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August 23, 2016

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Addressing the Challenges of OTT Fragmentation

The breadth and depth of Internet-delivered video service offerings seems to grow every day. This proliferation may seem positive for consumers, but the growth is starting to expose the creation of fault lines that add complexity for both services operators and their intended customer base.

Some of these fault lines are competitive in nature, but others seem to be created by the way the market has developed as an extension of – and in competition with – the traditional pay-TV sector. Does the landscape we are seeing emerge match the promise of video anytime, anywhere?

To an extent OTT has become a victim of its own success, generating fierce competition for premium content rights including TV shows, movies and increasingly live sports. This may be swelling the total pot of content available online, but is also creating more and more places people have to go to find it. This is becoming a problem for operators and consumers alike, as is explained neatly in a recent blog by Colin Dixon, Founder & Principal Analyst of nSceenMedia.

Dixon suggests that “we are entering a new phase in the evolution of OTT video” and identified four interrelated aspects of OTT fragmentation. He starts with content disaggregation, which is challenging the seemingly strong grip of just a few early entrant brands, primarily Netflix, Hulu and Amazon in the U.S., as content owners cast their net wider to get the most for their assets.

Secondly, competition among these big players is generating a growing number of proprietary ecosystems, with Google and Amazon joining Apple in coupling hardware tightly to their own software and eCommerce platforms. Hopes that the Ultraviolet platform would unify the field for buying and storing movies online have been shattered by other commercial forces in play as, amongst others, Disney and Comcast go their own way with proprietary store key lockers.

This leads to Dixon’s third problem of app proliferation as each ecosystem requires separate apps in turn for every target platform, resulting in app congestion on users’ devices.

Finally, these same commercial forces are inhibiting the emergence of universally agreed data standards for gathering, formatting, storing and exchanging key data, which makes it hard to deliver a unified experience across multiple content sources. The big players are all too aware of the competitive edge user data can give them and have no vested interest in sharing it.

As specialists in revenue security, we focused on what could be considered a fifth aspect of OTT fragmentation, the need to support multiple DRMs for enforcing content rights within different services and target platforms. While the ability to have multiple DRMs suited to varying local implementations tied to a given service stream is a primary benefit of Common Encryption (CENC) used for protecting content under MPEG DASH streaming, it does create complexity for operators seeking to provide a transparent service with a consistent experience across all viewing devices.

Rather than devolve to an entirely siloed delivery scenario, we would passionately advocate the maintenance of choice in security solutions. Within the app-centric world that we seem to be creating, this means maintaining options for downloadable security that can be service-native rather than device-limited. An approach like this can help reduce the extremes of device and content format that operators must address – while offering the widest range of functional and protection options for the most premium of service streams.

Our response to help operators address this fragmentation is our MultiRights OTT solution, which is aimed at providing users with a common experience across all networks and devices without arbitrary restrictions over access to content.

Clearly though the situation is not static and will continue to evolve, so a key part of our bargain is that we will maintain the solution and embrace evolving component technologies as they come along.

Let us know what you feel is adding to the fragmentation in delivering OTT services.
 

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