Service providers will be spending the bulk of 2011 advancing their initiatives to enable "TV Everywhere" (TVE) type offerings. While many in the industry suggest that much of the enabling technology already exists and the implementation of TVE services hinges on business models catching up (and content rights being secured for multi-screen distribution), in truth, a fair amount of technical evolution still needs to play out.
For service providers, the delivery of any content over any network to any device and at any time is becoming increasingly costly and complex. More content needs to be processed, stored and managed. More network bandwidth needs to be allocated for distribution and delivery. More resources need to be dedicated to the broader video distribution value chain.
Therefore, 2011 will also be the year of opportunities to mitigate the cost and complexity of TVE services. Below are some of the key trends and drivers we expect to become increasingly prevalent.
If CDNs enable a single piece of content to be ingested once and stored centrally at an origin server, service providers will need improved content management systems to ensure the integrity of content cached at the edge.
Mapping Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to Access Networks
Service providers have many reasons to build their own on-net CDN strategies. But without planning ahead, service providers could end up with separate CDNs for each of their existing video delivery and network silos, such as for VoD, broadband, and mobile content. By mapping their CDN architectures with their plans for network convergence, service providers can implement a common CDN infrastructure for all their video services that can more effectively handle content distribution whether it is for traditional fixed-line broadcast, VoD, broadband video, or mobile/wireless video.
Centralizing Content Ingest and Management
If CDNs enable a single piece of content to be ingested once and stored centrally at an origin server, service providers will need improved content management systems to ensure the integrity of content cached at the edge. This includes ensuring that cache and origin content are in synch, as well as centralizing the management of the various content rights and business rules to ensure compliance with contractual agreements and subscriber fulfillment (i.e., what content is permitted to be distributed, and to whom). Ultimately, the data center becomes the optimal location for these content management functions to be increasingly delivered as "cloud" services.
Decentralizing Video Optimization
With increased channel counts and content being streamed to multiple screens, the overhead and complexity of processing video streams into various bit rates, formats, and resolutions, as well as distributing them across networks, is leading to innovative architectural and technical workarounds. One alternative, for software-based encoders, is to separate processing-intensive video transcoding (which remains in CPU resource-heavy head-ends/data centers), from less processing-intensive video encapsulation (which is being distributed further out into the network edge). Another alternative is to cache and transcode content from the consumer premises, by pushing the content all the way to the consumer gateway. Both alternatives face potential business model challenges, since content providers will need to permit copies of their content to be distributed and manipulated/transcoded in more decentralized and less controlled environments. However, the trend to locate processing resources at various points in the network, including all the way to the customer premises, is clear.
An emerging opportunity ... is to provide hosted/managed services for back-office solutions such as subscriber, content, and session management.
Managed Back-office Services
No strategy to reduce complexity would be complete without considering a managed services approach. While managed services offerings for video already exist, with few exceptions, most of the infrastructure vendors have not ventured far into this space. Yet the opportunity is ripe. And there are multiple entry-points. An emerging opportunity, as operators to extend their existing TV environments from broadcast and VoD to include delivery to multiple screens, is to provide hosted/managed services for back-office solutions such as subscriber, content, and session management.
For service providers and their infrastructure partners, focusing on solutions that mitigate the growing cost and complexity for TVE-type services, will ensure that they are positioned on the right side industry changes in 2011 and beyond.
Yoav Schreiber is Senior Analyst for Digital Media Infrastructure at Current Analysis, and a FierceCable contributor. Follow him on Twitter @yschreiber.