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Success, failure, and the thin line in-between for Indian and international OTT players

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A squillion broken TV remoteshave borne the fury of viewers who, when watching live sports or their favourite shows, have been interrupted by intermittent broadcast. With viewers today increasingly turning towards smartphones as their device of choice for watching videos, such passionate expressions can end up being quite heavy on the pocket of the perpetrator. But with the statistical evidence that we have on hand and a few broken bits of plastic still lying by the carpet, it can be said with certainty that similar acts of fury will continue to happen nevertheless.The question of the hour, however,is this: who is at a greater loss here?

How much do OTT platforms stand to lose over bad customer experiences?

Over the top (OTT) platformsare service providersthat extend media services without any involvement of Multi-System Operators (MSOs). A few popular names in this domain in India include Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hotstar, nexGTv, Saavn, and Gaana. The mainreasons whyviewers in the country are flocking to OTT platformsinclude the quality, exclusivity,and breadth of content that they feature for their target audiences. The real trick of the trade, however, is retaining viewersonce they get onboard.

Market research and surveys have indicated that online viewers are willing to quit streaming in the absence of desired quality, or if there are frequent interruptions.A Limelight Networks study titled‘The State of Online Video 2017’ revealed that about 61% people stop watching a video after it gets buffered twice.Another survey by Conviva underlined a similar trend, showing that 80% of digital viewers are likely to abandon a video if it is not easily, quickly, or adequately loaded. Only 11% of these dissatisfied video viewers will choose another episode to binge on.

These studies indicate that, for OTT service providers, all it takes for a dissatisfied customer to switch loyalties is a mere click of the button. This leaves OTT platforms fraught with bad transmission at a considerable disadvantage, and increases the possibility of losing out to their closest competitors.

The online dissemination of content is not as easy as it seems to be.The biggest impediment to a high-quality and consistent viewing experience is that viewers access OTT services using a gamut of devices, operating systems, platforms, network conditions,and network configurations. Another key challenge in delivery is triggered by content latency, or delayed data transfer due to long-distance communication between the source (server) and its destination (viewer). Addressing the challenges requires content availability at both data centres and proxy servers close to the consumer, especially if they are accessing OTT services from the West.

Cybersecurity is yet another challenge that OTT platforms have to face time and again. The infamous terabit-level attack in 2016 targeted at DNS provider Dyn,caused service disruption for leading OTT players such as Netflix, HBO, WWE Network, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Sony PlayStation Network. Such attacks have a detrimental effect on the revenue of a company due to service outages, and often lead to an increasingly negative market perception of the service provider.Research conducted by Neustar on 1,010 enterprises in 2017 informed that businesses lost USD 2.5 million on average as the financial costs of DDoS attacks. The same research also revealed that 63% of affected businesses experienced as much as USD 100,000 per hour as revenue loss.

The Paradigm Change: Integrating Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) with OTT platforms

CDNs, a geographically distributed network of proxy servers and data centres, have of late entered the picture to counter the challenges that OTT platforms face across the-board. They leverage the most advanced systems and technologies to deliver highly-personalised content with unmatched accuracy to all viewers. This is achieved by maintaining the content availability at both source and destination, as well as by detecting device, platform, and prevailing network conditions to customize broadcast settings and content formats. Doing so enables an optimal viewing experience across all environments, platforms, and devices.Limelight, for example, has a worldwide private network comprising fibre optics frameworks, which helps resolve network congestion issues faced by public internet and improve service delivery.

The integration of CDNs within OTT networks also paves the way for dynamic service enhancements driven by the extension of user-centric consumption data to businesses. This in-depth access to information helps OTT service provides derive actionable insights and make positive business decisions, while simultaneously identifying unmet needs emerging within the market. New-age CDNs also help in eliminating cybersecurity challenges and ensuring security of data at source and in transit, as well as in use – providing all-inclusive, end-to-end services to OTT platforms.

CDNs have become of paramount importance to ensure a seamless user experience and encourage the growth of a loyal viewer base. They are playing a pivotal role in influencing the ultimate success or failure of OTT service providers, whether in India and abroad, especially as content consumers display an uncompromising attitude towards their content streaming experience. It is up to players in the hyper-competitive OTT sector to decide whether they want to adapt to this changing paradigm and thrive, or risk being tossed aside like the unfortunate TV remotes.

Gaurav Malik, Country director, Limelight Network India

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Gaurav Malik

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