OTT live streaming – can it get up to speed?

Since its inception OTT content is known for buffering, latency and system crashes. Can it improve?

OTT providers have been streaming live content for years now. But more often than not, the experience has been inadequate for consumers. 

And with modern audiences increasingly expecting live streaming quality to match that of linear broadcast, OTT providers face growing pressure to deliver. 

Since its inception OTT content is known for buffering, latency and system crashes. So, can it improve? Can OTT live streaming get up to speed?

To find that out, we first need to consider the apparent hurdles. 

First are the peaks in demand for content. Typically, in a major sports event there are a number of key points during the match – 5 minutes before the start, a goal or major incident, half-time breaks or the closing minutes. And during these points, operators will naturally experience a spike in people tuning in. 

And so, when these peaks arise, an operator’s platform must have the necessary network and peak load capacity in key areas like authentication, authorisation, licence delivery and CDN playout.

But these are just the trials and tribulations of going through the effort of offering consumers premium live content – the more compelling and exciting it becomes, the heavier your workload becomes.

Similarly, there are other challenges to do with late registration for PPV content. For example, where a live pay-per-view sports event is due to start imminently, and new subscribers register to watch during the final few minutes before the game. 

And while this is linked to the question of scalability, business rules have to be set to ensure the need to validate and collect payment is matched with the viewer’s immediate requirement to watch the content.  

Another challenge to address is latency. In practical terms, this would be when OTT generally runs behind broadcast long enough to hear the neighbours celebrate a goal a minute or two ahead of you when watching the same event on a different platform – it’s a bit of a buzzkill during major sports events.

Of course, these hurdles all form part of the greater challenge of ensuring a good user experience for subscribers. 

But what about the traditional broadcasters? 

Well, if they don’t have an existing OTT solution, the biggest challenge is extending the capability to provide content in an IP environment. They also have to create a means of offering the streaming service to consumers. 

For example, they may need to create an app through which to present the content. And this may well have to be replicated across many device types. Traditional broadcasters who take a traditional or new app-based approach also need to be more focused on making greater efforts to retain customers – i.e. consumer centricity and customer experience excellence. 

Data and AI driven analytics and fan engagement techniques meanwhile can give the broadcasters the tools needed to provide customers experience excellence. It isn’t just a brand that keeps customers sticky, it is the experience that a brand creates. 

What’s more, the ever-evolving threat of piracy is a key concern for streaming broadcasting. And similarly, broadcasters need to keep abreast of the requirements for device authentication and secure session management, ensuring that only those paying a subscription have access to the service.

Even with the challenge it presents, ultimately, live OTT does have the potential to reach broadcast quality if the conditions are right. And by managing those challenges, operators will be able to extend their appeal to a whole new generation of demanding consumers. 

NAGRA can offer an integrated platform that delivers extremely low-latency live OTT streaming while providing fans with an exciting app and channel-based user experience. Learn more here