5 Pillars of OTT Video Streaming Platform
The five critical success factors (CSF) for any Over-the-top Video Streaming engine
Over-the-top video streaming is already the new routine. With entertainment being the main attraction, video streaming starts taking a more considerable consulting, learning, and communication pie. According to Tech Jury, the online live streaming industry has grown 99% between April 2019 and April 2020. The same report shows that the live streaming market will be worth over $70 billion by 2021.
All of the above-mentioned comes to prove that video streaming is growing exponentially. By all means, the still ongoing COVID situation draws water to the mill of video streaming, and the current growth outperforms even the most optimistic predictions. A good example is Disney Plus which topped 100 million subscribers in only 16 months while hitting this milestone took Netflix 10 years.
Critical success factors
Apart from the environment and the current socio-economical situation that affect a streaming platform’s success, there are several other critical success factors (CSF). While we do not have much control of the first, we can control the latter. The five CSFs, according to Bianor, an OTT video streaming solutions developer, are:
We will examine these five pillars of the OTT video streaming platform and discuss their primary elements in the following lines.
Preparation is the initial part of the video streaming process. It includes the media ingest and video processing, unified in a built-in content management engine.
Media ingest is the actual absorption of the live or recorded video content into your streaming platform. It typically includes live feeds support from digital video solutions providers such as Elemental, Harmonic, and Telestream. The ingestion process covers the aggregation of the video content and the collection, processing, and formatting of all metadata. The most efficient streaming platforms on the market usually provide pre-built metadata connectors to Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, REST APIs, MRSS, and FTP. An accomplished video streaming developer would also provide custom integrations via scripting layers and third-party SDKs.
Video processing concerns the cloud encoding, transcoding, and packaging of digital content. The world of digital media offers a large variety of formats and encodings. In order to operate correctly, a video streaming platform should support a broad range of video formats. An essential part of the video processing course is the availability of adaptive bitrate encoding. This feature is imperative for the optimal delivery of the video content to any device on any network.
Both media ingest and video processing are part of the digital media preparation stage. A well-developed streaming platform integrates them in a sophisticated Content Management System (CMS). The CMS empowers all media operations such as ingest, search, edit, enrich, related image processing, geo-blocking, setting up monetization parameters (if applicable), and publishing. Besides, the CMS aggregates and unifies the metadata coming from various sources.
Some OTT video streaming platforms and streaming solutions providers might not include this point by default in the service they offer. However, our experience shows that knowing your audience, especially in today’s highly competitive environment, is just as important as prepping the tech side.
Some of the marketing pillar’s key elements are Analytics; Viewer growth; Anti-churn tools; Smart content building.
Analytics provides the content owner with valuable information about the client’s behavior. Later on, this information becomes critical for making the right marketing decisions. A well-functioning streaming platform would provide integration with GTM, Google Analytics, GMP, Google Ads, Facebook, Bing, Twitter, Adjust, Firebase, as well as custom data collection and clickstream analysis using Amazon Redshift.
Viewer growth is the logical parameter everyone strives for. The question is, is it just an organic process, or can we stimulate it? The answer here is that a video streaming content provider has to work hard to hit more significant numbers. User referral and other affiliate programs are among the tools that have proved their efficiency. Social media and third-party web integration are a must to reach and attract a wider audience.
Anti-churn tools are equally important, if not even more, than the viewer growth approaches. Nowadays, when content offered by a competitive streaming platform is just a click away, one has to do their best to keep the already attracted users. Such tools are marketing automation for user re-engagement and upsell, and early-bird offers, and welcome bonuses. Virtual currency or credits that users collect to purchase content from your OTT platform are also well-accepted. Using the analytics data allows the streaming platform to communicate with the users via personalized behavior-triggered emails and push notifications.
Smart content building
Smart content building is the process of offering the right content to the right audience in a format or payment model they would accept. That is why flexible price tiering and content packaging are so important. Related video recommendations based on user’s behavior is another aspect of smart content building.
Monetization, or in other words – how to profit from the streaming content, is a primary business task. There are several monetization models:
- Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD);
- Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD);
- Advertising-based Video on Demand (AVOD).
Every streaming content provider has to find the one that best works for their business. A flexible streaming platform has to be ready to offer all three models or even a mixture of them. Some of the best examples for hybrid monetization models are Amazon Video working on the SVOD model with a monthly subscription while offering TVOD for new and more appealing content. Others like YouTube use AVOD, offering the customers subscription to get access to their premium content. One of the fastest-growing sports and entertainment streaming platforms – FITE offers full content subscription, interest or genre-based subscription, as well as Pay-per-View for the most compelling content.
Delivery might be the most demanding of all five pillars. We even could say it is the beating heart of an OTT video streaming platform. In more detail, we are separating it into four lines: Streaming, Reliability, Scalability, Security.
Reaching millions of users across the globe on various screen sizes, ranging from smartphones, tablets, and desktops to TVs, is among the most significant challenges. However, such variability in the offering is a must-have. The optimal streaming solutions are available on all digital platforms. The streaming options include web applications for desktop and mobile browsers, native phone/tablet apps for iOS, Android, Amazon Fire OS, as well as Native TV apps for Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Comcast X1. In addition, more sophisticated platforms, like FITE, provide out-of-the-box streaming to 300M+ connected TV devices from Samsung, Sony, LG, Vizio, Panasonic, and more. In-stream closed-captioning is a legal requirement in some countries and is another streaming-related feature that the content owners should consider.
The reliability of the stream is an essential factor for the overall performance. Any issues that appear along the signal flow reflect the streaming performance and the user experience. In most cases, the user does not care if the problem was inside your platform or along the line. For the user, the result is what matters, and the streaming provider is the one that is responsible. A full-fledged streaming platform would assure redundancy on all critical paths to avoid such mishaps. Satellite downlinks through multiple independent providers are mandatory, together with providing primary and backup playout links.
The use of the Content Delivery Network (CDN) comes by default. A robust OTT platform should provide an independent video distribution through multiple CDNs. Another critical element that might affect the smooth platform conduct is the payment. Providing access to various payment operators is vital, especially for large Pay-per-View events that might overload a payment service provider’s servers.
Scalability has two sides. One refers to the backend scalability, while the other concerns the streaming scalability. In both cases, they all relate to the undisrupted functioning of the streaming platform.
We can achieve backend scalability using different tools and approaches. Such are:
Horizontal auto-scaling of app and data servers with real-time load triggers.
Load balancing all requests towards the healthiest server.
Scalable session store and clustered backend caches.
Vertical scaling to more powerful instances in minutes.
SQL query routing to multiple database replicas to distribute the load.
Streaming scalability includes but is not limited to:
Multi-CDN with dynamic layout switching to best edge server;
Horizontal auto-scaling of streaming servers with real-time load triggers;
Pre-launched instances based on neural network prediction engine.
Security is a major task for any streaming service provider. Protecting the content takes place via various software and hardware solutions. Chunks encryption with unique keys adds to the security of the stream. Real-time tools for live streams leakage protection and tracing leaks back to the source are on board with every leading streaming platform. Such are:
Short-lived token-based authentication restricts the content to the user’s device, IP, or geo-location.
Real-time distribution control performs flexible monitoring of content availability by time, country, or zip code.
A limited number of concurrent streams from the same account.
By all means, it is about the experience. The multitude of streaming platforms constantly tempts users. In the end, what keeps them with one and makes them leave another is the experience. And experience is a sum of the quality of content, quality of the stream, and quality of communication. Each viewer is an individual that requires personal attention. That’s why smart recommendations based on machine-learning algorithms and offering personal video recommendations, likely-to-buy, and more-like-this videos are proven and practical tools.
Community interaction is another means of enhancing the user experience. Live viewer and celebrity chat; user-generated content upload and sharing; friend invites are just a small list of community interaction initiatives.
Video streaming is among the fastest developing internet services today. And while the current socio-economical environment is very favorable towards streaming, the customer’s requirements become more and more demanding. To address the customer’s expectations, video streaming platforms must fulfill the five critical success factors: Preparation, Marketing, Monetization, Delivery, Experience. At Bianor, we are always at your disposal to comment and advise you on the most cost-efficient and effective ways to reach your goals in your video streaming endeavor.
About the author
Georgi Lazarov is a corporate communications professional and marketing strategist with over 16-year experience. He possesses extensive know-how in the IT sector, having spent more than six years with Bianor. Georgi’s curiosity makes him dig deeper into technical issues, while his writing skills allow him to “translate” even the most complicated tech talks into understandable stories.
OTT Video Streaming Essentials Fact Sheet
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