May 17, 2019

OTT: Where Does Satellite Fit In?

The way we consume content is evolving, and one of the principal changes is the fact that we want to view what we want, whenever and wherever we want. This is having a huge effect on the popularity of streaming and on-demand services. So where does satellite fit into this new broadcasting landscape? Hans Massart, Market Director Broadcast at Newtec finds out.

As consumers of content, our habits are changing. We like to watch what we want, whenever and wherever we want – and this is a trend that is not going to go away. Demand for Over-The-Top (OTT) services is skyrocketing as people flock to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu to watch the latest and most talked-about shows. For satellite operators, this has led to concerns over the long-term future of linear TV which has been their core business for so long. However, satellite also has a critical role to play despite the fact that it has not previously been viewed as compatible with OTT services. The satellite industry is already working out where it fits in to the future of broadcasting.

A Shift in Viewing Habits

According to a recent Unisphere report, when it comes to OTT viewership, the streaming media industry has a surprising prediction for the traditional cable and broadcast industries: OTT viewership will overtake traditional viewing before 2020. With billions of connected devices such as phones and tablets at people’s fingertips, it’s no wonder that users are turning to new ways to consume content: anytime, anywhere and on any device. It is essential that service providers offer content that is ready to be viewed on consumer devices. However, at the same time, it is imperative to keep costs under control.

Growing traffic is a fundamental challenge when broadcasting popular content – especially live – to a wide audience. Bandwidth needs to be used efficiently and traffic needs to be minimized.

Content Distribution Network (CDN) significantly reduces traffic on the distribution backbone by storing multiple copies of the same content as close as possible to the consumer. At the same time, start latency is minimized as well as buffering of the content.

Converting as much unicast transmission as possible to multicast transmission avoids sending multiple copies of the same content across the network, thus saving a huge amount of bandwidth.

Whether the receiving device is a professional receiver, for reception at cellular towers (3G/4G/5G) or ATSC 3.0 towers, or Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) used in the home or at a business, they can both be equipped to receive multicast traffic and host a CDN.

Broadcast transmission is integral to successful content distribution. And at the heart of that is a traditionally overlooked solution: satellite.

To summarize, the benefits of satellite transmission are:

  • satellite delivers content efficiently over a vast geographical area;
  • it can be cost-effectively scaled to a growing population of receivers;
  • it addresses increasing resolutions and bitrates of content;
  • it can be easily scaled to address more content;
  • it is available to remote sites when no other communication path is possible
  • it can be used to offload congested terrestrial backbones.

Whether it is used to deliver high quality content to Direct-to-Home (DTH) CPE or whether it is to offload congested terrestrial backbones for live content or to feed the CDNs with popular content, for successful roll-out of OTT services, satellite is the ideal tool.

Main Challenges and Solutions

As already referenced, efficient transmission is crucial to keep costs under control. And Newtec has always been at the forefront of efficient satellite distribution technologies, as evidenced in our contributions to the DVB-S2X standard.

Another challenge for the broadcast sector is to streamline operations and differentiate from competitors on Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE).

CDN Analytics allows a service provider to optimize its operations. Newtec Dialog®, our multiservice VSAT platform, can provide the required return path for CDN Analytics in the event that no other return path exists in cases where the receiver is a CPE or a redistribution site.

Bi-directional communication also allows operation of Digital Rights Management in the Cloud, which reduces complexity for CPE.

New Opportunities

For distribution of content, we see an important role for our VSAT platform, Newtec Dialog.

While the forward pipe will be used to efficiently transport live content and feed the edge CDN storage servers with popular content, the return channel can be used to feed back CDN Analytics and make Cloud-based DRM possible in cases where no other terrestrial return channel exists.

For newsgathering, as well as sports and events coverage, Newtec Dialog has been very successful in providing a solution. The platform provides another resource in the toolkit that remote camera crews can use to increase the availability of their connection to the studio or the internet, by blending in IP satellite with other IP media in a flexible way. It can provide them with high throughput capacity which they may need to cover UHD in contribution quality or multi-camera events. The Newtec Dialog solution fits perfectly into the world of mobile journalism.

The success of our solution is backed up by our co-operation with different service providers such as Network Innovations (Maverick), Dejero/Intelsat (CellSat) and SES/MX1 (OU Flex), as well as Tier-1 broadcasters, such as BBC.

Away from broadcast, we also remain focused on High Throughput Satellite (HTS) architectures and helping customers monetize their offerings by ensuring the technology on the ground matches the innovations in the sky, especially in high value markets such as mobility where very high throughput is needed to satisfy demand. With 4G still growing and 5G on the horizon, we also see a lot of opportunity in the mobile market, with satellite providing an ideal solution for cellular backhaul.

What customers want

In general, our customers are looking for different solutions to stay relevant and address markets as they evolve.

Newtec has many different types of customers. For DTH operators, an important consideration going forward will be addressing multi-screen devices in an efficient way. For Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) service providers, relying on a system which provides resilience, capacity and ease-of-use, blending satellite and terrestrial communication links, and a pay-per-event billing system will be a means to stay in business. For satellite ISPs, it may be the addition of video content on top of broadband services. For teleports, extending distribution services beyond satellite will be key to staying relevant.

As with most businesses, our customers care about their bottom line and delivering the best possible service to their subscribers. At Newtec, we address this through our whole technology portfolio which is designed to maximize the space segment, therefore reducing operational costs, and delivering the best performance.