Opinion

Software as a Service is a game-changer for broadcast writes Olivier Karra of Harmonic

Olivier Karra, Director for OTT & IPTV solutions, Harmonic.

Broadcasters and service providers can dramatically speed up the time to market for new services, lower their media processing and delivery costs, and deliver better video quality on every screen using SaaS, writes Olivier Karra of Harmonic.

Cloud technology is maturing. In the broadcast industry, this has paved the way for SaaS models to be deployed on a wider scale for media processing. Today’s SaaS supports the entire workflow chain, from ingest to playout and delivery, enabling operators to quickly and easily deploy new channels. This is especially advantageous in the OTT environment, where technologies, formats and devices are rapidly changing.

With a cloud-native media processing and delivery approach, broadcasters can be much more agile, scalable and efficient, delivering exceptional quality of experience (QoE) to subscribers, up to UHD HDR, with low latency across all screens. Let’s look into the key benefits of using SaaS for media processing, highlighting the value of intelligent function integration, pre-integrated ecosystems and new business model opportunities, such as teleport as a service.

 Key benefits of SaaS

For broadcasters looking to increase business agility, SaaS is the way to go. Generally, in the broadcast market, workflow changes happen slowly. With a cloud-native service, operators can launch new services in a matter of hours as opposed to weeks or months.

SaaS is also more scalable. Broadcasters can turn channels and services on and off almost instantaneously, which is perfect for supporting event or sports channels with a limited air time. As consumer demand changes, computer resources can be adjusted to address peaks and dips in viewership.

“The full on-premises media processing platform can be moved to the cloud without having to maintain a cumbersome hybrid architecture” Olivier Karra, Director for OTT & IPTV solutions, Harmonic

SaaS is also cost-effective. Rather than making a significant up-front investment in equipment, broadcasters can pay for resources as they grow. There are no hidden charges or surprises. What’s especially amazing is that broadcasters can deliver amazing video quality with SaaS, up to UHD HDR, at low bitrates, with low latency. SaaS that supports a wide range of formats, codecs and encoding schemes, including next-generation specifications such as the Common Media Application Format (CMAF), is particularly well-suited to delivering OTT video with the same latency as broadcast.

SaaS with intelligent function integration

While early SaaS offerings were focused on specific media processing functions, market expectations are now migrating toward workflow-centric SaaS. Operators regularly face big decisions such as infrastructure renewal cycles. The ability to know whether they will be able to handle their workflow is driving the adoption of SaaS.

As the functional scope of SaaS expands, in many cases the full on-premises media processing platform can be moved to the cloud without having to maintain a cumbersome hybrid architecture. In fact, once a functional layer of support is reached, some operators realise there is no point trying to keep some elements of media processing on-premise. This is one of the reasons why SaaS with intelligent function integration is gaining increased attention and is unique compared with other solutions that only address a subset for the required workflows.

Managing comprehensive workflows and delivering broadcast-grade video quality with high availability using SaaS has become a game changer. Handling live and file-based ingest and playout with multi-layered graphics, transcoding, packaging, encryption, storage, origin and delivery from the same SaaS – this is not only a possibility, it is a real-world solution already being used by major broadcasters and media service providers.

From a business agility standpoint, media companies can use SaaS to expand their traditional service offering overnight. For example, service providers can leverage the channel origination capabilities of SaaS to create additional self-branded offerings on top of their standard package. In addition, they can also launch a white-label service offering to other business partners.

Ecosystem integration

While certain workflows, such as linear video transcoding, are relatively static and self-defined, others require a certain level of integration. Typical examples include non-linear OTT delivery applications, which require integration with content protection (i.e., DRM), content management systems (CMS) and cloud storage, among other services. Similarly, SaaS that supports dynamic ad insertion (DAI) requires interfacing to upper layer control plane components, such as ad decision services.

From this standpoint, the value of SaaS also lies in its level of pre-integration with ecosystem components through open APIs. Certain integration points depend on constantly evolving protocols (e.g., CMAF and HTTP chunking for low latency, VAST for DAI). Choosing SaaS that stays up to date with these new protocols is important.

Business model consistency

Stepping back and looking at the end-to-end delivery chain, one can argue that some of the edge devices or enabling links might slow down the transition to the cloud. It is fair to say that many workflows require uplinks, or downlinks in the case of broadcast distribution. The notion of teleport as a service is becoming a perfect fit with the SaaS business model, allowing operators to achieve a consistent offering, leverage a simpler and more predictable ROI and lower the investment risk on an end-to-end basis.

Broadcasters, operators and service providers can then leverage the pay-as-you-grow model on a global basis, without having to worry about making an up-front investment. Over time, this type of business model is becoming the norm, whether usage- or term-based. In fact, it transforms the way media processing and delivery platform investments are being made, into a smoother, more agile cycle.

Conclusion

Cloud technology, specifically SaaS for media processing, is changing the face of OTT, broadcast and next-generation video delivery, enabling media companies to be more agile and adaptive to changing requirements. Broadcasters and service providers can dramatically speed up the time to market for new services, lower their media processing and delivery costs, and deliver better video quality on every screen.

 

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