Video Service Provider Challenges: Facilitating the Transition from Traditional Video Delivery to Digital Apps Part 1

In this blog, we discuss the key challenges in the transition from traditional video delivery methods apps. This is Part One of a two part blog series.

The transition from traditional video delivery methods, such as cable or satellite TV, to digital applications (apps) is a complex process that involves several challenges, not the least of which is the adaptation of the consumer to a video application-based content consumption model. Part one of this blog addresses the key issues that companies and service providers might face during the transition including the following:

  • Infrastructure Overhaul
  • Billing Systems migration/integration
  • Content Licensing and Rights Management
  • User Experience and Interface Design
  • Data Privacy and Security
  • Content Discovery and Personalization
  • Technical Support and Maintenance

1. Infrastructure Overhaul: Traditional video delivery systems rely on specific infrastructure that is fundamentally different from digital streaming technology. Transitioning to digital apps often requires a significant overhaul of existing infrastructure, including investments in servers, content delivery networks (CDNs), and high-speed internet connectivity. Assuring that the overall end-to-end solution has adequate bandwidth, resiliency, and performance is critical to the deployment. A single weak link in the chain makes the overall system unreliable and is a source of frustration for the consumer (stay tuned – this will to be covered in a different blog post).

2. Billing Systems Integration: Traditional billing systems might not be compatible with digital service models. Transitioning to a digital app-based service requires the development or integration of new billing systems that can handle subscriptions, pay-per-view, in-app purchases, and other modern monetization strategies. Also, if the service provider is acting as the portal to app-based content delivery (and other services), when transitioning to the app-based model, a traditional billing system may need to integrate to each app’s billing and provision systems. The initial integration followed by long-term support (i.e. re-integrations) should not be overlooked.

3. Content Licensing and Rights Management: Digital distribution can be subject to different licensing agreements compared to traditional broadcast. Securing digital rights and managing these rights across various regions and platforms can be complex and costly. It should not be assumed that because content rights were secured for one type of distribution (i.e. linear or broadcast) that redistribution through an app-based environment are not guaranteed. This becomes even more acute when considering in-home vs. out-of-home rights and viewing habits.

4. User Experience and Interface Design: Digital apps require a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate. Transitioning from traditional video delivery to apps necessitates investing in user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design, which can be a significant challenge, especially for companies without prior experience in software development. If a Service Provider chooses to supply its services through a branded app experience, they can control (for their app) the user’s experience. But if the service provider had chosen to just be the broadband provider (i.e. the pipe) then each app brings a new user interface (and experience) to the consumer. This area needs to be fully understood by all the stakeholders prior to implementation as it has many touch points both internally and externally.

5. Data Privacy and Security Digital platforms collect a lot of user data. The data requires protection which is governed by industry standards and government regulations. Ensuring data privacy and securing the platform against cyber threats is crucial and often requires substantial investment in cybersecurity measures. There are also potential requirements to share some or all the data with platform providers and/or each app provider. Providing this data, often in real-time via API calls requires extra security measures both in the implementation phase and the ongoing maintenance and support processes. Complicating the usage of consumer data there are varying requirements to allow the user to know what and how their data is being used and give them the capability to have this information deleted upon request.

6. Content Discovery and Personalization: Digital platforms rely on algorithms for content recommendation and personalization. Cross platform discovery becomes even more critical in an App based environment. Adding to the complexity is often the same content is available through different services (i.e. applications) with different business models. Some services may be purchased either directly or indirectly by the consumer (and potentially ops-out of advertising). Other services might be broadcast linear delivered over an application (e.g. CBS News Now) and others in the free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels realm. Each of these services have different capabilities in their ability to offer up metadata to locate content and specific user rights to that data/content. Also, accessing each service's metadata utilizes different methodologies and APIs. Developing an integrated solution is essential for user retention and satisfaction. The quandary is; how do you present the viewing options to the consumer considering that they may already have “free” access to a piece of content (with or without advertising) versus the services providers or content owner’s desire to push the viewer to a more expensive offering.

7. Technical Support and Maintenance: Support and maintenance are two critical areas when transitioning from traditional linear QAM based video to Broadband/IP based (video) applications. The migration is challenging to the service provide and consumer. Besides the method by which video programming is delivered, how a consumer deals with interruptions, hiccups, and failures can be radically different. Often if the service provider is supplying their branded application they can “mask” all the different scenarios to the consumer. But it is more likely that the consumer will be faced with numerous (new) fault scenarios, from the spinning wheel (often called “the hamster wheel”) to application crashes, pixelization, quality degradation (often seen as a “fuzzy picture”), that they will either have to sort out or provide details to a help system which may or may not be in the same “stratosphere” as the consumer’s way of thinking.

The underlying issue is very often masked and is even more complex when support agents and systems need to consider the myriad of televisions, PCs, MAC’s, mobile phones, and other devices that are available to the consumer. Another great point.  The consumer suffering from a problem will likely contact the service provider first.  It is most likely that the responsibility for fault isolation will fall on the service provider which needs to determine the cause of the issue (broadband service glitch, platform glitch, application issue) and then direct the consumer to the proper fix agent.  

Often the back-end support systems, NOC management tools, network probes, and in-home wifi monitors are separate from the traditional QAM based services. Although they are the same or similar for supporting broadband networks. One key factor in video-based applications vs traditional broadband TCP/IP is the video jitter factor. Simplified, jitter occurs when the arriving TCP/IP video packets are delayed, not in sync, need to be corrected via error correction technologies, or lost. Video apps are less likely to hide the effects of this type of issue from the consumer. Service degradation and consumer acceptance of the reduced quality and reliability are critical factors in the transition to video-based application viewing and must be an area of focus for the service provider.

Traditional video service providers might not have the in-house expertise needed for this and may need to invest in training or hiring new personnel, which is often a challenge as they also need to maintain the traditional technologies for several years.

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