Discussing OTT as an Experience Business on Zuora’s Subscribed Podcast

We’re entering a new era in our industry that’s all about creating an exceptional customer experience at every touch point.

This trend is particularly relevant to over-the-top streaming video providers. Their initial focus may have been simply on delivering video across screens. Now, it's about using data, insights, and personalization technologies to deliver an exceptional and relevant experience across screens that attracts and retains viewers.

Recently, I discussed this trend with Tom Krackeler and Rachel English on the Subscribed podcast, which is dedicated to exploring the global shift toward subscriptions and recurring revenue business models. The podcast is sponsored by Zuora, where Tom is VP of Products and Rachel is Director of Customer Success.

Tune in to the podcast for expert insights into running an OTT service as an experience business:

Listen for key insights in the following areas:

  • Delivery - The entry point for OTT services is delivering video across screens.
  • Usability - Audiences are one click, tap, or press on the remote away from something else. So, OTT services have to be really easy to sign into and access. And, it has to be really easy to find and discover things to watch.
  • Acquisition - The trick to acquisition is being relevant to your audience, having really great content and an incredible digital experience.
  • Retention - You have to know how to engage your audience after they become subscribers.
  • Business models - There are three main business models in OTT. These are pay as you go, subscription, and ad supported business models. There's also a hybrid model, which combines these within one service.
  • Analytics - One exciting application of analytics is to look at the engagement signals that lead casual viewers to subscribe and then reach more people with those signals.
  • Data - Data is making the OTT experience more personal and relevant at every level. It's enhancing video delivery, acquisition marketing, and retention marketing.
And, read select excerpts from the podcast here.

White Paper Download: Premium Video Content Protection Strategies with CMAF

To date, streaming video providers providers have had to support two container formats in order reach many device types, including Android and iOS devices, with protected video content.

In June, a new development being worked on by Apple, Adobe, and many others in MPEG (the Moving Picture Experts Group) is bringing streaming video providers one step closer to a single streaming format with DRM. The development is a container format called Common Media Application Format (CMAF).

CMAF allows streaming video providers to move from supporting two container formats, fragmented MP4 (fMP4) and transport stream (TS), to supporting one container format, CMAF. This drives big savings in storage and delivery costs.

Layers of modern HTTP streaming

A new white paper from our team educates streaming video providers about this new format. Readers will learn about:

  • What is required when streaming video providers use CMAF.
  • The nuances of Apple’s support for the new container format.
  • A lingering obstacle to having a single streaming format with DRM, which is that of multiple encryption modes.

Overall, CMAF is taking the streaming industry in the right direction and deserves close attention going forward. Download the “Premium Video Content Protection Strategies with Common Media Application Format” white paper today.

HTTP/2 Provides a Path to Delay-Free Live Streaming

Live streaming without a delay

One challenge facing media companies today is that live streaming isn’t actually live. It’s delayed by a few seconds or more. This is especially problematic when live broadcast viewers engage on social media with online viewers who are seconds behind in their viewing because the broadcast viewers can spoil the show for the online viewers.

In recent news, Twitter’s first NFL Thursday Night Football live stream ran on a 30-second delay. CNN reported that it was met with largely rave reviews. But the negative reviews were all about the delay. For example, here’s what Oriana Schwindt, TV News Editor at Variety, had to say about the stream:

One future solution to this challenge will be to leverage HTTP/2 in order to make live streaming work without a delay. In a technical presentation at IBC last month, I covered how to achieve this with a system for live streaming that compares well with broadcast.

Here’s the emerging best practices from that talk:

  • Minimize Video Segment Size — The size, in seconds, of a video segment dictates the minimum live delay in a system because it represents the amount of time that an encoder/packager needs to accumulate the segment. Live delay can be reduced by making the segment as small as possible, although the mechanics of congestion control over TCP puts a floor on how small we can make the segments and still keep the TCP channel full. A segment size of 2 seconds to 4 seconds provides a good balance of low delay and efficient use of the channel.
  • Use HTTP/2 Server Push — One downside of making segments really small is that the total number of network transactions goes up by an equivalent amount. HTTP/2’s server push counteracts this by pushing multiple segments in a single network transaction. It also allows for smaller segments than what would otherwise be possible due to the TCP slow start/congestion control issues mentioned above, by effectively creating large “virtual” segments.
  • Optimize Your Video Client for Low Latency — HTTP/2 helps the network deliver content with low delay, but you need a video player that operates with low delay as well. The player needs to carefully manage its playback buffer, and take action (skip frames, etc.) if it is falling behind. We are currently working to ensure that the Adobe Primetime TVSDK has a really low live delay.

These best practices will become relevant when both your content delivery network (CDN) and your video client endpoints support HTTP/2. So, ask your CDN about HTTP/2. And, for more details about the best practices listed above, download this zip file containing all the white papers from the IBC session, “Advanced Developments in Dynamic Video Streaming.” Then, read the paper in that batch titled, “Improving Live Performance in HTTP Adaptive Streaming Systems.

How Research Intern Gang Wu Enhanced Our Video Recommendations Solution

Research intern Gang Wu in front of his office at Adobe

With Adobe Primetime Recommendations, we’ve pioneered an experience where OTT and TV Everywhere viewers can look at the screen, see something they want to watch, and immediately start watching it.

To make this experience a reality, we leveraged the talents of people all throughout our organization, including Gang Wu, a research intern. Wu has worked at Adobe every summer for the past four years while he pursues a Ph.D focused on matrix completion.

This week, StreamingMedia.com published an interview with Wu about his work in enhancing the ability of Adobe Primetime Recommendations to predict which shows a viewer is going to enjoy watching the most. The interview covered how the initial idea came about, the testing of the idea, and what Wu will be working on next.

Here are the key highlights:

    • While cleaning and structuring data for Adobe Primetime Recommendations, Wu came up with the idea that more information could be brought to bear in deciding which videos to recommend. Wu modified an algorithm to leverage information like the user’s device, the content, the language of the video, and more. In tests, Wu found that using the context versus not using the context could improve prediction accuracy by up to 20%.
    • After positive results with an Adobe Marketing Cloud customer, the Adobe Primetime team implemented Wu’s contextual improvements into the core product.
    • Now, Wu is working on a way for Adobe Primetime Recommendations to automatically identify other signals among the detailed session information collected by Adobe Analytics. Wu says, “In the future, we want to make our algorithm capable of automatically picking the information that gets used.”

Be sure to check out the full interview at StreamingMedia.com. To learn more about Adobe Primetime TVSDK and the additional benefits that it has beyond personalization, check out the product page.

Hurdles to a 5-Star TV Everywhere App Review

Millions of people use TV Everywhere apps on iOS devices every day. Yet no TV Everywhere app has cracked the code to a 5-star rating in Apple’s App Store. For instance, the top 10 TV Everywhere iOS apps have ratings that range between 2 and 4.5 on a 5-point scale.

To identify how to get these ratings up, Adobe conducted an informal qualitative review of iOS TV Everywhere apps powered by Adobe authentication. The review was based on over 4,000 user reviews posted to Apple’s App Store between January 2015 and August 2016. It identified common pain points that users have with respect to ads, performance, usability, and login.

The infographic below shows how 80% of reviews mentioned a problem with ads. This research aligns with new survey data from Adobe, which reveals the most disliked attributes of online video ads and how to improve the video ad experience.

% of App Store Reviews Referencing Each Type of Pain Point
User reviews express dissatisfaction with ads, performance, usability, and login

The infographic also shows that 70% mentioned a problem with performance, 40% mentioned a problem with usability, and 25% mentioned a problem with login. If a TV Everywhere app provider can optimize the ad experience while minimizing these other pain points, it can significantly increase the likelihood that new reviews will be 5-star reviews.

Ads, performance, usability, and login are just the broad categories of pain points. You can get detailed insights into the specific complaints that users have within these categories in Adobe Primetime’s online report, “Insights into TVE Apps.”

Here’s a short sampling of the user reviews included in the report:

One episode, which I watched in four slices, required me to go through roughly 22 ads.”

Every time a commercial comes on it plays perfectly. When the show comes back on it skips, lags, fast forwards, reverses, buffers just in time for the next commercial.”

No way to resume if you have to stop?!?!?!”

I have to login after every time I open the app and after every crash. I’ve logged in more than I’ve been able to watch.”

Overall, the “Insights into TVE Apps” report highlights the need for further research into the user experience across all TVE apps as well as within each app individually. It also empowers TVE app providers with the knowledge they need to begin to address these pain points and receive better reviews from users.

To learn more about how to provide a seamless login experience, visit the product page for Adobe Primetime authentication.

Survey Reveals How to Optimize the Video Ad Experience

Adobe has released a new report about consumer perceptions of advertising based on survey responses from over 1,000 US consumers titled “Advertising Demand Report 2016 – North America.” It reports a wealth of insights into video advertising and how publishers can optimize the video ad experience. Among the findings:

  • 34% of US consumers prefer seeing ads over paying for content
  • 25% of US consumers don’t worry about video ads because their adblocker removes them
  • Consumers are annoyed by video ads that they can’t control and that play for too long
  • The amount of online video advertising that consumers are willing to accept is lower than traditional TV standards at 3.5 minutes of ads per 30 minutes of content in the US
  • Publishers can make the ad experience better in a number of ways

There is bad news and good news in this data for publishers.

The bad news is that there are attributes of online video ads that upset users to the point of blocking video ads completely. Consumers don’t like the inability to skip video ads, or video ads on webpages that start automatically, or video ads that run too long. Long ad breaks especially annoy younger Millennials in the US, ages 18–24, among whom 58% say that ad length is a problem.

Survey data shows the most annoying attributes of online video adsThe good news is that publishers have a great amount of control over the ad experience including the control to improve it. In particular, consumers want shorter and more relevant ads that are delivered less frequently.

Survey data shows 5 ways to make video ads better

Ad technology absolutely can enable the ad experience that consumers want. To make ad breaks shorter, publishers can adjust the length of ad breaks and the number of ads within each break for different audience segments. For instance, publishers can deliver shorter ad breaks to younger users and longer ad breaks for everyone else. Publishers can use frequency capping to ensure that viewers see each video ad just once or twice. Publishers can also empower relevant advertising with precise targeting technology and dynamic ad insertion.

Technology empowers such great flexibility in the ad experience that it really pushes the question of what to do back to executive teams. There are revenue implications to delivering the optimal user experience. And, there are churn implications to achieving optimal revenue. This is one of those times where a metric like lifetime value of a subscriber could be very useful.

To learn more about how Adobe Primetime empowers an optimal ad experience, read our product page on dynamic ad insertion.

TV Everywhere is Coming Back to the Living Room

A couple watches TV Everywhere in their living room

When our favorite shows began migrating off of TV sets and onto screens like our smartphones, much of the initial reaction focused around consumption on-the-go. Mobile formed the basis of the “TV Everywhere” (TVE) term, as we envisioned a world where people watched TV on the train to work.

Despite the fact that television is embracing multiscreen, the living room TV set is how most viewers watch today. Adobe’s TV Everywhere report for Q2 2016 showed that TV connected devices (TVCDs) have become staples within households for TVE consumption. When we looked at TVE viewing and the change in time spent by device for instance, TVCDs grew 149% year-over-year (YoY), topping browsers, Android and iOS.

Online sales for TVCDs also grew 143% YoY, where we see strong demand for subscription services helping contribute to the growth. The findings in this report showed that through the large number of consumers embracing connected devices within their homes, TVE has returned to the living room.

In an environment where consumers demand reliable, high-quality video experiences across screens, connected devices present a major opportunity for media companies to deliver premium viewing that’s personalized to the individual. The technology should remain invisible to the user, but the experience should aim to delight.

Today at IBC, we announced new capabilities in Adobe Primetime that will help deliver on these points. Media companies will now be able to deliver premium experiences across connected devices that are personalized and buffer-free.

Content also needs to be effectively monetized while ensuring that playback does not suffer. As an industry-first, Adobe is introducing live-linear ad replacement across every screen. As the scale and demands for streaming become increasingly larger, media companies can now seamlessly replace broadcast TV commercials with dynamically targeted ads. Data points ranging from device type and audience behavioral characteristics to Nielsen segments and psychographic data can all be leveraged so audiences get relevant, personalized ads.

The new dynamic ad insertion capabilities deliver on a hybrid approach of both server-side (in the cloud) and client-side (across devices) ad insertion for live and on-demand streaming. When there are millions of people tuning in to an event, ad insertion becomes a huge technological hurdle; this approach helps to prevent hiccups. The new capabilities in Adobe Primetime assist in delivering a consistently high quality and personalized user experience designed to generate higher CPMs.

To read up on all the latest capabilities of Adobe Primetime, visit our website.

Watch: Video Shows How to Improve Online TV with Relevant Recommendations

A familiar refrain from my childhood was, "I'm bored. There's nothing on TV."

Of course, there were shows on TV, shows that didn't fit my tastes in that moment. And that was a bad viewer experience.

The ideal experience is one where a viewer can look at the screen, see something to watch, and start watching.

Adobe Primetime Recommendations makes this ideal experience possible for over-the-top (OTT) and TV Everywhere (TVE) video services.

Get to know the ins and outs of our recommendations solution in this video:

OTT and TVE providers have a number of reasons to be excited about Adobe Primetime Recommendations.

  1. It recommends content to new users, who don't yet have a viewing history. This is achieved by using other existing contextual data sources to inform recommendations.
  2. The recommendations get even better as users establish a viewing history. As new data builds on existing data, the solution uses built-in A/B testing to keep video recommendations current to viewers' latest preferences.
  3. Recommended videos play instantly. The solution caches recommended videos in advance so that when they're selected for playback, viewers don't experience a delay.

Through features like these, Adobe Primetime Recommendations can increase viewer engagement with an OTT or TVE service by up to 30%.

To learn more about Adobe Primetime and the additional benefits that it has beyond personalization, visit our website.

Comcast’s Commitment to TV Everywhere on the Comcast Voices Blog

You’ve already heard from us that “serious attention is required to grow TV Everywhere adoption from 17% to 70%.”

A headline on the Comcast Voices blog about instant, seamless TV EverywhereOne company that’s giving it serious attention is Comcast.

The Comcast Voices blog recently published an insightful update about Comcast’s commitment to TV Everywhere by Matt Strauss. Strauss is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Video Services for Comcast Cable and serves as a co-chair on CTAM’s TV Everywhere steering committee.

Here are a few highlights from the update:

  • More than 40% of Comcast’s double-play customers are using TV Everywhere every month.
  • Comcast is working with industry partners, including Adobe, to support “a new, universal, scalable solution” for TV Everywhere that’s facilitated by home based authentication and single sign on.
  • This enhancement will “bring TV Everywhere to the next level.”

Be sure to read the whole article on the Comcast Voices blog.

Why VR Was a Hot Topic at the SEAT 2016 Conference

When a friend of mine watched basketball in virtual reality (VR) for the first time, it made him cry. It immersed him into the sport he’s loved since boyhood.

A screenshot of an article in Adweek about Adobe Primetime's virtual cinema capabilities

So, it’s not surprising that VR would be a hot topic at SEAT 2016, a conference that’s attended by leaders in professional and collegiate sports who are in the position to distribute VR content and make more guys like my friend shed tears of joy.

If you’re exploring how to distribute your premium sports content to VR users, get in touch with Adobe Primetime for a demo of our virtual cinema capabilities.

As reported in Adweek, we are “extending features for digital rights management playback and ad-insertion capabilities into virtual reality environments while also introducing virtual reality analytics to help media companies better understand what people are looking at and engaging with in VR.”

Feeling new to VR video?

Get a detailed overview of video viewing on VR and AR headsets in our white paper titled “Capitalizing on Viewer’s Hunger for Virtual and Augmented Reality.” And, read about the 5 hurdles to creating and distributing content in VR.