Live linear TV delivered over-the-top (OTT) video is now a core differentiator for digital broadcasters looking to build and engage loyal audiences. It is an important way to stay competitive and grow revenues in the ever-evolving digital content landscape.

Live streaming is booming globally as the market for premium OTT video grows and audiences demand more real-time connections to their favorite content on their preferred devices. That is particularly true in top categories like news and sports, where content has far more 
value when delivered live than via video-on-demand (VOD) replays.

To position a brand successfully and earn more from content in a sea of competitive OTT offerings, broadcasters must provide their viewers with compelling premium content and a superior experience. Establishing a unique selling point - such as exclusive, differentiating content will be among the primary success factors for marketplace OTT offerings in the days ahead, asserts a recent study by global research firm MTM, sponsored by Ooyala and Vindicia. Additionally, it cited high-quality user experiences and the ability to integrate technical service components as important factors.

Live video can meet the need for both great content and great experiences. It also creates opportunities for shared and interactive viewing that audiences crave for. Consumers today insist on instant access to live video OTT. They want to view on-demand the content they missed live, and they want to stream live programs in high-definition formats like 4K. More and more content providers are recognizing these trends and acting on them, to great advantage. OTT continues to transform the viewing experience, and providers understand that live is the future of OTT.

Sports and news are the crown jewels for live video, so companies are circling these as the first categories to build out in their OTT offerings. Meanwhile, social media companies understand the value in live video as well; social companies are rapidly embracing 
live-streaming videos from brands and consumers alike, bringing more content, competition, and experimentation to the space.

Maximizing OTT Opportunities

Live content has a wealth of programming benefits, including the opportunity to provide must-see TV moments found nowhere else. Those moments fall generally into three categories - ad-hoc events, such as breaking news stories; planned events, like sporting competitions or award ceremonies; and linear programming including 24/7 simulcasts and simulated live programs (VOD content played in scheduled order).

An integrated platform. The major factors for success with live OTT include ensuring streamlined and cost-efficient platform integration with existing and often disparate workflows, scalability, and system availability. In setting up a live offering, it is imperative to use a platform that supports each of the aforementioned categories of live OTT content, and one that allows for efficient encoding, repackaging, and content delivery. Providers should seek a single, modular platform that offers integrated live and live-to-VOD delivery for a seamless viewer experience; APIs for easy partner integration; content management system (CMS) for a unified asset workflow; multi-dimensional analytics for understanding content performance; content discovery for maximizing views and revenue; and multiple monetization options for supporting a range of business models.

The platform should support efficient interaction between the teams that manage all of these elements.

A cloud-based live solution is an ideal choice. It reduces customer costs and provides flexibility to quickly set up streaming for events happening anywhere in the world. It lets companies scale easily while making sure the video is both available and reliable.

Flexibility and reliability. Inefficient and complex workflows often lead to custom solutions that are difficult to manage, scale, and adapt. Incomplete end-to-end (E2E) platforms create a greater challenge to ensuring successful live delivery. These platforms require significant customization to fully build out and integrate them for live and VOD assets, CMS, analytics, and monetization. The ability to quickly pivot around the real-time broadcast changes and schedule extensions that is inevitable with live events is critical too. Broadcasters must prepare for live content restrictions such as blackouts and geographical or subscription-related constraints. They need to continuously monitor and analyze content performance and accessibility, as live service revenue is acutely dependent on high availability and quality of experience.

Smart controls. Broadcaster controls are crucial in a live ecosystem. These should include options to set up live channels, events, and schedules rapidly; manage multiple events across channels; convert live assets to VOD with the same embeded code; and offer live DVR and catch-up services.

Further, providers should look for a fully automated setup, which eliminates many errors in creating live events. These kinds of errors occur more often during manual configuration of elements such as entry points, encoders, or players. Automated processes generally eliminate the need for a highly skilled user to set up the live streams. Self-service live platforms are also in greater demand today. They offer the speed and flexibility required for these events, as well as a single-source administrative console and content management system (CMS) to manage live elements. Configurable source inputs enable fall-over to alternative streams (automatic or manual), if needed, during the broadcast stream.

The right dashboard and analytics. Disjointed monitoring is often an issue for maintaining a high-quality live experience. Alerts can be missed and often monitoring for one or more areas is not even available. As a result, notification of stream issues may come only when an end-user calls the provider's help desk. This creates a reactive situation in dealing with issues, which can result in low viewer satisfaction. Providers are best-served with a single, real-time dashboard monitoring point. This enables tracking of encoder and packager health, and the final output end-viewers see on their devices. The dashboard should continuously track E2E infrastructure needs, workflow and portal status, stream health (particularly during peak viewing periods), alerts and notifications, and viewing analytics. Within analytics, there are two key types - engagement and quality of servic (QoS). Data must be easily reviewed so that providers can see how their content is performing, from both viewership and quality perspectives.

Ability to handle live assets. Broadcasters should consider how live OTT fits into their overall content mix, audience consumption patterns, and business model, so they can optimize their content assets accordingly. For example, rapid asset preparation and clipping is essential for creating timely VOD selections from live content, so audiences do not miss a beat.

Immediate turnaround of live events into VOD increases opportunities to engage and earn more from content. If the VOD version does not launch immediately, providers can lose a large segment of the audience who might otherwise have joined late to the live event. Consequently, they lose monetization opportunities and waste significant event-marketing revenue. Live events create a spike in video views that happen not only on the day of the event but also in the days leading up to and after the event. Broadcasters should have video readily available before, during, and after a live event to maximize profits.

A Successful Broadcast Strategy

Integrating live OTT content into a broadcast strategy is critical today for market differentiation and maximizing revenues. For best results with live OTT, broadcasters should engage a cloud-based, end-to-end live platform provider who can help provide efficient, integrated workflows, and scalability.

They should use a self-service platform with a deep feature set, including single-source administrative control and automated set-up.

Broadcasters should make sure that the platform can support all types of live content, along with multiple-device delivery and immediate live-to-VOD asset conversion. They should look to server-slide-ad-insertion for live ad insertion and consider a mix of monetization models while monitoring and analyzing live performance continuously.

Fortunately for content providers everywhere, the workflows and processes are now in place to meet the urgent and expanding demand for live programming across all platforms. There are many complexities around live OTT delivery, however. Broadcasters need to consider multiple elements as they implement a live solution and incorporate it into their existing workflows, content plans, and internal infrastructures.