Peer-assisted video delivery for a top viewer experience
Viewing quality can be hit or miss with OTT content. Adam H Lewis, president & CEO of the Voddler Group, explains how using peer-assisted video delivery can optimise quality of experience for viewers
The rise in the consumption of on demand content in recent years has led to the emergence of the OTT service provider, often seen as a threat to traditional broadcasters.
However, when it comes to ensuring that the viewer enjoys the best possible quality of experience (QoE), the OTT service provider faces challenges that the broadcaster does not. Indeed, the Internet is not under the OTT service provider’s control in the same way that the broadcaster owns the physical chain of distribution.
When the OTT service provider outsources delivery to content delivery networks (CDNs), these businesses face the exact same challenge. This means a lower quality of experience for consumers who live in areas of poor broadband capacity, which in turn leads to revenue loss as the viewer turns elsewhere to source content.
The good news is that the OTT service provider can bypass the limitations of the traditional CDN network model by using peer-assisted video delivery, thus ensuring high levels of quality for the end viewer.
A classic CDN design centres on a hub, with content replicated at a number of edge servers that are located closer to the customer and perform the final delivery. However, better performance means more edge servers, which are expensive to set-up and run.
A peer-assisted solution is infinitely scalable and becomes more efficient as the number of subscribers grows
This puts the OTT service provider at the mercy of the CDN and its decision to make a CAPEX-intensive commercial decision to invest in edge servers and locate them wisely.
Peer-assisted video delivery provides a very large number of edge servers without the consequent costs, making OTT video more attractive and economically viable. In this model, where every member of the service not only enjoys the content but also acts as an edge server, some of the content that would have been coming from the CDN now flows from one consumer to another.
In this scenario, a ‘hybrid distribution model’ can control that published content to the network and what content is available to whom. Intelligence in the management software allocates the resources according to demand.
To the OTT service provider, it looks like any other CDN architecture. However, rather than the content being held on central and edge servers, it is distributed among the attached devices of subscribers.
Hybrid peer-assisted video delivery does not replace an existing CDN, but complements it by offloading the current centralised streaming from a single bottleneck.
A peer-assisted video delivery model eliminates intellectual property (IP) piracy risk as well as the storage and connectivity load within the peering network, as complete pieces of content are not stored on any one device. ‘Slices’ of content are distributed among a number of subscriber devices, meaning no single computer can reconstruct the whole.
Digital rights management can be enforced, as existing user and rights management systems can interface with the delivery mechanism, as can any digital rights management layer.
Peer-assisted video is also financially attractive to both CDNs and VODs, as it offers the only alternative for increasing their capacity and offerings (such as Live TV), without incurring exponential costs.
A peer-assisted solution is infinitely scalable and becomes more efficient as the number of subscribers grows. Content can be hosted in smaller slices in multiple locations as additional subscribers join, meaning more subscribers are close to the peers hosting the content they want to watch. This allows OTT service providers to guarantee the best quality of experience for viewers, no matter how rapidly the service grows.