By Sarah Paris-Mascicki, Product Marketing Manager, Business Unit Support Solutions, Ericsson
Pay TV viewing trends are changing the way we think about all TV programming: live, Video on Demand (VOD) and recorded content. Viewers are tuning in more often throughout the day, often outside of the living room, and expecting all their programs to be available when they want them. Rising consumer demand is fueling a rapid growth of new services and applications. They want more features, need more storage and above all else, expect an unprecedented amount of choice and access to live and recorded content, at any time.
Current over the top (OTT) options for live and VOD have driven the overriding time and place shifting trend. Up until recently, the traditional digital video recorder (DVR) has only addressed half of this need â€“ time shifting. By allowing programs to be recorded on an in-home set-top-box (STB) and watched at leisure, the DVR has freed subscribers from many of the confines of a linear channel. However, viewers are generally still tethered to their homes.
Cloud DVR: Responding to TV Anywhere demand
Given this clear desire for TV Anywhere (including access to recorded content), the limitations of traditional in-home DVR and the potential to shift content outside of the home and into the cloud, one would expect an explosion in Cloud DVR (cDVR) adoption. While slow to launch, cDVR is now taking off. According to a January 2015 study by Infonetics, 53 percent of respondents planned to offer network/cloud DVR capabilities as part of their service.
The benefits to the provider are pretty straightforward. Happy subs equate to reduced churn and this alone should be a reason to jump to the cloud. cDVR is a huge differentiator. By migrating consumer services and applications to the cloud, TV service providers can deliver a better quality consumer experience for user content on-demand, anywhere.
The cloud infrastructure delivers the necessary flexibility to enable service providers to deliver multiscreen options, infinite archives, catch up TV, pause live TV and even recording in the past. They can upgrade services and expand storage on the fly while reducing CAPEX and OPEX due to cheaper STBs, reduced truck rolls and maintenance. But even with these benefits, cDVR has been the tortoise, not the hare in the TV race.
Cloud DVR: More complicated than you think
While the benefits of cDVR may be straightforward, the implementation is not, and the process of migration presents a host of challenges. To begin with, there are a number of complex business issues, with copyright laws varying from country to country, region to region. In the US, the landmark Cablevision case (2008) deemed a unique copy saved per user as the standard, but MSOs are interpreting that decision independently. In Europe itâ€™s a more complex, regionally dictated issue. Many service providers are encountering legal hurdles as they try to implement network or cloud DVR technologies. The challenges vary; in some situations itâ€™s too costly to deploy a private copy solution while in others, there are difficulties around securing the types of rights needed to define the type of service that can be provided.
These legal guidelines have created many â€˜flavorsâ€™ of cDVR, in order to meet the requirements of the region. A shared copy deployment allows for a single file to be saved and streamed out to many viewers, whereas a private copy system requires a unique copy of a program to be saved for every subscriber that requests it. These two extremes have been supplemented by many hybrid solutions and are customized to meet very particular needs. Add to this, a truly complicated ecosystem required to make it all work. The back-office systems can be varied, the unique characteristics of each deployment require unique content transformation options and the distribution options are huge.
The economic business models provide a further obstacle. Monetizing catch-up or recorded content is especially difficult as the value chains are yet to be established. Emerging models range from a VOD-like pay-per-view scheme, through to an upgraded subscriber fee. Additional storage or the number of parallel recordings could be an upcharge, or a broader dynamic advertising program could be implemented. Although the technology is available to transfer recorded content to the cloud, it involves considerable cost to the service provider. A defined path to a positive return on investment is still decidedly unclear.
Cloud DVR: Difficulties surrounding technology
With migration to the cloud comes a host of challenges for service providers, with storage representing the foremost concern. In a private copy solution, recordings cannot be shared. Therefore, a single, unique copy of the program must be saved per user, which is tricky to store (due to the volume) and maintain. For example, saving all adaptive bit rate (ABR) layers for 50 hours of video at 6.62 GB of data per hour would add up to 331 GB of data per user. A telecom operator with 100,000 subscribers would therefore be dealing with 33 Petabytes of data in terms of the total amount of storage in their datacenter.
Performance requirements are also very significant. As each consumer is streaming and recording content, service providers need to ensure their system delivers large throughput capabilities. Unlike VOD systems, consumers are streaming and recording programs concurrently. During peak times, the volume of recordings can be enormous and playout is typically over a 72-hour window after the recordings. Implementing Cloud DVR typically means a complex architecture with multiple single purpose server farms, a huge data center of dedicated storage services and all of the interconnects to make it work.
Cloud DVR: A simple solution for service providers
As complex as the issues related to cloud DVR are, the need is still quite simple. Meet your subscriberâ€™s demands. And subscriberâ€™s demands can only be met with the performance, flexibility, scalability, and applications made possible with Cloud DVR. Itâ€™s important to consider that all deployments are unique and require adaptations to fit a service providerâ€™s specific needs and custom integrations to fit into their workflows.
The Ericsson Cloud DVR solution, which powers over 60 percent of all Pay TV cloud DVR deployments worldwide today, delivers simpler architecture, maintenance, solutions, and economics. The solution integrates and virtualizes the storage and processing capabilities of as many Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) servers as needed into a unified, high performance, software-based Cloud DVR infrastructure.
With the pressing need to differentiate their offerings, service providers are turning to the cloud to provide a stellar, and much demanded, video delivery experience. Cloud DVR is the leg of the race to provide ALL content, anywhere, anytime, on any device. While the flexibility and great potential is highly compelling, jumping to the cloud is not easy. The right infrastructure however, can make it simpler.