Five ways OTT platforms can maintain Quality of Experience
Over the top (OTT) or video streaming services have now been commonplace for over a decade, with the first services emerging in 2006. Since that time, much has changed. The Internet, 4G, Facebook, Snapchat, the iPhone and iPad and Netflix among dozens of other services have brought advanced technical services to billions of people in an incredibly short space of time. With that in mind, OTT is still very much in the junior leagues.
Just like a lower league sports team or successful amateur boxer looking to step up to the professional leagues and win the big championships, there are some basic elements that need to be in place for an OTT platform to become victorious. Just turning up and ‘winging it’ may provide some early wins but later on the flaws will be exposed and losses will follow.
To ensure a platform is ready for the demands and expectations of a title winning performance, a holistic approach of the whole content delivery ecosystem is required, which includes looking at the Quality of Experience (QoE) solely from the perspective of the end user. After all, the user only sees what is on their screen and how it performs: how long does it take to load a page, how quickly can they login, how fast are search results returned, how long does it take for a video start, does the video re-buffer excessively or does the application crash often?
For a growing platform, however, it can be easy to focus on quickly adding features and functionality, without considering the impact on the QoE. John Griffiths, VP Marketing, Spicy Mango, gives five areas for OTT platforms to consider in order to reduce the negative impact on the QoE whilst still developing a winning platform.
1. Device management
With new devices, platforms and versions of software launched to market almost daily, keeping the product roadmap up to date is hard. Even harder is updating the processes to keep applications and their features running smoothly across legacy devices. Application crashes, low memory conditions and a slowdown in performance will all significantly reduce the QoE – and ultimately impact app store and review ratings – all before any video has been consumed, so organisations must ensure there are tools and services in place to effectively manage the devices their users are viewing on.
2. Content delivery
Whilst largely in the remit of a content delivery network partner, there are often many tweaks to the configuration and settings that can be made to optimise and improve performance and efficiency. This is usually much more prevalent in services that span multiple countries or global regions – but certainly is not limited. The impact of badly configured content delivery services effects not only video – but all elements of the service including pages, images and artwork and platform services, and therefore the QoE.
3. Client/server balance
Rarely do OTT technology teams get the time to review the basic architecture of what they do to fix long outstanding technical problems and instead resort to adding new capabilities as they go. After all – there’s nothing more permanent than a temporary fix. It is inevitable that over time in a multi-vendor environment the end to end architectures are no longer as optimised as they once were.
As new services and vendors are brought into the mix, those that are deprecated are rarely eliminated from the application stack and architecture. This often results in timeouts and delays as apps and services await a response from an API or endpoint that no longer exists. A complete review of every element of the solution can identify areas leading to significant improvement in the QoE.
4. Deployment architecture
Offloading features and functionality like user management or recommendations to the latest and greatest SaaS providers can be a dream come true for architects. Expedited roadmaps, great features, and a fully managed service – what could be bad? Often – it’s about the where. SaaS vendors deploy handfuls of services in a few regions across the globe – but often spare little thought to localised routing. Applications that sit in a particular territory don’t always route to the most efficient location to access that particular service. The result? An increased round trip time and excessive latency, which can have a negative impact on the QoE.
5. Poor data management
Usually, the customer support teams are on the front line and bear the brunt of irate customers. These teams do an amazing job in attempting to rectify the customer’s problems but often with insufficient information and data to assist them. The old IT solution of ‘turn it off and on again’ is still heard way too frequently! Better identification and capture of key data in a structured and clean way can significantly assist the teams in resolving customer issues and get the QoE back on track. This same data can also be used to identify trends and take proactive corrective action to reduce the number of customer issues, leaving the customer with a better experience as a result.
It is important for OTT platforms to continuously consider the QoE in order to be ready for championship greatness. The journey to move from challenger to champion requires detailed preparation and continuous development and improvement; the platforms that give the QoE the attention it deserves will soon join the big leagues, and those that focus too heavily on growth without considering the impact on the viewer will quickly lose fans. It’s time for QoE to come into the spotlight in the OTT world and become the star player.
The author is John Griffiths, VP Marketing, Spicy Mango