Home Opinions SaaS: Distribution of OTT-ready local broadcast channels to virtual MVPDs made easy

SaaS: Distribution of OTT-ready local broadcast channels to virtual MVPDs made easy

Jean Macher, Director of Market Development, Harmonic
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There are incredible revenue opportunities that broadcasters can take advantage of in the video streaming environment; however, a major challenge is preparing and distributing OTT-ready local broadcast channels to new OTT aggregators known as virtual MVPDs (vMVPDs).

Local and regional broadcast channels are key to the appeal of the highly publicised “skinny bundle,” a slimmed down line-up of Pay TV channels delivered over the top by vMVPDs. But these channels can’t just be passed to OTT platforms and streamed to viewers “as is.” The main reason: programming rights for over-the-air broadcasts do not necessarily apply to OTT. Local broadcasters create linear channels made of various content negotiated separately, including primetime national programming, syndicated shows and local programming, and it’s complicated but crucial to manage streaming rights across all content.

Because primetime programming is the most valuable content, the broadcast network of affiliation typically helps local broadcasters and provides the platform to distribute the channels to vMVPDs.

A simple and cost-effective solution is needed to aggregate the local channels, manage schedules and content rights, and distribute feeds, including local and network programming, live sporting events and advertising in real-time over the Internet.
Recently, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions have emerged as a way to simplify linear TV distribution for programmers.

Using a CDN-enabled SaaS solution, as opposed to satellite, programmers can meet the demand for linear content on connected screens. A key benefit of this cloud solution is the capability to insert the accurate metadata needed not only for rights management and blackouts, but also for monetisation and dynamic ad insertion, without requiring dedicated on-premises equipment and little upfront cost for distribution of local channels to vMVPDs.

In this case, schedules, complete with rights information, are pushed to vMVPDs as SCTE-224 and then aligned with the VOS360 SaaS feeds (cloud downlinks) and integrated into the MVPDs’ ecosystems, before distribution to respective end users. Each affiliate transport stream is replicated, as needed, to meet each vMVPD’s demand.

Each piece of programming and advertising is identified by a unique ID. Then SCTE-35 is inserted in-band to ‘decorate’ the video and provide accurate delineation and IDs, as well as default restrictions for all the pieces of programming that make the linear channel. SCTE-224 keeps the traditional model of content providers and distributors, providing a standard-based ‘demark’ [demarcation] between the two and can address multiscreen consumption on the go.

Another use case where having a CDN-enabled SaaS solution makes perfect sense is international distribution. SaaS enables programmers to reach distributors anywhere in the world leveraging the reach of global CDNs. Moreover, they can easily create variants of channels. For example, programmers can instantly produce different programming to comply with content rights in remote countries as well as add different logos and advertising to regionalise the channel.

SaaS is also ideal for OTT distribution of occasional events. Since SaaS is cloud-based, it enables programmers to quickly spin up and take down new channels, with little upfront investment, as it’s based on a pay-as-you-grow business model.

With the surge in linear TV OTT offerings, today’s consumers expect ubiquitous access to channels, but don’t want to pay more for this flexibility. The onus is on the broadcasters and distributors to resolve content rights and find ways to monetize the service via smarter ad insertions. With a SaaS solution, local channels can be delivered to vMVPDs with the accurate metadata required for sophisticated OTT rights management (content replacement, blackouts)  and more targeted ad insertion. Supporting a wide range of use cases, with increased speed and efficiency, SaaS solutions are setting a new benchmark for OTT delivery of linear channels.

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