next event launch?
  • Which titles are trending and what is the correlation between confounding factors and the quality of the experience for the content being watched?

QoE Measurement:

In order to answer the mentioned key questions, the service needs to be monitored in real time. Consumer behavior with respect to what is happening in the delivery network must be measured to infer its quality of experience. On a high level, the following figure indicates the components that play vital role in providing the best viewing experience. Correspondingly, the metrics resulted from the periodic and stochastic events need to be captured in real time for statistical analysis.

Following are some of the key metrics that can provide a composite view of the service.

  1. Device and Application Device Profile, title details and subscriber information
  2. Player Stalls, Join time, video play time, User Actions
  3. ABR Protocol Profile details, Fragment Details
  4. Access Network Bandwidth, IP address, Network Type, Traffic details, Location

By measuring and analyzing the control, engagement and confounding parameters, the QoE solution can produce quality metrics that can help ascertain:

  • Subscriber behavior analytics
  • A hierarchical view of the metrics being observed in the network
  • Complete view of a session
  • Advanced search and aggregation
  • Fault prediction based on time slicing window.
  • Multidimensional views for correlating different metrics.
  • Location based views for displaying current activities.

Benefits and Advantages:

A service provider can claim to have a functional OTT Service, however if it is not attributed by the quality, the sustenance of it can be jeopardized.  There are multitude of benefits and advantages for both new and existing service providers. Following are some broader effects and outcomes of a structured, planned and diligent QoE measurement approach:

  • Subscriber retention: It would be possible to analyze the subscriber viewing behavior with respect to different parameters such as:
    • Location, Device, Network Type, Title type, Genres etc.

And the service can be optimized based on these factors.

  • Service Excellence:  Complete network view and the way service is delivered can assist a service provider in choosing:
    • Managing different ABR profiles.
    • Comparing CDNs and can help in decision making to choose edge servers in different regions
    • Device profiling to optimize service by identifying issues in certain types of devices.
  • Effective Cost management: With QoE solution and the acceptably accurate analysis available, the service provider can optimize it resources that are used for delivering the OTT Service.

The Way Forward:

As the world is getting connected, networks delivering high throughput and bandwidth, OTT is the way for video delivery in future for industries like entertainment, education, hotels and hospitality, religious and many more. Though the content would play a key role, yet the quality of delivery and experience is must. Thus, a cost-effective QoE model would be critical – ensuring objective measurement and accuracy. Additionally, forecasting and consistent issue finding will immensely influence the gradual maturity of the QoE solutions. The competition in the OTT world is going to soar and the service providers would be under tremendous pressure to monetize their service. QoE measurements would play significantly large role in quantifying this qualitative delivery.

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