OTT players boost tech stack to ride the traffic surge during lockdown
Platforms have been leveraging cutting-edge technologies like AI, machine learning and deep video analytics to ensure seamless streaming despite the unprecedented traffic
Engaging content is an absolute must for the OTT platforms; however, there's a lot that goes behind the scenes to make content viewing a seamless experience, especially when there is unprecedented traffic. As OTT viewership numbers go through the roof during the lockdown, a lot of players amped up their backend tech to keep the show going.
MX Player, for instance, launched a ‘Data Saver Mode’, an initiative to lessen broadband strain. They became the first Indian OTT to support H.265 (HEVC) transcoding for Live TV and on-demand content. This helped nearly half the bandwidth consumption as compared to the earlier used H.264 stream. Further, it has developed a proprietary advanced compression technique that leverages artificial intelligence and object-recognition to enhance compression.
Due to this improvement, users can now get better quality live streams even under poor network conditions with very low buffering and low latency.
ALTBalaji has a dedicated internal team to deliver a no-buffer OTT app. Chief Technology Officer Shahabuddin Shaikh believes that User Interface or UI plays a crucial role when it comes to catering to a variety of users across regions.
"ALTBalaji’s UI design is simple and easy for the user to become familiar with and competent in using the user interface on the first contact with the app. For instance, nothing should come between a user and his viewing experience, which is achieved by minimum clicks required by a user to start playing a desired piece of content," says Shaikh.
There is not just artificial intelligence but other cutting-edge technology like machine learning and deep video analytics that goes into the whole process of streaming contents seamlessly on these platforms.
Explaining how technologies like deep video analytics work, Vinit Mehta, Director - New Business, India of the Massachusetts-based Brightcove said, “Analytics help the OTT industry and OTT service providers specifically with content recommendations and churn models. Serving up content that viewers want to watch based on previous viewing habits keeps audiences engaged on the platform and coming back for more. For example, if a viewer signed up for a service to watch a specific series, recommending a movie or another series that is similar to what they just completed will help to keep them on the platform longer than originally planned. Meaning, because relevant content was recommended, the viewer stays to watch and the platform receives more revenue.”
According to Mehta during this remote work period for almost the entire world, they have seen a lot of their customers bolster their technology stack to adjust to the new normal. But as OTT streaming traffic rises to unprecedented levels, service providers also need to keep an eye on their costs, such as bandwidth and storage. To cater to that, Brightcove’s Context Aware Encoding (CAE) uses machine learning and deep video analysis to achieve optimum quality for each video with the fewest bits necessary. ‘Unlike other encoding solutions, CAE takes into account the broader context of the video experience creating a custom encoding profile tailored to the combination of each individual video’s content complexity and predicted viewing environment. The result is a higher quality video that starts up faster and buffers less,” Mehta said.
Brightcove powers a host of players in India, including Revry, Dream11, Sony Music, Republic, Upgrad, Malayala Manorama, The Art of Living and BookMyShow.
According to another service provider Amdocs Media that services clients like Airtel and Eros in Asia, intelligent caching techniques that deliver segments quickly is another important technology that is used in the business.
“This is becoming increasingly important especially with 5G & mobile edge compute technologies getting increasingly pervasive. We are continuously optimising our delivery systems to leverage these technologies,” said Raman Abrol, General Manager, Amdocs Media.
However, it is not just the global players like the Netflixes and Hotstars of the world that has been working on dialling up their tech stack. Players in regional content too have been cautious of upgrading and introducing new technology to keep streaming experience uncompromised
Bengali OTT player Hoichoi, for instance, turned its mobile website into a Progressive Web App (PWA) for its users during the lockdown. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are the latest innovation to deliver superior user experience on the web especially on the mobile web. It leverages advance web technologies to offer a mobile web experience that loads fast, uses less data, and re-engages users in various ways. This light-weight version of the app helps deliver a seamless experience on a mobile home screen as its full screen similar to a native app.
OTT players are not just content brands but also technology companies.
Aloke Majumder, head of technology, Hoichoi, said, “As we are on hybrid and multi-cloud environment and having a strong technology stack, scaling up the system to meet this new wave of hits is not a challenge anymore. Our focus is to improve the user experience and also reduce the bandwidth consumption burden on the user so we added AI to encode content where optimisation of bitrates and resolution ladders are not predefined but based on content types and target device and network connectivity. This helps us to reduce the file size, keeping them quality optimum and reducing the buffering. We are also in the process of incorporating ML to personalise the content recommendations and discovery.”
Amidst the lockdown, Hoichoi has also launched the Live TV feature with free to air channels on it.
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