When winter doesn’t come – the importance of quality of experience

Recent TV hits Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale have been an emotional ride for those in the US, Australia and across the globe – and not just because of their highly anticipated airings. Both HBO Go (US) and Foxtel (Australia) services crashed during the Game of Thrones season seven premiere. Those whose suspense was shattered, did what disgruntled viewers do in 2017 and took to Twitter.

Just a few weeks before this, global distributors of The Handmaid’s Tale were also in hot water when the violent dystopian drama was interrupted by abrupt advertisements for a range of inappropriate or ironic products. Subscription service Hulu – who commissioned and first screened the program – stopped fans from immersing themselves in what could have been an amazing TV experience with ads ranging from IUDs to home pregnancy tests – all in a show about women being property of the state and who were forced into surrogacy. Other providers like SBS in Australia had viewers reporting ads popping up mid-sentence, completely destroying the suspense the producers worked to build during production.

If distributors can’t guarantee a good quality of service for programs with as much popularity, anticipation and intense drama as The Handmaid’s Tale or Game of Thrones, it begs the question – is TV killing itself? At what point do viewers turn to piracy instead? The season seven premier of the most popular show in HBO history – Game of Thrones – was watched more than 16 million times through official channels, six of which were delivered via the internet. This led to online services crashing during the episode. On top of this already high number, piracy analyst company MUSO then reported that illegal views topped 90 million. This figure includes illegal streams, torrents and downloads. Even without the guarantee of resolution and picture perfect quality, piracy shouldn’t be more reliable than official viewing options.

Streaming traffic needs to be thought about like road traffic. Just because there’s no traffic outside your house, doesn’t mean the roads on the way to your office aren’t congested. As you go deeper into the network, the aggregated level of TV traffic builds and builds. And this traffic is only going to keep building as online video consumption increases, especially with the rising popularity of 4K.

Market gorillas including Netflix are turning to private TV content delivery networks (TV CDNs) to help keep up with their growing market. Netflix alone built 1600 hardware servers into their distribution network. This helps them keep up with sudden spikes in requests for content. The system sends it from the nearest server to the viewer, having kept a copy of popular shows in the catalogue. Each server distributes to a smaller number of people locally, rather than sharing their content through the main network to try and deliver to millions of viewers at once.

This localized approach frees up the main roads, allowing users to access their content faster, with no speed bumps along the way.

To help content owners and broadcasters decide if they needed to make the transition to a private TV CDN, and make sure they can deliver the best quality of viewers, we commissioned analyst firm Frost & Sullivan to research the specifics behind when, and if,  building a private CDN is the right option for them. We found that as soon as a content distributor begins to deliver an average of an hour of service a day to 100,000 people, they need to consider a private TV CDN. That 100,000 viewers is but a drop in the ocean for those viewing Game of Thrones every year.

You can read the full Frost & Sullivan whitepaper here.

Richard Brandon, CMO, Edgeware

 

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