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There's no doubt that streaming is rapidly becoming the go-to choice for people who want to watch television. A survey in 2015 found that 42 percent of American households were using video streaming services and that 56 percent of those surveyed stream movies and TV shows, 56 percent and 53 percent respectively. Meanwhile only 45 percent were watching TV shows live. No doubt those numbers have only increased since then.
If we're being honest, though, video streaming is still nowhere near the quality of television. Viewers are still experiencing lag time, crappy ads, and a picture quality that is a step down.
Take a look at what happened during the Super Bowl this past weekend. While Fox revealed that it had an average of 1.72 million viewers per average minute, up from 1.4 million last year, there were also major techinical difficulties that streamers ran into, including an outage in the fourth quarter, right in the middle of the Patriot's historic come from behind win.
We're aware of the streaming issue on #FOXSportsGO, and it's been resolved. Please close and reopen the stream to get back to the game.— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) February 6, 2017
"The complaints around the service were, predictably, due not to the core strategy but to the chaotic, best-efforts-only nature of the Internet: outages at key ISPs along the pathway led to a service delay in the FOX Sports Go app during the 4th quarter," Simon Jones, Director of Marketing Communications at Internet performance monitoring and optimization company Cedexis, explained to me.
"Meanwhile, smaller failures at ISPs led to frustration for some users, with the result that some viewers found their best option was enjoying the Spanish-language stream!"
If viewers were having trouble watching what is no doubt going to be going to be the biggest sporting event of the year, a time when OTT operators should have been putting their best foot forward, it can be easily surmised that these same issues will persist during less important events as well. Streaming is currently lagging when it comes to the technology behind it.
Part of the problem is that OTT operators, the ones delivering that content, don’t have the ability to fix problems in real time, but that may be changing thanks to companies like Cedexis, which allows companies to utilize live predictive rerouting.
“The reality is that TV networks are managed networks. They choose how things go through, and have control from beginning to end. The challenge with OTT is the lack of control," said Jones. That is what Cedexis offers; it focuses on the ability of operators to make routing decisions in real time, based on the experience the customers are having in the moment.
Using five billion pings from various browsers, Cedexis can see how the content is being delivered, including whether there's packet loss, as well as if the end user is getting a good experience or if there is lagging or buffering. It then provides its customers, the operators, with multiple content delivery networks (CDNs), allowing them to choose the CDN that will deliver most effectively.
Cedexis' product, Openmix, is programmable, and companies can include their own algorithms, so it can be coded to be told which CDNs to go with, based on minimum quality standards, and speed. Openmix then will automatically choose the option that is most efficient and cost effective.
"What's actually happened is that, with real user measurements, and all of those pings, we are able to see in real time certain quality of service metrics. How long does it take a piece of data to get to a location? How often does it fail? We are measuring the most efficient pathways from start point to end point," Jones said. "It's a way of managing the quality and the cost. The reason that's important is that those are the most challenging elements for making OTT profitable. Broadcasters really struggle with this. It doesn't cost more to run the network, but with OTT every time someone streams it has to be paid for.”
Profitability is becoming more of a necessity as more people begin choosing OTT streaming as their preferred method for viewing content, and operators look to capitalize on that.
"Three or four years ago, outside of Netflix, OTT was a hobby, and nobody was making money. The last couple of Super Bowl streams didn’t even have national ads in them. As we move to next generation of OTT, it's now about managing costs and the ability to turn profits. We help companies to manage the cost, make it predictable and affordable."
Companies using Cedexis are already seeing big savings: an average of 25 to 40 percent reduction in CBM cost.
"My belief is is that, over next couple of years, we will that see the next step, with automated, intelligent traffic routing, which will be relieve a tremendous amount of stress. Once they can put traffic routing out of mind, all the other things they want to be thinking about doing the sorts of things the broadcast team can do with, different views and approaches," said Jones.
It also won't able be used for video, but for software delivery and games as well. Basically, in any scenario were files are big and synchronous.
"This is what the OTT space has been waiting for. The promise of automated traffic routing sat out there in a very tantalizing manner, and a small number of solutions have blazed the trail," Jones told me.
"The reason I came to work here is that Cedexis solved the problem in a way that was easy to understand and implement. They solved the problem in a way that was very accessible. I'll be amazed if this is not the year every large Internet distributor doesn’t get focused on automatic rerouting internal CDN capabilities, to get a handle on cost, and the opportunity to innovate."
(Image source: inplayer.com)