Cloud PVR: Live TV recording and playback for multiscreen
Nivedita Nouvel, VP Marketing at Broadpeak explains the benefits of using cloud PVR solutions for multiscreen delivery, outlining the capabilities operators should choose in a cloud PVR solution
Today, television viewers have an insatiable appetite for nonlinear content. They want to consume the content they want, when they want, and on any device. PVR solutions are a popular way for IPTV, cable, and OTT operators to deliver nonlinear content, yet they are limited to a single device type. Operators need a flexible, scalable, and cost-effective method for delivery high-quality nonlinear content in the multiscreen environment.
Recent advancements in IP technologies have emerged as a solution. IP networks now have the capabilities of storing content and streaming it on-demand to each end-user, allowing cloud PVR applications. Instead of storing the recorded content on a local drive, cloud PVR captures the content in the heart of the network and streams it as video-on-demand content, with all the trick mode functions (e.g., pause, fast rewind, fast forward) available. Additional applications such as start-over, catch-up, and time-shifting TV can also be supported with cloud PVR.
Benefits of Cloud-PVR vs Local PVR
The cloud PVR approach offers a multitude of benefits compared with the local PVR approach, for both service operators and end-users. The benefits are even bigger when shared copy is allowed.
With cloud PVR solutions, end-users can launch any number of recordings on various channels simultaneously, without any constraint on the available bandwidth or number of tuners on their reception device. The recorded content can be viewed on all of a subscriber’s devices. Moreover, the quantity of storage available is not limited to the STB initially installed by the operator. Storage can be increased, as needed.
Another advantage of cloud PVR solutions for end-users is that the quality of the recorded content is not limited by the constraints on the network at the time of the recording. With local PVR, if the network quality is not good at the time of the recording, the content will be stored with a low quality, whereas cloud PVR enables content to be adapted to the conditions at stake at the time of the streaming. Ultimately, this leads to a superior quality of experience (QoE) for end-users.
From a service operator standpoint, cloud PVR solutions offer significant cost savings. Operators’ hard drive costs are reduced, since storage is only added on an as needed basis. There is no need to deploy PVR STBs with a monumental amount of storage space that may not be used. Support costs also go down with cloud PVR solutions, as there are no disks in the STB, which can be a key point of failure.
Operators that use a cloud PVR solution will also see reduced churn. Since their customers have recorded all their content in the operator network, they are less willing to switch to a new provider. In addition, cloud PVR solutions open up new business models for operators, allowing them to use storage space in the cloud in various ways (e.g., global fee per month, price per channel or bouquet, storage quotas, etc.) as well as insert targeted advertising into the stream, personalising the end-user experience.
One of the most important features that an operator should look for in a cloud PVR solution is scalability. A cloud PVR solution must scale to handle a growing number of recordable channels (i.e., ingest capacity), new recording requests (i.e., recording and storage capacity), and an increase in viewing requests (i.e., playback capacity). (see image above)
From a scalability standpoint, operators will want to choose a cloud PVR solution that offers a high level of flexibility to answer all the constraints of the different cloud PVR use-cases and usage models, including shared and private copy. This will simplify capacity planning.
Using a cloud PVR solution for multiscreen can require a huge amount of storage. Each piece of recorded content must be available in the various delivery formats (e.g., Apple HLS, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, Adobe HDS, MPEG-DASH) supported by the broad range of end-user devices. Storing the same recording in all of these different formats in advance is costly and can become an obstacle for operators to rollout cloud PVR.
Operators can overcome this challenge using on-the-fly (OTF) packaging. With OTF packaging, the recording is stored in only one format, preferably protected with an AES fixed key (DRM is not applicable), or in the clear in a format usually named “pivot format.” In this case, content is packaged in the right format and protected via the DRM of the choice of the operator by the origin server only when requested by an end-user device.
Redundancy management is an important point for operators to consider when rolling out a cloud PVR solution. However, redundancy in a cloud PVR solution can be costly because all of the recorded channels have to be ingested twice in the origin server cluster when a 2N redundancy scheme is used. This doubles the recording capacity of the origin server cluster.
Employing an N+1 redundancy scheme, operators can reduce the cost of the cloud PVR solution. However, part of the recordings will be lost during the time required to set up the live channel on the redundant origin server in case of failure. Operators will want a redundancy scheme that doesn’t record the same live channels twice and avoids loss of video data.
The best case scenario is to select a cloud PVR solution that supports a 2N architecture where a live channel is ingested by two origin servers but actually recorded by the main origin server. In case of failure of the main origin server, the recording can be resumed by the redundant one without any loss of video data, ensuring the best possible QoE for end-users without requiring doubling the writing bandwidth and the storage capacity of the system.
By using a highly scalable cloud PVR solution that features best-in-class redundancy management and OTF packaging capabilities, operators can deliver a multiscreen service with exceptional QoE at the best cost. With cloud PVR solutions, operators have the flexibility to deliver content over managed and unmanaged networks, support traditional VOD or advanced applications like catch-up TV on every screen, and adjust storage, as needed, to increase end-user engagement with their service and their revenue streams.