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HomeArticlesCable TVPlanning for a multiscreen distribution
Friday, 13 September 2013 13:22

Planning for a multiscreen distribution

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Digital TV Research Limited forecasts a pay-TV boom over the next few years, predicting that global pay-TV subscriber households will reach nearly 1 billion by 2018, driving investment in multiscreen and over the top (OTT) services and technology.

India is not very far away from realizing the dream of multi screen homes as penetration of digital cable is increasing everyday because of the government’s effort in implementing phased digitization of cable TV by 2014. Already 28 million digital homes are connected in the first two phases in four metros and 38 big cities. As consumer’s spending power increases, their expectations of a high quality of service, good user experience have also increased. New smart devices are increasingly being bought particularly by the youth who are always mobile and carry their world along with them. 

Andrew Lipsman, Vice President of Industry Analysis at comScore, a firm that analyzes digital viewing habits, says: “We’ve looked at a given day of media usage. What you see is that tablets peak late in the evening, between the hours of 7 p.m. and midnight.” With smartphones, he adds: “You see peaks when people are in transit, going to work in the morning or out to lunch.”

Desktop viewing, meanwhile, tends to happen in lunch breaks or evenings, when it may overlap with TV. New devices are not just changing former viewing times, but also what we watch on each device. Reading maps on a computer is old hat, Lipsman reports. Now we use phones. An important finding is that the more choices we have, the more we watch.

“The availability of more screens means that people are, in aggregate, spending a lot more time with digital media,” says Lipsman.

Over the last three years, Americans have almost doubled their screen time, he reveals. Even though most of us can now watch video whenever we want on our smartphones, desktop viewing is still on the rise. “And there is really no evidence that TV is falling off,” Lipsman says.

However evolving piracy threats and stringent content owner security requirements are worrying many operators who are still struggling to deliver a compelling, revenue-generating multiscreen experience. With digitization, pay TV penetration will also increase. Pay-TV operators need to make sure that they are harnessing the opportunity. They should make multi-screen distribution as their future strategy or as an interesting experiment.

Multiscreen strategy will include:

•The first step is to assess the type of market that exists in your area of operation.

•Earmark subscribers who will need multiscreen experience first.

•Create a multiscreen model that is flexible so that it can be implemented in steps.

•See what kind of content subscribers will need in their multiscreen experience. Find out what they want in the way they want?

•Check how to monetise the multiscreen service?

•Check what all devices can be supported by your service and intimate users the same.

•Find out apart from TV content, what other content can be included in the service including some live events.

Focusing on revenue

With all of these pressures and challenges, how does an operator turn multiscreen services into a revenue-building venture that propels its business forward? 

Here are some methods experts suggest to make more revenue from multiscreen service:

1.Offer a personalised user experience to increase loyalty: an operator can make customers want more through a personalised experience, which can be achieved through intuitive design, coupled with recommendation technology and consistent user interfaces. 

2.Reduce time to market, cost, and risk: operators must remove the delay and risk inherent in complex integration projects. This can be achieved by using a reference architecture that is pre-configured, templated and ready for branding. In addition cloud-based services can provide instant scale and high levels of availability and redundancy.

3.Content protection that does not compromise: it is imperative for pay-TV operators to enable customers to access content securely from any device of their choice, as well as ensuring uncompromising security on any device to allow content owners to maximise the amount of premium content rights they can acquire and the business models and devices they can use to distribute it.

4.Use different business models when monetising: In order to adjust their multiscreen offering, operators must be able to test market preferences and pricing and constantly refine their models to maximise consumer uptake and ARPU.

Methods of Delivery

Today multimedia content is delivered via broadcast networks (cable TV, DTT and DTH), the Internet, IPTV, and mobile. Delivery methods include broadcast, unicast (e.g. 3G streaming services), multicast and peer-to-peer, but the experience is seldom homogeneous and seamless for the customers. Content delivery by its very nature also includes a number of restrictions and rules regarding rights.

The worlds of broadcast and telecom traditionally have had their own standards track, based on different commercial requirements. Convergence between both worlds for content delivery results in a proliferation of technical options and specifications, which result in a "standards maze" and a lack of clear business models supported by an accepted technology. This does not serve business and customers' interests, as broadcasters, telecom operators and internet players are offering what could be seen as similar services from a consumer perspective.

In addition commercial solutions developed by different market players do not interoperate across platforms. The crux of the matter is that at one end, content providers face the challenge to provide different content formats to the various distribution pipes, which in turn generates unbearable costs, whilst at the other end, customers' buy-in remains well below expectations.

Many in the industry point to the fact that without interoperability and cross-platform solutions for media distribution that really meet content providers and end users' needs, market figures for digital media distribution may stay what they are today and investments may well exceed profits by far.

•Multi-Platform Content Distribution : This involves transcoding and packaging of tape and file assets to meet the needs of any digital distributor, whether for broadcast, VOD, mobile, Internet or gaming platforms.

•Cloud-Based Broadcast Playout : Revolutionary broadcast playout service that significantly reduces the overhead costs of a traditional NOC.

This offering combines cloud-based technologies and state of the art media tools to enable the launch of a linear TV channel to multiple territories and devices in a matter of days.

Advertising Distribution

Includes comprehensive ad distribution solutions with the highest quality outputs, fastest turnaround times and most efficient work-flows. Streamline secondary post production and the delivery of advertising across all platforms is also included.

Preparing Contentent For Digital Media Distribution

While in the past, the focus for producers has been to create compelling linear content that can move audiences and win ratings (among other things), in today’s marketplace they have to do that and then some! In an environment where audiences are consuming content “whenever they want it” and “wherever they want it”, content creators have to ensure that their content is available in the technical formats that best suit the growing number of distribution platforms. Encode your original production in a Mezzanine file format.

This term refers to a very high quality master digital file from which all other delivery formats are derived. The encoding process involves playing a production tape master from an industry standard VTR (Digital Betacam, HDCamSr, etc.) and feeding the signal to an encoder system. The encoder samples the input signal and creates a master digital file in a format chosen by the user such as MPG2. Some encoders can create multiple formats in one encoding pass. Once the high quality mezzanine file is created, it is used as a transcoding source for the multitude of delivery formats that exist, such as WMV, Quicktime, H264, FLV, etc. Invest in High Definition Masters and Encoding

One should be prepared to produce their content in High Definition (HD), determining file sizes and the correct format for online download or streaming purposes. Although the prices of HD editing and encoding equipment have come down significantly, these costs are still the sole responsibility of the producer.

Making content Suitable for all screens. Creating content suitable for the traditional TV model, half-hour or one hour programs have been the norm and these content lengths don’t always translate well to other platforms. Depending on the screen size of the devices, some of this “long form” content is just not playable, so producers need to consider that before investing resources to migrate their content to other platforms. For example, unedited car chase scenes, or any fast moving sequences with big sound will not work on most mobile screens. On the contrary, comedy sketches work extremely well on a small screen.

Flexible Content for Multi-Platform Distribution

A good editing professional, who understands these devices, is invaluable in enhancing the user experience. One can be strategic in the production process (even at the scripting stage) by making sure the content is as flexible as possible for multi-platform distribution. Rights Management and Broadcaster Relationships

Consider working with your broadcaster to put an equitable deal together so that digital platform rights do not go to waste.

(Based on inputs from Dalet, Seachange and article by Anne Loi and Clem Hobbs )

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