Takeaways from IBC 2018

Perspectives from this year’s IBC Show by JW Player’s Co-founder and Head of Strategic Partnerships, Brian Rifkin

Every year broadcasters and media company executives from around the globe fly to Amsterdam for the IBC Show. Personally, I have been coming to the show for the past five years and am always interested in what folks are excited, and worried, about.

This year, some of the main headlines are surrounding what folks were not talking about, just as much as what was being discussed. From the lack of conversation around VR, 360 videos, and blockchain to a focus on live streaming and cloud editing, the vibe of this year’s IBC Show (and DMEXCO for that matter) was realism over futurism.

So, without delay here are my takeaways from this year’s IBC Show.

Let’s live in the moment

One of the more striking trends from this year’s show was the lack of discussion surrounding two emerging technologies – immersive experiences (virtual reality and 360-degree video) and blockchain. Over the last two years, there has been endless chatter about the future of media being tied in some form to these technologies.

The impression I got after chatting with a variety of industry executives was that while both will be important to both the delivery and monetization of video in the future, it was still too early. They were more focused on how to capitalize on the present opportunities, creating a better experience for audiences with cross-screen distribution, and addressable video advertising (more on that below).

My takeaway: Coming out of a few years of digital media exuberance where tons of capital was being put into startups, there is now an urgency to “live in the moment” and focus on growing audiences and generating enough revenue today, so that we can look to the future tomorrow. While there is still optimism, the lack of practical applications of both blockchain and immersive media puts a damper on those longer-term conversations.

Addressable Advertising

Feeding off the need to capitalize on the opportunity in front of the media companies and broadcasters was the ability to reach audiences with more targeted ads, and provide better analysis to marketers. As TV dollars continue to shift to digital, executives around the show were looking for better ways to reach audiences across a variety of screens while also staying compliant with GDPR.

Personally, I feel this was one of the more exciting topics of discussion as it combined the realistic “deal-making” discussions with the more future-facing topics of what we can do as marketing technologies become more advanced.

My takeaway: Put simply, digital video advertising is about to get a whole lot better in the near future. Right now we see anecdotal complaints of the lack of targeting and the lack of inventory. More critical to the future of the media ecosystem is the fact that digital video advertising is about a quarter of the size of linear TV ad spend. This shift to digital can only accelerate if we create tools that show increased value to brands and marketers.

Please, no more OTT apps

It’s official – we have hit peak OTT. This may not come as a total surprise with the folding of go90 earlier this year, and multiple other players beginning to shutter their OTT operations. But you would never know that by looking at this year’s IBC Show.

Everywhere you turned, there was someone who was offering to build a custom OTT app for broadcasters and media companies. The growth of these custom developer shops is a result of a market on the brink of saturation.

My takeaway: This euphoria has very similar characteristics to the mobile app development craze we saw almost a decade ago – yeah there’s an app for that. Based on what I heard at IBC, I predict a similar consolidation within the OTT marketplace. The result will be a fallout that creates clear winners and losers over the next twelve to twenty-four months.

High Expectations for Cloud Editing

Finally, it’s not all about the business of broadcasting, it’s also very much about the creativity and production that goes into creating videos. The ability to edit footage in the cloud and upload it directly into a CMS has made life astronomically easier for broadcasters, and allow for more efficient workflow during the editing process.

My takeaway: While we continue to focus on how to support media companies and broadcasters, it is incredibly important not to forget that without the creators there would be nothing to stream. We are continuously looking for ways to make their lives easier from creating Content Scores (a way to understand how your video is performing), to AI driven workflows. By finding ways to take the legwork out of creating incredible video will only help to foster a thriving digital video ecosystem around the world.

 

Overall, it was a great year to be at IBC and am looking forward to next year’s!

 

Brian Rifkin is a co-founder of JW Player and head of strategic partnerships.

 

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Upgrade Your OTT End-to-End Workflow Monitoring with the Next Version of StreamE2E

Upgrade Your OTT Workflow Monitoring with the Next Version of StreamE2E

If you are participating in the streaming video explosion across the globe, perhaps as a content owner or a video service provider/OTT platform, then you understand the need for ensuring video quality and availability. Viewers have high expectations for online video. They want the experience to mimic what they are used to with broadcast television—consistent, high quality. And that’s where the problems begin. Traditional broadcasters have a bevy of technology at their fingertips to trace quality issues down to the set-top box. They can guarantee a high quality-of-experience because most of the broadcast transmission is on a closed network, completely controlled by the broadcaster. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really exist in the streaming world. OTT services often leverage multiple networks, from CDN to ISP to the Internet, and players across a variety of devices. It can be a nightmare to trace an issue to its root cause in time to do something about it. This challenge is exacerbated by the use of distributed, software-based components as part of an OTT workflow. Many OTT providers, including incumbent broadcasters who are dabbling in or have fully embraced over-the-top delivery, are adopting cloud-based process. They are moving a variety of functions that were typically hardware-based, such as encoding, security, and ad insertion, into the cloud. When combined with distributed delivery services, like CDNs, these cloud-based OTT workflows represent a complex morass of services that all need to be monitored.

A New Environment Requires a New Approach to Monitoring

Traditional video broadcasters have long prided themselves on the high level of Quality of Service (QoS) they can provide their viewers, but as viewers have increasingly adopted OTT services to stream content, broadcasters have tried to shoehorn their existing hardware-based monitoring infrastructure into their OTT workflows with limited success. While moving OTT workflow components to the cloud can mean abandoning operational insight that enables broadcasters and video providers to provide the highest level of service to their viewers, replicating the kind of end-to-end workflow monitoring that assures a high QoS can be difficult for cloud-based workflows. Doing so requires a new way of thinking about end-to-end monitoring so that issues can be proactively addressed before they result in viewer churn. As such, existing fixed monitoring solutions are no longer relevant. Focused on analyzing data of in-network components such as hardware-based encoders, they can’t extend to the cloud, enabling, in many cases, only a partial picture of the OTT workflow. But without visibility to the entire delivery chain, it becomes nearly impossible to be proactive about resolving viewer issues. And it doesn’t do any good to understand a problem with a video stream, like a malfunctioning bitrate, five minutes after it’s happened. By that time, users have already abandoned streams, complained via social media, and perhaps even terminated their subscriptions.

To address cloud-based OTT workflow, the monitoring has to be cloud-based as well.

Pioneering Cloud-based Monitoring with StreamCAM

When we launched StreamCAM, little did we realize that we were changing the way video streaming was monitored. Most OTT providers were employing player-based solutions like Conviva and Nice People at Work, in conjunction with hardware-based components to monitor in-network systems, to inform them about the viewer experience and related issues. And although client-side data is critical, many OTT providers were missing pieces of the picture—how encoders and CDNs were performing, what bitrates, as part of an ABR package, weren’t even available, etc. To address the missing information, often for cloud-based components, we built a platform of cloud-based agents that could watch over streams 24/7/365. Ultimately, this enables OTT providers to be proactive in their monitoring and approach to issue resolution. In many cases, issues that are reported by the player can be resolved by addressing delivery-related problems before they manifest in the viewer experience.

StreamE2E—the Evolution of OTT Workflow Monitoring

StreamCAM was really the first incarnation of our monitoring strategy. We recognized that the agents looking at stream health, like availability of bitrates, could be applied to other OTT workflow components in order to provide video distributors a complete picture of all their service pieces. As such, we announced the availability of StreamE2E earlier this year, at the BVE event in London. Leveraging that cloud-based agent platform we pioneered for StreamCAM, we enabled video distributors and OTT service providers the ability to monitor their entire cloud-based workflow.

Our first attempt was a notable effort to provide monitoring clarity to all the disparate pieces of a cloud-based video workflow. This enabled those providers to operationalize a proactive approach to streaming issue resolution. But we knew that we could make it better, especially considering that many providers were gathering data from a variety of systems. We believed that what they needed was a way to visualize the health of their OTT workflow with all the data they had.

Workflow Monitoring Gets Even Better with StreamE2E 2.0

The second iteration of StreamE2E, announced at IBC 2018, was exactly that. We worked closely with StreamE2E customers through the year on several product fronts. First, we knew that visualization needed to improve. It needed to be easier to see the health of the entire OTT workflow, to identify which components were causing problems, and be able to quickly drill into them for resolution. Second, we understood that the number of OTT components was growing. New vendors were entering the market, established vendors were launching new services, etc. So, we expanded the agent platform to encompass more third-party data sources. And, finally, we tooled the entire StreamE2E offering to improve root-cause diagnosis, making it easier and faster for users to resolve issues.

Improved Visualization

This new version of StreamE2E provides a much better workflow visualization that also includes external data sources. Like the previous version, video distributors get a clear picture of their entire cloud-based OTT workflow enabling them to proactively track down problems (such as when a specific bitrate isn’t available) and resolve them before they become customer-service issues. But in this new version, all supported workflow components are displayed, allowing the user to drill into specific elements of the delivery flow to diagnose problems.

Support for Additional Workflow Components

Obviously, one of the biggest requests we get from customers regarding StreamE2E is expanding the number of supported components that can be included in the monitoring system. Although this is an ongoing effort, we are happy to announce that we have launched a number of partnerships with video workflow service providers that enable data from their systems to be consumed and reported on by our cloud-based agent platform. These components include:

  • Encoding
  • Visual Perceptual Quality
  • Server-Side Ad Insertion
  • Contribution
  • Audience

Additional integrations will continue to be developed.

Improve Root Cause Diagnosis

One of the benefits of incorporating third-party data into the SteamE2E stream monitoring system is to improve root-cause diagnosis. When looking at multiple dashboards or analyzing data from multiple tools (in a variety of formats), it can become difficult to trace an issue through the entire workflow. StreamE2E has solved that problem. With StreamE2E, multiple partners are sharing live data with our cloud-agent platform:

  • CDNs
  • Cloud Encoders
  • Cloud Origin
  • Server-side Ad Insertion

By doing so, StreamE2E can incorporate unique identifiers (like Session ID) into the workflow visualization, thereby enabling users to trace a single piece of data through the entire delivery chain. This functionality has been developed over the past two years through a successful live-data sharing approach developed with Akamai (a leading CDN). Throughout that engagement with Akamai, we were able to consistently demonstrate that incorporating live data from third-party providers significantly reduces issue diagnosis time and enables quicker resolution to resolve quality-of-experience problems before they significantly impact subscriber churn.

The Future of Stream Monitoring is Now

With this expanded version of StreamE2E, OTT service providers and video distributors can now have a much clearer picture of their entire workflow including data from a variety of third-party components. This will enable them to better visualize delivery performance and more quickly determine the root cause of issues interrupting the viewer experience. And, because StreamE2E is powered by a scalable cloud-based agent platform, OTT providers can become more proactive. The agents collecting data don’t sleep. They don’t need to be turned on. They work tirelessly to provide 24/7/365 monitoring of stream health and delivery performance so that problems can be resolved way before they become churn-inducing events.

If you would like to know more, meet Touchstream at IBC in Hall 14, Booth D34

The post Upgrade Your OTT End-to-End Workflow Monitoring with the Next Version of StreamE2E appeared first on Touchstream.

Live OTT: The Advertising Opportunity

5 Insights about monetizing OTT video from Advertising Week Europe

Live OTT (“over-the-top”) video is pushing the boundaries of digital video, and more and more advertisers have taken notice. But to truly become a burgeoning field in the world of digital advertising, OTT monetization must find its footing among a number of issues. At Advertising Week Europe, industry experts—including JW Player’s COO Bill Day—sat down with Léon Siotis of SpotX to discuss the challenges and opportunities within OTT advertising. Here are 5 key takeaways.

 

The Speakers

1) OTT ad data is scarce and isn’t easy to access yet.

Quality data on OTT ad performance has been spotty at best, but the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) will be unifying and standardizing its measurements to include OTT. This means publishers and marketers can eventually compare individual ad consumption across web, mobile, and OTT. But accessing data directly from OTT platforms remains challenging. “Being able to get standardized measurements will help OTT grow from a monetization standpoint,” said Bill Day.

 

2) Companies are still ironing out where OTT advertising fits into their budget.

For some companies, OTT is now part of the innovation budget, but for others, it falls into the overall AV budget—as is the case for Discovery. “The goal is to collate VOD impressions . . . so there’s a convergence between TV and digital,” said David Fisher, Vice President of Digital Ad Sales at Discovery. Innovation budgets, which can reach beyond OTT and include interactive video, are emerging yet hard to measure.

 

3) OTT raises the bar for more relevant ads.

Unlike linear TV, OTT allows viewers to make a conscious decision to watch. “OTT video is in front of a customer who’s decided, ‘It’s my primetime,’” said Aurelia Noel, Global Digital Partner at Carat. An irrelevant ad is disruptive and ignores the viewer’s choice. Aurelia compared this experience to a “bath with nice music, and someone storms into my bathroom trying to sell something.”

 

One key challenge for live OTT advertising, then, is to insert ads in a natural or comfortable way that makes sense. That could include finding natural ad breaks that exist, for example, after every half inning in baseball, though not every live sport will lend itself to advertising in this way.

 

Moreover, the challenge is to ensure ads stay relevant. “People don’t mind advertising as long as it’s relevant, impactful, and playful,” said Aurelia. “It’s our role as agencies to work with advertisers to make sure we have creative that’s fit for purpose.”

 

“Too often you see the creative created first and then we find the audience for it. But it should be the other way around,” she continued. “It should start with the audience: Where is that ad going to be seen? What kind of moment am I going to tap into?”

 

4) OTT advertising won’t face the same challenges as mobile.

Despite its challenges, OTT advertising is expected to break through in a way that mobile video couldn’t at first. “Mobile was in a death trap for years,” said Bill. “It was new, hard to measure, and the screen was small. I don’t think OTT will suffer from that. OTT will scale very rapidly in both consumption and monetization.”

 

5) GDPR is both a blessing and a curse for OTT advertising.

On the one hand, the European privacy and security legislation will further limit access to data that is already rare in the OTT space. But it can also be a “gift in a way because it helps clients put together a data strategy. We can create personas using data, making advertising smarter and more effective,” said Aurelia.

 

The session concluded by asking panelists to rate industry hot topics as either “Underrated” or “Overrated”:

 

  • Death of TV – Overrated. As the most effective medium, TV is going through a golden age.

 

  • Death of the media agency – Overrated. Media agencies may be transformed but will still play a hugely valuable part in the ecosystem.

 

  • Duopoly or Triopoly – Underrated / Real. It’s important to push advertising beyond the concentration of power held by Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

 

  • Artificial Intelligence – Underrated. A decent amount of OTT inventory is programmatically sold, and AI (as distinct from machine learning) will change the ad world.

 

  • Blockchain – Underrated. There’s a lot of opportunity for blockchain to combat endemic issues like fraud in the digital space.

 

Click here to watch the full video.

To learn more about how JW Player can support your OTT video advertising, schedule time to speak with a video expert.

 

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JW Player Joins Forces with Float Left to Simplify OTT for Publishers

Our partnership provides a complete “over-the-top” solution that reaches viewers seeking premium viewing experiences while ma­intaining choice

We’re proud to partner with Float Left to create an end-to-end OTT solution for content publishers and broadcasters around the world. Float Left is a front-end application developer whose apps have helped publishers like Crackle, NBC Sports, and Viacom delive­­r content on OTT (“over-the-top”) devices. This partnership bridges JW Player’s high-quality online video delivery with Float Left’s templated apps and custom development. Publishers will be able to expand their content distribution, create premium viewing experiences, and focus on their core business.

 

For many publishers, OTT is the next frontier. Viewers want to “lean back” with the quality of cable TV while maintaining the convenience and choice of watching video on-demand. OTT content, streaming over broadband or cellular, offers the best of both worlds.

 

And the market has noticed. OTT’s share in ad spend jumped to 26% in October 2017. The previous year, that number had been at just 8%. It’s the kind of momentum that has led to very tiny, minor predictions like OTT revenues reaching $120 billion by 2022.

Viewers can stream full-length online movies and TV shows via their OTT device.

 

But setting up OTT is far from straightforward for most in-house teams. Not only do they need to stream videos flawlessly, but they must deliver them via OTT apps individually customized for Roku, Apple TV, Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV, and any number of other OTT devices. Limited time and staff resources, difficult implementation, a cumbersome app submission process, and complex monetization are just a few of the hurdles standing in the way of becoming a true OTT publisher.

 

At JW Player, we have many customers who want to overcome these challenges and take their online videos “over-the-top.” Float Left develops video-centric apps that can stream their content from JW Platform so that viewers can quickly access publisher videos through OTT devices. With analytics tracking, publishers can make informed programming decisions and eventually compare how their videos are performing across OTT, web, SDKs, and more. From launch to code maintenance, publishers receive full life cycle support.

 

The end result is a much more simplified, turnkey process for delivering visually stunning experiences in digital video. Publishers can bring their content to more screens and, most importantly, put technology in the hands of video tech experts while they get back to running their business.

 

Having collaborated with Float Left previously, we’re excited to continue our work together with a partnership that gives more publishers OTT options to engage their audiences. If your viewers want to stream premium video on their TV without cable, the time has never been better to extend your business into OTT.

 

Having problems with your “over-the-top” video strategy? Get to the bottom of it by scheduling time to speak with a video expert.

 

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