FEED Issue 12

52 ROUND TABLE Viewer Experience

FABIO MURRA: The biggest one is keeping up with all those devices and how things change every time they update the operating system. It takes a lot of resources and good technology partners, but things are getting better all the time. SCOTT PUOPOLO: There are multiple reasons why a niche player might have this issue. The most significant is that they are infrastructure-light, meaning they must rely on multiple third-party providers to capture, prepare and distribute those VOD files – they lack control and ownership of many of the infrastructure elements in their content preparation and delivery architectures. In this situation, the content is great but the experience is terrible. The control an organisation has over that infrastructure has a massive influence on their ability to assure QoE. If the niche player invests in quality monitoring they can identify where in the delivery chain the problem arises, and therefore they can resolve it. There needs to be more established standards around quality of experience and there have to be SLAs amongst the ecosystem providers covering the distribution of that content. HANK THE CUSTOMER: Why does the audio slip out of sync when I’m watching movies on one of the world’s biggest VOD providers? FABIO MURRA: That boils down to differences in how the thousands of different devices play back content. It is tough for video services to keep on top of the different technical formats in all these devices and keep the technology up to date. The good news is that this sort of thing is improving and shouldn’t happen often. SERGI VERGÉS: Lip-sync errors can occur due to input lag. This can be caused by low bitrates that aren’t able to download data from the player fast enough to process simultaneously, resulting in audio that ends up playing before the playhead. As long as this inaccuracy isn’t something to do with how the video file was exported, the best way to ensure the audio syncs up with the video is to ensure plenty of bandwidth is available. This can then be monitored using a data analytics solution and reviewed by technical teams to understand if new CDNs, players or internet providers should be contacted to provide a better service. HANK THE CUSTOMER: Navigating my main OTT provider via the TV remote is an utter nightmare. The UI looks like


something that was designed by work experience interns. There has to be a better solution. FABIO MURRA: TV manufacturers have been fighting with this problem for a long time. They’re trying all sorts of things, including voice control, but it remains the case that very often it’s a better experience if you use the app on your phone or tablet. If you’re lucky, the video service might let you cast what you’re viewing from your device to the TV, too. SCOTT PUOPOLO: There are rapidly growing options for OTT provision. There are also choices in screen type. If the TV experience is clunky, you can leverage other access options. Competition will drive your VOD provider to shape up. As competition increases, quality becomes more important. HANK THE CUSTOMER: What is the biggest issue affecting the consumer viewing experience now, and how would you fix it? SCOTT PUOPOLO: To me, the biggest issue is that it can be difficult to stream an entire movie in one take. With adaptive bitrate delivery the experience can be frustrating. When watching a movie, I will experience buffering and I can see the variation in image quality at various times as the bitrate changes. Frankly, this makes for an unpleasant experience – consumers are used to watching broadcast television where the viewing experience is uniformly high. Today, the movie experience by VOD delivery struggles to match these standards, and this must be addressed. SERGI VERGÉS: Nobody wants to see buffering during penalties – nor do they want to listen to their neighbours celebrating a goal before they watch it. As the competitor landscape expands, audiences are becoming more demanding, and having no buffer is the minimum expected from a video service. Therefore, companies have invested time and resources in infrastructure and technologies to have zero buffer. The key challenge is

now reducing latency, to ensure a real-time, ‘broadcast-like’ experience. HANK THE CUSTOMER: Tell me about some of your least favourite video viewing experiences? FABIO MURRA: My least favourite recently was watching my team play in the World Cup, and watching the whole service crash at the start of extra time with the match in the balance. SERGI VERGÉS: Trying to view any live sporting content during a key match or game is always difficult. The Wimbledon Men's Final is viewed by millions around the world every year. However, whenever I am not in the UK and can’t access the ITV player I’m forced to scour the internet for an alternative. Sometimes this can be resolved with a VPN tool, but this usually results in a lot of lag. This would force some viewers to look for illegal links, and means many broadcasters are missing out on millions of impressions simply due to their geographic restrictions. HANK THE CUSTOMER: Thanks for your help. Now I know why these things happen, I won’t get as angry next time I hear the winning goal on my neighbours’ TV before I see it on my— IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN!!!

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