The key to personalised (and profitable) streaming video experiences

The key to personalised (and profitable) streaming video experiences

Smarter manifest manipulation in ABR streaming can go a long way toward reconciling the conflict between technical capability and profitability.

The world of streaming video, whether streamed by a pay TV provider on its own network, or delivered “over-the-top” (OTT) by streaming providers, requires a careful balance between leveraging the new capabilities it offers and ensuring operational profitability.

A technology known as adaptive bitrate (ABR) video has made it easier for video service providers to deliver high-quality experiences to a wide range of consumer devices through standard Internet technologies. A key benefit of ABR video is its ability to constantly asses the user’s bandwidth and device capabilities in real-time, allowing it to adjust the video’s quality to work within these limitations.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that ABR streaming does come with its own challenges.

While ABR can adjust to meet variable network conditions and support an almost unlimited number of device types, it lacks end-to-end management capabilities because end users’ devices independently manage the video experience.

ABR also provides a strong platform for personalised ad insertion—an increasingly important component of the provider’s business model. A powerful way to personalise the video experience and introduce targeted advertising is through manifest manipulation. In ABR video, the manifest is a list of video files that make up a program, and the client uses this list to retrieve the correct files. By changing the manifest, service providers can manage the user experience from within the network.

Not only can this approach personalise an ABR stream with targeted advertising, but it can also substitute content, enable emergency alerts, direct the client to get the content from a more efficient network location (CDN Steering) and even help optimise bandwidth.

Manifest manipulation is an underutilised tool

Manifest manipulation is not a new idea, but given its enormous potential to deliver more personalised experiences, its awareness and adoption rates are surprisingly low. A recent survey by CommScope of 295 content providers revealed that less than 25% were aware that manifest manipulation could help with a number of video streaming challenges. In many of the areas that could benefit most, adoption rates were below 10%.

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The survey also revealed that those providers using manifest manipulation often relied on multiple products and components to do so. The survey found that 57% of manifest manipulation users leveraged two or more such components, and 10% used five or more. This creates complexity in managing a video session because multiple components in an ecosystem can change the manifest, potentially creating conflicts when executing multiple services.

Unlocking more personalised experiences

By more aggressively utilising the potential of manifest manipulation and centralising its management, video service providers can overcome these challenges. When done correctly, manifest manipulation has applications that extend far beyond advertising. It can help service providers deliver a better user experience, increase revenue opportunities and reduce costs, all while providing the end-to-end Streaming Session Management that is otherwise lacking.

The key to better-optimised, better-personalised streams

The race between technical capabilities and operational profitability may never end for video service providers, but smarter manifest manipulation in ABR streaming can go a long way toward reconciling these two conflicting needs.

By empowering better personalisation, optimising bandwidth and delivering a host of connected services, manifest manipulation can mean happier users and improved profitability for content providers of all kinds.

Jim Owens is senior director, Product Management, Advertising & Video Optimisation at CommScope

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