Making Everything Happen – Managing multiplatform OTT and VOD

Many thanks to everyone who attended MTM’s latest Technology Pathfinders Executive Forum on Tuesday 11th July, exploring the challenges of managing multiplatform over-the-top (OTT) video-on-demand (VOD) services.

Almost 90% of all European broadcasters offer one or more OTT service. iPlayer, All 4, Netflix, Amazon Prime and many others have helped change the way television is consumed, allowing audiences greater freedom to view content at a time that suits them, and on whichever device they choose.

As consumers increasingly experience media outside of the living room, the pressure is on OTT services to adapt and fit a multitude of screens. Providing a best-in-class, multiplatform product is becoming increasingly difficult and competitive.

To discuss this diverse and dynamic landscape, we were joined on the panel by:

  • Adam GilmanDirector of Technology, Turner EMEA
  • Chris AlnerBusiness Development Director, Satellite and Media, Arqiva
  • Dean HaddockDirector of Broadcast Services, Babcock
  • Tom Gibb, Digital Product Director, NBCU’s hayu

The event was moderated by Jon Watts and John Cobban, Managing Partner and Consultant at MTM respectively.

Challenges going over-the-top

The conversation began by exploring the difficulties and challenges of providing a seamless multiplatform experience. Any online video platform (OVP) involves a combination of back-end processes and front-end design, but offering multiplatform functionality at scale presents some big challenges. Billing, both in-app and on connected TVs, was raised as one key issue, as was creating an efficient video workflow. Capturing and understanding the right data was another problem flagged by our panellists, and the complexities of Digital Rights Management (DRM) led many to roll their eyes.

International markets can also have structural issues that present problems you might not expect. Those with ambitions abroad often pointed to language support and subtitling challenges, and one panellist in particular pointed out the problem of simultaneous scheduling in the context of Japanese football.

“A lot more integration needs to happen… for example, Japanese football all kicks off at the same time. That’s 15-20 matches. If something goes wrong it can be chaos for us… While the users don’t always see it, internally it can be very hard.”

Though it’s a sign of success, noted a panellist, that the end consumer is unaware of many problems underlying multiplatform OTT solution. Retaining this consumer facing seamlessness was agreed by our panel to be of upmost importance.

Understanding the acronyms

Although OTT VOD services present certain levels of challenge and complexity, the panel were optimistic over their future. One panellist noted problems associated with scaling up are not critically difficult problems for businesses to deal with. Another noted that solutions are starting to offer data and insight that can support increasingly advanced analytics to improve performance.

“In terms of a recent change…we have done a huge project on data. We realised we didn’t have video performance metrics; we didn’t know what users were doing when they were in our service. Now, every month we are adding 5 million data events and are mapping these back to our accounts. Our aim is to see when consumers change their behaviour so we can get to them before they churn.”

Painting a supplier landscape

The conversation then moved onto the supplier landscape and navigating through the various vendors who all claim to provide “end-to-end” solutions. One panellist noted that building partner relationships and deepening connections with vendors and suppliers is central to developing a sophisticated product, but you have to look very carefully at what you’re buying.

“When technology suppliers say they do everything in one box… I will look very careful at everything in that box as something’s bound to be off. You’ve got to know what you are buying and utilise it as effectively as possible. You should know where to draw the line. Keep the boxes separate.”

Scale, scale, scale

The conversation drew to a close with some excitement about scaling up over the next 3-5 years. Device proliferation combined with new territories ripe for exploration created an optimistic air. The panel agreed, however, that testing mechanisms would have to improve, and automation would have to play a bigger role to successfully deliver solutions at scale. The panel noted that having a solid infrastructure would be crucial in order to keep growing users or subscribers, and services have to be aware that is it more difficult to scale-up in new territories than it is to grow within existing ones.

“In terms of managing video and data workflow the scaling doesn’t scare us. We should be built for scale. It’s coping with that as part of its DNA, but growth into a new territory is not just as simple as monitoring user experience, it’s building the support base beneath.”

Next generation solutions

Overall, the discussion identified some significant challenges to successfully operating and scaling a successful OTT service, but our panel demonstrated that we’ve learned a lot in the last 3-5 years about where the challenges lie and how they can be overcome. We’re looking forward to sitting down to enjoy the next generation of OTT solutions on whatever platform we choose…

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If you’d like to talk more about how the OTT landscape is changing, and what it means for technology suppliers, media companies and audiences, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at info@mtmlondon.com, or sign up to our Weekly Mailer for further weekly insights into technology and media trends.

About Alex Milne Turner

Alex joined us in November and has worked across both the research and strategy teams, not quite being able to make up his mind. Alex is enthusiastic about MTM, and media in general, and about most other things. He has previously worked in television production and was involved with a lot of theatre at university, constantly rebelling against his degree in Philosophy, Politics & Economics.