IP Applications for OTT Broadcast: Transition from Push to Pull Distribution

August 7, 2020

By Tony Jones, Principal Technologist, MediaKind

Over The Top (OTT) began as a method of delivering file-based assets for on-demand viewing and even today, the vast majority of its key characteristics mirror that original intent. OTT continues to offer an invaluable means by which to extend the reach of more content to more devices than ever before, across the entire media spectrum. By its very definition, OTT uses the internet to deliver content – and it is here that the media industry is impacted by the architecture of the internet.

While it is tempting to visualise the internet as an infinite resource, the reality is very different. The internet is a mesh of real networks – each with a finite capacity and is often glibly represented as an innocuous cloud, yet the detail of its operation uncovers something far more complex. It has become a highly intricate, multi-vendor Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routed IP network that needs to be understood by engineers, technologists and anybody looking to deliver reliable and efficient OTT workflows.

The challenges of OTT and ABR

Video consumption is undeniably driving the growth of internet capacity and we are in a position now, where the internet needs to deliver the large amounts of video and audio that viewers are demanding. As more people use streaming services for high-value live content, the expectation for delivering excellent quality Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) with low latency for large scale events challenges the boundaries of the internet’s original design principles. To accommodate this demand, media technology companies have had to adapt and create innovative solutions to help deliver resilient streamed media to a wide variety of devices – both mobile and static.

ABR is at the center of OTT delivery. By understanding ABR operation in detail and how it fits into the whole delivery infrastructure, we can find even better technical solutions – and ones that work on real networks, rather than in artificial laboratory environments. There are format, protocol and architecture opportunities to address the latency and scale issues of today, as well as building greater resilience and more accurate delivery.

This was the central subject in the recent MediaKind – Broadcast Bridge Essential Guide: ‘OTT (or is it ABR?)’. The guide provides a detailed lay out of the technical demands that media delivery places on the internet, the distinction between OTT and ABR and the tools that can be used to solve some of the limitations – click here to read more.

Transitioning from push to pull distribution

OTT presents the most significant and decisive change for media distribution in the history of television. With changes to the capabilities of broadband, the emergence of higher resolutions and new formats, streaming has completely changed how viewers can – and expect – to access their content. This transformation of the media ecosystem means that service providers and broadcasters must now evolve from push to pull distribution.

As we transition from push to the highly flexible pull model of delivery, broadcasters are witnessing at first hand the benefits OTT offers both for their viewers and their own monetization opportunities. The challenge is to maintain the three core tenets of traditional broadcast within these new streaming services; namely high picture quality, minimal latency and excellent scalability.

Next Thursday August 13 (9am CDT; 3pm BST), I will be joined by The Broadcast Bridge Editor, Tony Orme, for a virtual fireside chat on ‘IP Applications for OTT Broadcast’, where will be discussing the technical details around what it means to distribute real-time broadcast quality programs over the internet using OTT methodologies.

We will be exploring the various push and pull methods and their efficiencies, the critical distribution components in OTT delivery (and their operations), the sources of latency and the compromises needed for reliable delivery, as well as some of the practical considerations needed for broadcasters and technologists. We will also discuss how MediaKind and our partners helped to transition the physical Chattanooga Film Festival into a unique OTT, fully digital festival experience in an incredibly short time frame.

I hope you will be able to join myself and Tony Orme next week! Register Now