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By Ed Giovannini, VP Broadcaster Sales, MediaKind

Gone are the days when scheduled, linear programming formed the foundation of media content consumption. The shift towards over-the-top (OTT) delivery has signaled a significant recalibration in the way broadcasters and channel originators reach their audiences, with low-hanging fruit for those that embrace this wave of change. While the landscape continues to evolve rapidly, these players are well-positioned to embrace new technology workflows and cement themselves as the home of compelling and engaging entertainment content.

There is an abundance of opportunities for broadcasters and channel originators to embrace internet-based technologies within their go-to-market strategy. Firstly, advertisers are increasingly looking to OTT as an effective medium to reach their target audiences. BIA Advisory Services projects OTT local ad spending to double over the next four years, jumping from $1.18 billion to $2.37 billion by 2025. Secondly, streaming opens up two-way conversations between the broadcaster and its audience, enabling it to understand its market better than ever before while delivering engaging experiences.

The shift to OTT for live content

The migration away from Pay TV models is one of the most aggressive drivers of the OTT market’s growth. Data from Digital TV Research suggests global revenues from the OTT market are set to almost double by 2026, hitting $210bn. OTT Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) is also becoming a primary consumption model for viewing live sports, marking a stark change in the way consumers look to access live content. These trends have significant consequences on the way broadcasters and channel originators are positioned within the media ecosystem, having traditionally been the primary providers of this type of content.

As this migration continues, expectations for enhanced capabilities such as integrated analytics, player information, and co-viewing are growing. Broadcasters must also massively reduce the latency of the live feeds to match experiences akin to traditional broadcasts. Currently, the latency of a live sports game is around 30-45 seconds on a streaming platform. This time needs to get back down to about 5 seconds to make OTT a viable delivery mechanism for live content in the long term.

There are several opportunities broadcasters and channel originators can capitalize on as the shift to D2C persists. New monetization models emerge within OTT D2C streaming, including the potential to replace commercial breaks with more targeted, dynamic, and programmatic advertising. However, the OTT extension means broadcasters must understand the technology and regulatory landscape, including the need to become more efficient with both their traditional linear channel distribution and  IP-centric infrastructures as they migrate away from on-premise hardware deployment to the use of the public/private cloud. 

Maximizing the Content

Another trend that is re-writing the media landscape is the reimagining of linear TV. While the rise of subscription services led some in the industry to prematurely bid farewell to parts of linear viewing, the rise of Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV (FAST) services such as Hulu, Xumo, Pluto, and Peacock are proving otherwise. These re-born linear services are not traditional linear TV, rather they are video clips or an on-demand playlist that is synchronized and disguised to become linear streams. They’re an incredibly valuable tool for broadcasters to maximize their content libraries and effectively utilize their assets.

Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are also proving lucrative tools for broadcasters, enabling them to activate the wealth of old content with the expected experience of today. In this blog post, MediaKind’s Principal Technologist explains how ML can perform advanced up-conversion of high-value library content, using neural networks in creating up-converted images that are more akin to native UHD images. This technology enables the delivery of UHD channel viewing experiences that are visibly superior to HD services.

The rise of the social viewer

While binge viewing is becoming the norm, the importance of event-based television such as cliff-hanger dramas or reality TV shows is rising for channel originators, content owners, and broadcasters. This type of programming presents new opportunities to grow audience share and apply new monetization models. Whether it’s a blockbuster drama show finale or the season finale of Love Island, broadcasters can easily add extra live channels, recorded content and create a social viewing experience for super viewers.

It has been observed that many broadcasters target this type of live experience, whether Disney or the BBC, releasing new episodes at primetime and breaking the binge-watching cycle. These events need to be consumed live and are discussed in real-time over social media. By creating additional content, broadcasters can genuinely capture an audience and open up extra monetization opportunities. The premium content can be mixed with targeted advertising, integrated with micropayments or brand stores, or bolstered with new apps and experiences.

Adding interesting related content will attract a wider audience and create more engagement. The public cloud enables broadcasters to monetize these scheduled streaming events quickly and affordably – without all the up-front buy, build, and provisioning costs – before rapidly delivering it to the market and consumers. Read more about this in MediaKind’s application paper, ‘Ready. Set. Stream!’

A solution to engage the industry

Broadcasters and channel originators must now embrace new technical solutions and workflows to deliver OTT streaming scheduled live events in parallel with their broadcast on a linear channel.

To enable this, MediaKind is building easy-to-use services deployed as-a-Service (aaS), managing the infrastructure and lifecycle of the technology, and enabling broadcasters and channel originators to focus on the content. MediaKind Engage is a comprehensive workflow for channel originators and broadcasters looking to launch scheduled event-based streaming experiences. It includes contribution encoding, production, playout, streaming for live and VOD, advertising, and delivers the ultimate fan and audience engagement platform.

The most significant advantage broadcasters and channel originators have is owning the most important piece of the pie – the content. The age-old line ‘content is king’ is still valid, no matter how much technology you throw at it. What will vary is the ease at which broadcasters can leverage the cloud and SaaS-based, pay-as-you-go architectures. All players within the media ecosystem need to be at the top of their game to remain competitive. Dynamic cloud-based platforms mean there’s nothing holding broadcasters back.