For the media industry, getting ahead of delivery issues in 2020 will be key to winning the Streaming Wars. As consumers are offered more choices for their media and entertainment enjoyment, there are four things to focus on to be competitive and to accelerate business results:
- Validating HDR Video
- Balancing Viewer Experience and Costs
- Fixing Processing and Delivery Issues
- Increasing Viewership and Improving Monetization
To the Universe and Beyond, With Higher Definition
To be competitive in the age of streaming, superior content is a necessity. HDR is the emerging format that can deliver amazing clarity to high definition imagery. While there may be several dominant versions—HDR10, HDR 10+, Dolby Vision and HLG—one thing is clear: all TV’s going forward will strive to achieve the picture quality obtained with this type of content.
Because HDR is a new format, there are a number of things to consider in terms of how best to process and deliver it to the end-viewer. HDR’s main challenge is to achieve a consistent experience across a wide variety of display devices. Older quality measurements like PSNR, VMAF or Structural Similarity (SSIM) can’t evaluate things like:
- The existence of many varying parameters in HDR ecosystems, including the big impact of device capability in rendering HDR content;
- Peak brightness; color richness;
- New electro-optical transfer functions (EOTFs);
Wide color gamut and dynamic range.
HDR content is very complex; thus, a future-proof metric is needed to ensure it is properly processed and delivered.
“Why do this now”?
It will take time to get the HDR workflow tuned. Those who start early, like Netflix and Amazon Prime, will become the yardstick against which all the rest of the services are measured.
X-ray Vision to Control Workflow Costs
A key business goal for broadcasters, streaming services and aggregators is to achieve optimal viewer experiences while balancing costs. While not all content is created equal, recent technology advances make it more affordable for providers to deliver the desired viewer experiences per scene, asset, or channel, ensuring workflows are optimally tuned.
Measuring cross-platform content (bitrates, sizes, resolutions, display devices) and assigning a linear score of 0-100 enables comparison of viewer experiences in varying files using an apples to apples measurement. The result is being able to create the best content, at the right budget, for every platform. In addition, this prevents “garbage in” situations in which no amount of tweaking can improve the viewer experience.
Fixing Processing and Delivery Issues
In situations where source content is great but viewer experiences are not, the optimal way to determine the source of the problem is to compare video scores at multiple points in the delivery chain. This allows you to pinpoint in real time where the problem occurred. The same approach can be used to detect and measure some of the most common subscriber complaints such as: audio sync, latency, video freeze, and macroblocking issues.
Traditionally it took Pay-TV 2-3 weeks to figure out the root cause of some of these issues. It is now possible to monitor feeds from trucks, cable companies, content distributors or even player playback, and receive alerts to hard-to-catch issues and in real time.
Viewer Experience Visibility Makes Better Partnerships
Fixing delivery issues also involves knowing how vendors are affecting viewer experiences. Measuring content before and after suppliers touch it ensures that everything is working as it should be and enables visibility into ongoing operations. Providers can also create viewer experience guidelines based on these measurements for hand-off points.
It is essential that providers have clarity on everything they are delivering. Understanding what the best quality is for the viewer, managing this within requirements for cross device delivery and transmission costs, and maintaining the quality levels or artistic integrity customers expect are all pieces of the puzzle.
Across all monetization strategies (SVOD, AVOD or combination like Pay TV), subscribers expect great viewer experience and service. Viewer experience scores can be used to identify when subscribers stopped watching or abandoned content. These insights are integral to the streaming business profit formula:
viewer happiness + the right viewer experience level = less churn and higher profits.
For subscription and pay-per-use customers, content needs to be stellar, since they are paying for the experience. Maximizing viewer engagement by providing the right content experience level will keep revenue up. For AVODs, keeping video quality at the expected level is important to ensuring that subscribers keep watching, enhancing monetization opportunities. AVODs also need to identify if all ad placement opportunities are being used, driving revenue up.
The combination of increasing viewership, decreasing abandonment and maximizing ad placement will have a profound impact on profitability. Streaming providers ignore this at their peril.
That’s a Wrap!
To win the Streaming Wars in 2020, providers need to deliver all of the formats viewers expect, while improving monetization, controlling workflow costs and selecting the best vendors. Each can be a complicated deliverable, but clear, objective measurements eliminate guesswork, provide a clear view of the viewer experience and enable you to know where you line up – strengthening competitive positions and the bottom line.
By following the four recommendations above, media companies can be confident they will be Streaming Ahead in 2020.