The emergence of online content and video channels has fundamentally changed our video viewing experience. Watching stored video content has become a norm rather than an exception. For example, the advent of the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) was a key development in harboring this change. A natural complement to DVRs is the cloud as it gives enormous flexibility in terms of video storage and also helps bring down costs. In this paper we put forth a case on the benefits of delivering video from the cloud, with the example of a DVR.
Video Content in a Transitional Phase
Waiting for a sitcom to air has now become a thing of the past. Consumers today prefer online streaming of content on their personal devices at any given point of time. DVRs, for instance, have become a mainstream recording device. Greater brand loyalty of DVR viewers and the steadily increasing penetration of DVRs can present interesting new ways of monetization for key industry players.
Traditionally, broadcasters hosted video content in-house. This put greater pressure on their operations due to additional capital expenditure and maintenance costs. A viable alternative for broadcasters would be to move to a cloud-based delivery network that can provide video content to mobile and Web platforms, both within and outside home. Analysts predict that although cloud DVR has wider adoption with cable Multi System Operators (MSOs), currently, it will be a regular service with every major Multichannel Programming Video Distributor (MPVD) in the US and Europe.
Cloud has a profound effect on the way video content is distributed and shared across multiple device platforms, beyond traditional TV consumption. The merging of cable and the Internet has produced endless new opportunities to present video content on new screens. Improved communication networks, through enhanced bandwidth and throughput to deliver triple-play and quadplay services, can now support highly customized access to videos. Many industry players are moving to disruptive positions along the video service delivery value chain.
For instance, Comcast, one of the biggest television and Internet service providers in the US, recently announced a new feature in its cloud DVR service. It now allows customers to stream or download their video recordings over any Internet connection from wherever they are1 . HBO and Time Warner are coming up with direct-to-customer applications rather than just creating content. Video-on-demand services like Amazon Instant Video, iTunes gives direct competition to traditional broadcast networks. Netflix has come up with its Open Connect program to ensure last mile video coverage. Leading technology firms are coming out with more upstream services to increase their presence in the value chain.
Cloud is a direct enabler for such industry transformations, making it easier to integrate new devices and delivery channels with existing networks while also reducing Capex requirements. Cloud-based services are more scalable and also help launch new offerings faster, across all platforms.
Video Consumption – Scripting a New Story
Rising DVR penetration is only one of the many changes in the area of video consumption. Consumers are shifting to a multitude of devices like smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles to access video content. Although cable/satellite still forms the foundation of the TV viewing experience due to its ease of use, mobile and gaming consoles are increasingly being used to watch videos
Consumers today have several options in the way they want to consume video content, anywhere and anytime. Their choices have seen a radical shift due to an explosive growth in new video content and the availability of a multitude of devices that support video. The shift is also due to technological transformations such as Big Data video analytics and cloud personalization, which have made it easy to link video content to various devices.
There is still a possibility of improvement in their viewing experience. For instance, take Linda’s case2 . She is an avid TV viewer. However, she finds it tedious to keep track of all the program schedules. She also finds it difficult to pre-load all the video files onto her computer before she starts her daily commute. Premium channels can be really expensive for a TV buff like her, but they are so much fun to watch that she just couldn’t give them up altogether.
Consumers like Linda are driving some major shifts in the video content marketplace. Some key trends shaping up are:
As prime time shifts to “my time” (anywhere-anytime access), traditional content delivery mechanisms will also have to change. Cloud-based video delivery and DVR, in particular, clearly address these challenges posed by next generation TV viewing.
Cloud DVR Service: A Fresh Look
While the cloud has made accessibility to videos easier by standardizing video content to play across a number of platforms, content discovery (the right content for the right audience at the right time on the right device) has emerged as a key issue for consumers. It is necessary to create environments where consumers can easily navigate and discover the content that is relevant to them, bundling service offerings innovatively and intuitively so that user experience becomes more seamless and less fragmented.
In addition to retaining existing DVR functionalities (see Figure 1), the major product drivers for cloud DVR services have the ability to:
Figure 1: Cloud DVR Framework
Some key highlights of a cloud DVR framework include:
Cloud DVR offers subscribers the ability to record their favorite TV shows and movies from any provisioned device and watch the recorded content anywhere, anytime, subject to content rights.
Advertisers are also increasingly shifting their strategy and creating more targeted ad campaigns that fit with this new medium of broadcasting content. Additionally, cloud DVR can spawn the creation of innovative services on premium content. It can enable resell and repackage video content such as live show highlights.
Cloud-based DVR solutions can send targeted ads that encourage consumers to watch the recorded content within 3 to 7 days. The decision of whether or not to move to the cloud platform is still dependent on the risk appetite of enterprises. Data security can be a major concern unless clear boundaries are drawn to protect data that cannot be hosted publicly. Private hosting is recommended for sensitive data such as user and subscription information and highly secure services like Digital Rights management (DRM) and Conditional Access System (CAS). Service layers that involve packaging, publishing, content discovery and workflow can be housed on the public cloud.
A myriad of exciting possibilities lie in the future. Is there a scope for something in between the cloud and the user which would speed up data transfer and enhance content security?
While a sluggish video transmission could be a minor worry, a delay of a few seconds in a remote surgical procedure driven through the cloud could lead to death. Perhaps the cloud could be pushed closer to the content consumption layer and user devices. Perhaps the future in video delivery might not entirely be a cloud story.