Iterative publishing in an OTT world (Part 2)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

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Hui Zhang, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Conviva,

For part 2, Hui Zhang, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Conviva, examines how operators can move iterative publishing theory to practical application to maximize consumer engagement.

Knowing how one’s own content is being consumed is a great start; however, the real challenge is to place this into the context of the broader marketplace. If monitoring performance is difficult, benchmarking can prove even more problematic. Many publishers are forced to cobble together data from a broad array of disparate sources, which doesn’t give the full picture. In lieu of having access to a competitor’s performance, the only recourse is research, looking at analyst reports to get even a semblance of an idea of where they rank in terms of context, or even defaulting to social media. And yet, maximizing viewer experience demands clear visibility over what is normal and expected. It cannot be based simply on internal-facing improvements, but on updates that recognize the constantly changing ecosystem: new devices, platform updates, expanded access to broadband, and more. Without visibility, publishers are effectively resorting to trial and error experimentation on customers – ‘we’ll see how that works, and then this’ - rinsing and repeating the process ad infinitum.   All the while, viewers quietly click away and are lost.

As visibility improves – both over a publisher’s own performance, and the shifting capabilities of the broader environment – it quickly becomes clear that optimization must be automated: there are simply too many changes, happening too rapidly, on a viewer-by-viewer basis, for manual intervention to suffice. Internet performance, and resulting experience decisions, must be personalized to each viewer in real-time.  Yet, with the right systems in place, the opportunity for optimization that places a service at the head of the pack has never been greater.

The economic returns for making this sort of investment are undeniable. The impact, for instance, to the future value of a provider’s content when it is offered at high picture fidelity, with few to no interruptions, can be profound: licensed content pays off at or above expectations, and owned content garners returns at the top end of its potential.  Subscriber churn is managed, as frustrations with the vicissitudes of Internet delivery are tamped down. And brand equity grows, as the service is recognized as being a truly credible alternative to over-the-air (OTA) and traditional pay-TV.

Consumers might just be able to put up with pixelated picture quality, and have been conditioned to expect some loading times, but eliminating these blockers to world-class experiences opens the door to market leadership.

The position taken by many, of ‘My service seems to be fine, and I seem to be doing OK overall’, is a remnant of an earlier time, before OTT became a multi-billion dollar industry, generating meaningful revenues for top-tier media organizations. Gone are the days when content popularity on broadcast TV was solely based on content quality.  Publishers are not forced to consider content popularity AND viewer-experience impact, to get a complete picture.  Too much now rides on the performance of a service for that sort of approach to work when compelling content is more valuable than ever, and carries a corresponding price tag. Both incumbents and new entrants have to understand the entire value chain, safe in the knowledge that they can fix an issue before it becomes a calamity. When sums that are six, seven figures and up have been paid for content, it’s clear that the publisher must get a return on the investment and it’s more than just the colossal sums of money being thrown around – it’s the brand at stake too.

Iterative publishing is a constant process to optimize the experience. It fundamentally comprises three elements:

•             Comprehensive, multi-dimensional visibility over the entirety of a service’s operation, in the context of the ecosystem contributors, including devices, networks, platforms, and more

•             Accurate benchmarking across the market, placing the service’s performance into context, and identifying both opportunities and threats

•             Pre-emptive automation, which ensures the service achieves the strategic goals set as a result of the information previously collected

When publishers know both what is happening within their own service, and how that stacks up against the rest of the market, they can make strong, strategic decisions that contribute to building a profitable and sustainable business.  In a rapidly accelerating competitive environment, that iterative publishing process is the shortest path to success.

As Conviva’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Zhang brings 20 years of pioneering research experience to the design and build of the company’s media control platform. As a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Dr. Zhang has established himself as one of the world’s leading authorities on Internet Quality of Service (QoS), video streaming, network control and Internet architecture.

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