Over-the-top media services are fast being established as the future of how we consume television, film and other media, whether at home or on-the-go. Non-broadcast content, provided by streaming giants like Netflix, has rapidly become first choice ahead of broadcast content for many. So, what does this mean for satellite?
Streaming services like Netflix, which boasts more than 148 million subscribers, Amazon Prime Video – 100 million – and Hulu – 25 million – are satisfying the appetite of a growing base with OTT media services which are claiming ground from traditional broadcast content.
Historically, satellite hasn’t been regarded as a complementary technology for OTT services – but as OTT threatens to cut short the lifespan of traditional linear TV, including live broadcasts, it is emerging as a key player in the delivery of content in the new way it is being consumed.
Adapting to the Times
In 2019’s second quarter, pay TV faced its worst ever losses of 1.25 million subscribers, while in countries like the U.K. subscriptions to streaming services have overtaken those to traditional pay TV for the first time. It is widely expected that OTT viewership will overtake traditional TV within a matter of years.
As the hours of content being streamed rises exponentially, so too does the number of connected devices the content is being watched on. According to the 2019 Customer OTT Report, the average OTT customer owns three devices on which they stream OTT content. As well as the ability to stream their content on a range of devices, consumers expect to receive their content on-demand: at any time, at any location and with uninterrupted playback.
To keep up with this rising demand for content, part of a trend that shows no indication of abating, service providers need to be able to deliver it both seamlessly and cost-effectively.
Providing the connectivity for streaming services, especially for live content such as sports – which is a huge potential growth area – to a wide audience brings with it challenges. For example, facilitating the required amount of bandwidth must be done so efficiently and, equally, sound traffic management and minimalization is crucial to ensure unblemished streaming.
One method to significantly reduce distribution backbone traffic is to utilize a Content Distribution Network (CDN), which stores multiple copies of the same content as close as necessary to the consumer. By distributing content spatially relative to end-users, the CDN achieves high performance and availability – such as minimized start latency and buffering – providing the customer with optimal viewing means.
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.
This option is versatile, too – the receiving device can be either a professional receiver, for reception at cellular towers operating 3G, 4G or 5G or ATSC 3.0 towers, or a receiver used in the home or business, such as Customer Premises Equipment (CPE). In either circumstance, the receiving device can be equipped to receive multicast traffic and host a CDN.
A Streaming Superhero
At the crux of broadcast transmission, an integral component of the successful content distribution effort, is a technology which is often overlooked in the OTT debate – satellite. As the technology develops, from the thermosphere to the exosphere, it remains poised as an ideal solution to provide streaming services.
Satellite can deliver content, efficiently, over a vast geographical area while also being cost-effectively scaled to a growing population of receivers. Concerning content, satellite can be utilized to address increasing resolutions and bitrates and be scaled to varying degrees to facilitate extra content. At remote sites, where alternative terrestrial networking infrastructures may not exist or be possible to install, satellite can provide connectivity.
In disaster recovery situations, in which communication failure isn’t an option and waiting for repairs to traditional terrestrial infrastructure isn’t a viable solution, satellite can provide an effective fallback for premium services.
Furthermore, satellite transmission can be used to offload congested terrestrial backbones for live content or to feed the CDNs with popular content and its bidirectional communication allows operation of Digital Rights Management (DRM) to optimize service providers’ operations. For theses uses, and to deliver high quality content to Direct-to-Home (DTH) CPE, for successful roll-out of OTT services satellite is the ideal tool.
The Challenges and Solutions Topping the Bill
As mentioned before, keeping costs under control can be achieved through efficient transmission, which is a challenge for operators and service providers. Equally, for the broadcast sector, streamlining operations and setting services apart from competitors in terms of Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE) is a key priority.
Our multi-service VSAT platform Newtec Dialog® provides service providers with the required return path for CDN analytics, which optimizes operations, if no other return path exists in instances where the receiver is a CPE or redistribution site. Bi-directional communication also allows operation of Digital Rights Management in the Cloud, which reduces complexity for CPE.
With Newtec Dialog, the forward pipe can efficiently transport live content and feed edge CDN storage servers with the popular content they will stream, while the return channel can be used to feedback CDN Analytics and enable cloud-based DRM in instances where there are no existing alternative terrestrial return channels.
Tried and Tested
The solution has already proved itself as a more-than viable answer to providing OTT services, including IP video streaming and simulcast services via satellite. Newtec Dialog was instrumental in the ARK Mediacom, Inc. (ARK), demonstration of the first end-to-end delivery of IP streaming video content. Intelsat provided the satellite IP transmission for the demonstration via their gateway and uplink services using Newtec Dialog, establishing a bi-directional IP pipe with the reception site. By powering the ARK 5G and ATSC 3.0 trials, Newtec Dialog contributed to demonstrating the ability to simulcast content across a nationwide IP multicast network, enabling virtually unlimited OTT video and IP data delivery straight to customers.
Newtec Dialog also helped power the OTT video delivery service of Astro Malaysia Holdings (Astro), a Malaysian content and consumer company. Astro, which also partnered with Broadpeak to utilize the its multicast ABR solution, enabled OTT content delivery including live and catch-up TV to public venues, as well as consumers and businesses. Astro distributed 20 MPEG-DASH live channels for Android TVs, iOS and Android tablets and smartphones to public places where broadband connectivity is limited using satellite, with the quality of DTH broadcast.
The success of our solution is also backed up by our cooperation 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 the BBC, showing the bright future satellite has both in the broadcast and the OTT markets.