By Joe Shepherd (SVP & Business Unit Owner, OWNZONES Media Network)
There is a lot going on in today’s OTT world. Every week it seems there is a new entrant into the market. Whether it be from a brand new startup or a well-established company, it seems everyone from niche development shops to traditional broadcasters are trying to claim their slice of the OTT pie. As the journey from market disruption to consolidation plays out before our eyes it’s easy to get excited and confidently jump in with both feet, only to find yourself quickly in over your head. In this article, we will touch on a few lessons learned when onboarding content from a major studio and distributing it to multiple OTT/Broadcast endpoints.
One of the largest challenges accompanying successful distribution is the required time and energy that must initially be invested in order to get it right, everything is front loaded. Distribution in-and-of-itself isn’t that tough. At a base level, distribution is simply the moving of files, albeit rather large ones, from point A to point B. The true challenge lies in the multitude of things that must take place before the delivery of the first title. There are a ton of potential distribution endpoints that currently exist, with more and more popping up every day and each of these platforms have their own specs, requirements and metadata that the systems are built on. Further complicating things, a majority of these systems are completely homegrown and therefore there’s no real standardization between them. These factors frequently result in extremely time-consuming and complicated on-boarding and validation processes. Below is a common distribution scenario that we at OWNZONES have experienced time and time again.
The first thing that needs to be done is to properly ingest the content and pass a validation test from the content producer. Typically, a spec is provided from the studio along with some test files. These can come from all kinds of sources, everything from a hard drive to a cloud storage location. Once these test files have been run through the optimization platform they get sent, along with the associated metadata, back to the studio for validation. Depending on the studio or content producer, this process can take from a few days to a week or more from start to finish, assuming the platform is operating at peak efficiency. The below diagram details the Studio Validation Process.
Once studio validation has been passed, it then it’s time to begin the next stage of distribution. It is at this point in the process where conforming to each distribution endpoint’s specs becomes critical. In essence, this is basically the same process that was just completed with the studio, except now it must be done for each delivery end point. This is by far the most time consuming stage of the overall process and can often take up to a week or more per platform. There are several reasons for this, the largest being that uniform standards have not yet been fully adopted across all platforms. This can result in different optimization solutions per distribution channel. Industry standards such as IMF and ATSC 3.0 will help, but until then, OTT content distribution companies are at the mercy of each platform. The diagram below represents the distribution endpoint validation phase.
Lastly, international distribution is a complete mystery to a majority of those operating in today’s OTT industry. Distribution rights, unknown platforms and subtitling are just a few of the many nuances that push international distribution beyond the reach of most of today’s platforms. Here at OWNZONES Digital Media Network we have built a platform that can deliver to more than a dozen different OTT and traditional broadcast endpoints across the US, Europe and Asia in a purely automated fashion. The advanced OWNZONES platform removes many of the roadblocks that have long-prevented international distribution, while allowing content to effectively reach markets on a truly global scale.
As the above information demonstrates, OTT content distribution, both in the US and on a global scale, is an extremely complicated and time consuming process. As such, the OWNZONES team is committed to staying on the leading edge of industry innovation. Our involvement with industry governing bodies such as the Streaming Video Alliance and the American Cable Association put us on the forefront of developing new ways to make these processes as efficient and effective as possible in order to bring the OTT revolution to screens the world-over.