Don’t let too many viewers bring you down

You could see this coming.  Just a few weeks into #StreaminginQuarantine, there have been multiple significant outages that have pulled the plug on online video experiences.

We’re not throwing stones here – as anybody who’s tried to buy hand sanitizer or toilet paper knows, there are times when demand simply outstrips supply – but it seemed like an appropriate opportunity to talk about how easy it is to get caught by surprise when circumstances change and usage soars.

When everyone got their television via broadcast or managed cable networks, that was rarely an issue. By definition, multicast distribution systems could accommodate peak usage and handle sudden surges in viewing, ensuring that consumers’ expectations would be met.  

In the unicast world of OTT, video providers only have control over a limited portion of the delivery chain. A problem can occur within the provider’s own infrastructure, the CDN or the ISP. It can be an authentication issue, a DRM server breakdown or simply one of too much subscriber volume – particularly as subscribers engage in “social viewing.” The problem is exacerbated by higher resolution content, such as 1080p HD and 4K offerings.

Nielsen has reported that consumers streamed an estimated 400 billion minutes of video to TVs alone during the first three weeks of March, an increase of 85 percent over the comparable period in 2019. Those viewers expect an awesome experience – every time. When systems are unable to accommodate surges in usage, viewers are quick to defect to other services, leaving ad and potential subscription revenues on the table. 

The platform of the future requires the scale, the carrier-grade capabilities and the capacity to accommodate the highest levels of service. Video providers who have made new modifications to old platforms in an effort to future-proof their services should ensure that they maintain sufficient scale and reliability – especially as they turn to advanced monetization features such as a high-CPM targeted ads or artificial intelligence capabilities that deepen engagement and personalization.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve learned that consumers will make do until supermarket shelves are restocked. Video is another matter: With multiple entertainment options at their fingertips, viewers unable to watch their first content or service choice will quickly move on to another. In a #StreaminginQuarantine environment, the most successful will be those who invest in quality delivery – assuring viewers get the flawless experience they expect.

André Christensen