LONDON -- Content Delivery World -- Moving from a "push" model, where content was delivered to each distribution partner, to a cloud-based "pull" model, where it is made available for partners to download, has greatly simplified ITV's distribution workflow, according to Tom Griffiths, director of broadcast and distribution technology at UK's largest commercial channel, ITV plc (London: ITV).
Speaking at the Content Delivery World event in London on Thursday, he talked about some of the challenges that ITV faced developing systems for broadcast and delivery in a world where "OTT was firmly at the heart of what we offer."
Griffiths listed the three main content delivery challenges the company faced -- enriching the free VoD offering; managing linear simulcast on ITV Hub, its multiplatform video hub; and optimizing monetization through multiplatform advertising.
In the past ITV would prepare each file based on specifications from distribution partners, such as pay-TV providers offering ITV VoD/catch-up services via their VoD portals. As the number of devices and partners involved increased, the company was facing significant challenges due to scaling and set-up timescale issues. ITV offers 200 hours of catch-up content -- totaling 6TB -- every week. It needed a better approach to manage spiraling distribution costs and excessively long implementation timelines.
Additionally, the team was finding that its distribution partners had developed their own apps and platforms. They were asking for a high-quality mezzanine file instead, so they could develop their own profile variants.
This led ITV to explore a cloud-based solution. Working with Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS), ITV signed up for the AWS S3 product. Now it uses what Griffiths calls the "pull" model -- where a mezzanine file is uploaded once on to the AWS cloud and permission is provided to partners to be able to download the asset as required, and then each partner can develop the various profiles required for each device and app they support.
AWS automatically sends a notification to each authorized partner when the asset is uploaded, so this greatly simplifies the workflow for ITV. It informs the partner that the asset is available and they can download at their convenience.
ITV has also found that many of its partners are also AWS customers, which saves on transit costs since files can be transferred within the same cloud. Also, where possible, ITV has set-up cross-connects with partners, to further ease distribution.
According to Griffiths, ITV can now set up a test service with a new partner within a week's time, and can be operational within a month. ITV has also added the ITV Hub as a "partner" within AWS, so they are "eating their own dogfood," a phrase that seems to be becoming popular again in the industry. Moving forward, Griffiths is adding more access services for VoD platforms, and looking to the cloud for video transcoding and stitching operations as well.
The challenge now facing ITV is defining the right mezzanine file that works for all its partners. Today, it offers each asset in 4:3 (standard definition aspect ratio) and 16:9 (high-definition aspect ratio) with matching resolution. It also includes metadata files, which have technical metadata including the asset location (for the partner to download), the license details, and editorial metadata, i.e., program information.
Griffiths mentioned the Digital Production Partnership (DPP) standard for broadcast, and how it had greatly helped advance broadcasting in the UK. He wanted a similar standard for mezzanine files, which would create the same efficiencies for VoD delivery.
Griffiths also talked about two other initiatives at ITV: live streaming and ad monetization on the relaunched ITV Hub. Catch-up services are the main driver of ITV Hub activity, but live streaming of channels is also becoming more important. The key challenges Griffiths highlighted for live streaming were creating a more resilient architecture, and monitoring live streaming delivery performance. For advertising, it was managing the differences between measurement methods for broadcast and for streaming, and replacing ads in live, dynamic content.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation