We are living in a hybrid media world with a plethora of combinations of content delivery methods that need to integrate seamlessly to deliver a great user experience. In many instances, cloud-based technology is best able to stitch together disparate pathways and workflows from the content provider to the consumer – yet one of the perennial challenges is timing.
In the first streaming era, we faced the challenge of OTT services being behind the truly live equivalent. It was not uncommon in this first iteration for live sports events to be tens of seconds behind the primary feed going over cable, satellite, or terrestrial TV. The consumer often forgave this as it was new technology. As this has become more commonplace in all our lives and is more of a defacto way of consuming content, things have needed to improve dramatically over the last few years. Now, delays are often measured in -second increments. But overcoming the issue of scale and latency is far from over! My colleague Chris Wilson wrote a great piece on this subject earlier this year.
Synchronization has helped in this regard, but it is also undergoing its own evolution. Innovators are experimenting with new types of highly customizable content where each viewer can potentially select from an array of individual feeds that might make up their unique experience. An early exponent of this concept comes from the world of motor racing, where driver-cams and the ability to switch to different fixed cams around the circuit instantaneously have been tried for several years. In an era of gamification, younger audiences have a particular desire to have an active, participating role in the content experience. The next few years might well herald a surge in demand for customization.
MK Engage: It’s your choice
This has been something our engineering teams have been grappling with for several years and has been realized as part of a recent update to MK Engage. Throughout IBC 2022, we demonstrated how this solution could manage the entire process of launching and running a live streaming service, including subscription and advertising tiers within a high-quality video experience.
New to the MK Engage streaming platform service is a synchronized video playback feature that enables our customers to align the video player frame with the front end and open new use cases within the live streaming experience. These new features that advance the value of MK Engage mean we’ve been able to unify access to our CMS and Aquila Live Streaming services. It makes the user experience more seamless and also easier to understand how MK Engage operates and what it delivers.
MK Engage now enables our customers to save money and time when building their streaming platforms. It spans multiple devices, from smart-TV to phones, tablets, and consoles, to deliver a framework that ensures a consistent outcome and the tools to build exciting new types of experiences. It also ensures that our customers have unprecedented control and management over their service while providing new sources of revenue, personalization, and real-time audience engagement.
For example, a sports broadcaster can show which player has possession of the ball and allow the viewer to switch to a tracking camera if it’s available. Or focus on a golfer teeing up on the course while providing an interactive map showing the flight of the ball – fed from another stream. The ability to create opportunities for the viewer to participate and create an experience that meets the needs of the casual watcher, stat-junkie fan, or even potentially group viewing where the participants are in a different location but sharing an experience – are now possible.
There are also some very practical benefits for commercial or hospitality environments. For example, it enables venues showing live games, such as betting shops, bars, and stadiums, to ensure that all content across every device is synchronized. This means every goal, touchdown, or homerun is displayed simultaneously, regardless of latency in the feed or the device or platform being used.
FASTer still and responding to a hybrid world
Advanced synchronization technologies will continue to progress, but this is not the only area where MK Engage has been upgraded to respond to the increasingly hybrid content world. Our new enhancements enable media companies to spin up free, ad-supported TV channels their customers can access without signing in, breathing new life into on-demand content libraries. This can also include productizing live feeds into VOD content that is easily created, distributed quickly – and monetized effectively.
Content can range from an entire segment, such as the final quarter of a basketball game, a penalty shootout at the end of a football match, or highlight reels, such as all the wickets and sixes from the final overs of a cricket match. Although sports are the natural selection for this type of technology, the same process can take a selection of top news stories or even content from an existing back catalog library to provide a montage of shows based on a theme.
Although broadly within the Free Ad Supported Television (FAST) category – the future potential is likely to mix and match subscription, ad-supported, and even entirely free content – depending on the geography, device, and monetization desires.
The common thread linking advanced synchronization and the ability to repackage live and catalog content quickly is the ability of MK Engage to scale up in the cloud – within a coherent and highly integrated workflow. MK Engage couples together the best of the MediaKind portfolio, including encoding, platforms, and stream manipulation, and now enables entitlements on top of this layer. Plus, it’s all packaged within one simple and unified experience!
In this hybrid world of content, being able to experiment quickly and easily is vital. As a new generation of viewers melds between interactive gaming, short and mid-length content on the likes of TikTok and YouTube – and longer live and SVOD content – we need to have the tools ready to meet these new demands. Hybrid content is here to stay. So, let’s make it better!