Building Live OTT

Demystifying live content distribution over OTT

Building Live OTT
28.03.2019 Zaif Khan

Over-the-top (OTT) video platforms have drastically transformed the video and entertainment landscape with new technologies, and it’s projected to keep up this shift. In this new media consumption era, the viewer’s are the king, and their expectations of content and experience decide the fate of a platform. The race to please the viewer is quite evident by the fierce fight of OTT platforms for high-quality content, immersive experiences and value to the viewers. The motivation is the boom of the OTT industry and a very fruitful projected revenue of $129 Billion by 2023 with a user base of 777 million.

Throughout the years, OTT services have been synonymous with Video-on-Demand (VoD), but with innovations in delivery methods, technology, features, and user preferences, the industry is witnessing a shift. Viewers are now demanding the convenience and experience of VoD for linear channels and live events as well; this makes it crucial for OTT platforms to establish a solid business model targeting multiple screens. This growing demand for live content on the go is why many new VoD and digital multichannel video-programming distributors (dMVPDs) are also entering the arena.

Differences: VoD vs Live

As compared to VoD, Live OTT workflows differ vastly. The variances start from the initial step of video ingestion to the final step of delivery of the stream. Besides the workflow, Live OTT also requires a different set of features, such as catch-up or personal video recorder (PVR) from the user side, and blackouts, program substitution, and ad-insertion from the business side. Although many of these features have been available in a linear TV platform for quite a while now, the expectation of a high quality of experience (QoE) from an OTT service, and low switching costs in the industry means that brands must deliver a seamless live experience over multi-screens as well.

Coverage of live sports or popular events may lead to millions of users hooked on the stream at the same time. This can cause multiple implications, ranging from scaling for content processing to the scaling of bandwidth. Streaming of valuable live content comes attached to the question of security; studios, broadcasters and event organizers want their content to be protected with the best security measures to circumvent illegal access and piracy.

As live video streams cannot be as easily recovered from a data loss and delays as VoD content, the chances of loss and failure are inherently higher in Live OTT. From a business perspective, live event streaming failures can ruin the experience for end-users as well as the brand image of the provider.

Another aspect that makes live OTT unlike VoD is the presence of time-based metadata. In VoD, the metadata comes in the form of assets, such as duration, title, language and much more, whereas in Live scenario the metadata also consists of timestamps or markers (SCTE-35) that help with ad-insertions, blackouts, and nPVR.

Expectations from Live OTT Platform

Automation

To manage a large number of linear channels, attached metadata or simultaneously broadcasted events, end-to-end automated workflows become essential. This requires automated workflows for all processes: ingestion, transcoding, encryption, packaging, and publishing of the content.

Robustness

A stutter free, high-quality and consistent video is the fundamental requirement for any platform. The platform must be highly-performant to deliver the live stream with zero downtime to have an optimal experience for the viewer.

Resilience

Smaller faults during processing or delivery of live streams can pile-up and cause more massive failures. Real-time monitoring, fault tolerance, and greater support must be imbibed in the platform to guarantee a very high uptime to the viewers.

Scalability

As stated earlier, live OTT might mean serving hundreds of linear channels and catering to potentially millions of users when it comes to live events. The platform should be able to scale up the delivery and DRM solutions to accommodate the millions of requests for the video stream.

Extensibility

Capability to accommodate the changing user preferences backed by the drive through analytics, prompt issue resolution, and achieving new monetization opportunities should be possible within the platform. The platform must be extensible to allow addition and modification of features, device compatibility, and services (external or internal). There should also be a provision for adjustment and customization of the workflow.

Modularity

Modern digital media solutions should be built on containerized micro-services and serverless architecture, enabling them to be highly modular as well as scalable. Such an architecture facilitates the platform owners to choose, integrate, operate and scale services that fit perfectly with their technical and business goals.

Protection

Content protection and security are becoming a growing concern for broadcasters and event owners. A live OTT platform must facilitate protection of content using digital rights management (DRM) standards, forensic watermarking and entitlement services. Multi-DRM service that respects cross-platform compatibility and can secure content across devices must be in place to attain continuous security of the content.

Monetization

The end-goal for businesses is to generate revenue from their OTT initiatives, with Live TV the monetization opportunities are limited to ad-insertion and selection of service model. However, in the case of advertisements, modern browsers and devices can circumvent many of the ad-insertions techniques; therefore, the platform must allow for dynamic server-side ad-insertion or ad stitching.

Axinom Live OTT Architecture

Axinom live OTT platform is composed of several individual components that do all the complex tasks ranging from receiving the stream from vendors to serving it to the end-user devices. In a modern, scalable and extensible platform, these components reside as containerized micro-services. The figure below the process for easy comprehension.

The basic media workflow for a live OTT starts with the process of ingestion where a video stream, provided by the vendor, is transcoded into streamable file formats. The source file metadata also include SCTE-35 messages; alternatively, the editor can specify the markers in the CMS for signaling the period and duration for ad insertion into the streams. While packaging the content into adaptive streaming solutions such as DASH and HLS, the packager inserts SCTE-35 metadata into a manifest file or emsg boxes in case MP4 containers are used.

A third-party ad-service utilizes the client manifest generated in the previous step.  The ad-service can dynamically inject advertisements based on the SCTE-35 markers; this processed manifest is then passed on to a Cloud Delivery Network (CDN) for playback of the live streams and the inserted ads on the user devices.

The multi-DRM service that comes with a developer-friendly unified API allows encryption using the popular modern technologies such as Microsoft PlayReady, Apple FairPlay Streaming and Google Widevine with CENC encryption scheme. Key rotation can also be performed to change the encryption key associated with the live content.

Live OTT with Axinom

Axinom, with its modular and robust products and many industrial partnerships, provides the full media workflow that accompanies the live OTT as well as VoD. Axinom CMS can manage any video content, be it linear TV channels or the EPG and time-based metadata associated with it. Catch-up duration, advertisement configuration, blackout regions, and business and content rules can be defined within the CMS, along with providing access to multiple users or external participants.

Axinom BIS takes care of all the integrations needed as well as the execution of business rules defined previously. The middle-layer facilitates ad-insertion, querying, filtering, verification and access to content assets and streams. In addition, it has several other features, such as authentication, entitlements, full-text search with filtering, DRM licensing, advertisement support, reporting, payments, monitoring and many more.

Axinom’s digital solutions have enabled media and broadcast organizations in reaching a global audience with their content. With the right mix of robustness, scalability, and extensibility, Axinom products fulfill viewer expectations in the choice of content and device, with unlimited localisations, not to mention supporting business goals with a spectrum of monetization and operating models.

Want to know more?

Rando Pikner

pikner@axinom.com

Business Developer