To store and reuse multiple VOD video files in the MAM, or to create the video files every time they are needed? With VOD business models, that is the classic dilemma between storage space and processing power. How to find the right balance and optimize infrastructure costs?
Material management for a VOD service is significantly different from managing material for traditional linear TV. For traditional linear TV, broadcasters have full control over the output format of their content. Over the years this format has changed from SD over HD to UHD. These changes are very significant and often require a totally new infrastructure for storage, broadcasting, graphics, editing and so on.
For VOD the video format needs are so diverse that most broadcasters have chosen not to change their internal video formats to the needs of VOD services. Instead, they transcode the available video material to the required VOD file format. Often, multiple video files in different formats are created to comply with the needs of every platform operator, online video shop (like iTunes) or website that serves the broadcaster’s content. And as you can imagine, every one of these third party companies has their own needs, requirements and standards for the video files. Note that platform operators will store the file only for as long as it is available to the viewers. Whenever a title that has gone offline is made available a second time, the broadcaster is expected to deliver the file and its descriptive metadata all over again.
Multiple file formats
Transcoding and storing files is an expensive business. You need to pay for transcoding processing power and for storing files so that they can then be delivered to the VOD platform.
So broadcasters are faced with a dilemma: to store the transcoded files so that they can be reused, or to transcode the files from a single broadcast quality file every time they are needed. It is the choice between storage space or the more expensive processing power. In practice, the optimal choice is different for every broadcaster as it mainly depends on their business model . The deciding parameter is the likelihood that a file will be reused and the frequency with which that will happen.
When can a VOD video file be reused?
Obviously, a file can only be reused if the content is the same and the desired video file format is correct. But even then it is not always possible. For VOD there is an extra complexity as the VOD file typically does not only contain the main content. The main content can be encapsulated with branding, promotions and even commercials. As content moves forwards in its content lifecycle, it will be available on different services, maybe first starting with a pay-per-view service—which does not contain branding, commercials or promotions—to pass on to a subscription service or even free ad-supported service that wraps an entire playlist around the content. So, although it is the same main content, the single transcoded video file that is delivered to the platform operator actually contains a concatenation of multiple items. It is clear that this significantly reduces the possibility of reusing an existing file stored in the MAM.
Different business models
By now you must be wondering whether a video file can ‘ever’ be reused. The answer is yes, depending on your business model. Take children’s VOD services. The many cartoons they serve do not remain available all the time. Sometimes there are contract restrictions on how long content can remain online in one go, or there are volume and refresh agreements between the broadcaster and the platform operator. As a result, for this business model, it very frequently happens that exactly the same content is offered multiple times in the same file format. In such a case, reusing transcoded files is the best and most economical option, and could make the difference between earning or losing money with the service. Children’s VOD services are not the only case, evidently. Themed content such as classic movies, sports archives and many other all benefit from reusing transcoded files rather than paying to transcode the files over and over again.
Finding the balance
Orchestrating the different transcoding systems and MAM systems, and delivering content to distribution platforms is a very complex process where the various business models of the broadcasters each require a different balance. To cope with such complexity, and to incorporate VOD material needs in the total workflow of the content lifecycle, including rights management, content description, linear scheduling, BI reporting and material handling, more and more broadcasters are implementing WHATS’ON, the content and lifecycle management tool of MEDIAGENIX.
“There is no single answer to the broadcaster’s dilemma,” says Michel Beke, SVP Product Strategy at MEDIAGENIX, “certainly now that the broadcast business is moving to a content-centric model that blurs the difference between linear and VOD. For a software provider it is crucial to constantly enable customers to adapt their processes to reduce costs and increase efficiency. This constant change and innovation is needed to help broadcasters and telcos develop successful businesses in this very competitive market.”
SVP Product Strategy @ MEDIAGENIX