Today’s broadcasters face enormous challenges with building scalable video streaming infrastructure. In the midst of the pandemic, video viewership has grown dramatically, and this influx of simultaneous viewers is straining traditional streaming workflows.
Cloud streaming infrastructure, however, can offer broadcasters service continuity and provide better Quality of Experience for viewers. That’s why many brands are shifting to OTT cloud video streaming solutions that offer more flexibility and efficiency at a more affordable price.
First, we’ll look at how cloud video streaming works and what OTT broadcasting means. Then, we’ll explain how OTT delivery can be used for video on demand and live events. Finally, we’ll discuss how cloud and OTT streaming can fit together to create a more modern streaming infrastructure.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- How Cloud Streaming Works
- What is OTT (Over-The-Top)?
- OTT For VOD vs. Live Streaming
- Cloud-Based OTT Streaming
How Cloud Streaming Works
Cloud video streaming is a way for brands to stream content using a network of servers dedicated to hosting in the cloud and delivering video files. This is in stark contrast to traditional streaming infrastructure, which had high upfront costs and complicated ongoing maintenance that wasn’t a core competency for most businesses.
With on-premise or in-house streaming, broadcasters needed to acquire and configure a group of live streaming servers to deliver videos to viewers. These tasks required technical staff to maintain the hardware, ensure its secure, and upgrade it as the audience grows. Cloud streaming eliminates most of these drawbacks by leveraging on-demand cloud computing resources.
Most streaming platforms are capable of ingesting a variety of video files and transcoding them in the cloud. These files get rendered into formats more suitable for transfer to end-users and are hosted on cloud servers so they’re ready for delivery.
Unlike an in-house data center, cloud servers can be located around the world. By spreading infrastructure geographically, broadcasters can host content closer to their viewers and reduce the latency of their video streams.
With cloud streaming, brands can eliminate the need for on-premise infrastructure and make OTT broadcasting more straightforward. Transcoding and other tasks are resource-intensive, so the ability to quickly scale across more cloud servers makes cloud streaming an efficient method for meeting demand as a brand’s audience grows.
What is OTT (Over-The-Top)?
OTT (over-the-top) streaming is a way for brands to deliver video directly to viewers through the public Internet. This approach bypasses traditional media networks like cable, broadcasts, and satellite television, so viewers can access the content they choose, whenever and wherever they want.
While traditional broadcasting often required proprietary hardware and software, OTT streaming can avoid the “gatekeepers” and deliver content to nearly any device with an Internet connection. OTT media is transforming not just video, but also audio, messaging, and phone services as well.
Consumers are embracing OTT streaming because they’re not stuck with predetermined broadcasting schedules and can watch video on demand (VOD) content. That’s because cable and satellite providers often forced consumers into buying certain channel packages and locked them into long-term contracts that were hard to terminate.
OTT streaming continues to grow in popularity because consumers are given more control over their viewing experience at a fraction of the price. Let’s take a closer look at how OTT works for today’s brands.
How Does OTT Streaming Work?
OTT is a technology-agnostic approach to content delivery that reduces costs and expands viewership. That’s because OTT-compatible devices include laptops, smartphones, tablets, Smart TVs, and more.
More specifically, OTT streaming requires encoding or transcoding video files into formats suitable for delivery. For most broadcasters, that means choosing a video file type and codec that’s compatible with the HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocol. This protocol ensures the video stream can be transferred over HTTP and works with HTML5 video players on any device.
Streaming protocols like HLS and MPEG-DASH are designed to efficiently transfer video files over a standard Internet connection. That means large video files are broken down into chunks, and video players progressively download these files during playback.
Advanced OTT often includes adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming as well. ABR streaming is a way for broadcasters to further optimize video playback by offering streaming to multiple platforms at varying bitrates or qualities. An adaptive video player can automatically adjust the stream quality up or down in real-time based on network conditions to eliminate buffering or other interruptions.
The Difference Between OTT Providers And Platforms
There are OTT providers or services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. These OTT providers offer their own content as well as content from other companies. These services are becoming more popular as consumers continue to “cut the cord” from traditional media outlets, but these providers aren’t ideal for most brands that want to stream content.
OTT platforms, however, provide broadcasters with everything they need to stream their content directly to viewers. This includes the ability to ingest and transcode content so that it can be delivered over the Internet to nearly any end-user device. OTT platforms, therefore, are a comprehensive set of tools for building advanced video streaming workflows from encoding and transcoding, storage, live stream recording, adaptive video playback, and more.
OTT For VOD vs. Live Streaming
When most people hear OTT, they immediately think of on-demand content providers like Amazon and Netflix, but OTT solution providers can also be used for live events. Moreover, most OTT platforms are meant to be comprehensive video streaming solutions, so often include features for both VOD and live streaming out of the box.
VOD streaming gives viewers full control over the video content they watch. In most cases, brands offer a catalog of content for their audience to browse, download, and watch. Many VOD platforms also offer TV or DVR-like features such as fast-forwarding, rewinding, and closed captions to improve the viewing experience.
VOD libraries often include shows, movies, webinars, or other pre-recorded content. It’s particularly popular for Entertainment, Education, and other types of videos that content creators want to review and edit before publishing.
An OTT platform with VOD capabilities often includes video hosting and video content management capabilities such as library organizations, playlists, and monetization tools. These features enable brands to efficiently manage and distribute their content to generate revenue.
Robust OTT software usually has various methods for monetizing VOD content delivery, which includes subscriptions, ad-based video monetization, and pay-per-view options. In addition, there should be a secure paywall system to accept payments and enterprise-grade security to ensure the brand’s content remains safe.
Live streaming allows companies to create unique, interactive experiences that unfold in real-time. Most live streaming platforms include chat and other audience interaction tools for asking questions or providing feedback to the event host.
For these reasons, live streaming is often a great way for brands to build a connection with their audience and create a buzz around their content. That’s why live streaming is often used for broadcasting live sports, corporate events, or virtual church services.
Live streaming is often more difficult than VOD streaming because any issues could cause viewers to stop watching. Broadcasters need a reliable Internet connection and an RTMP encoder that can compress and prepare RAW video files for delivery. If the connection upload speed isn’t high enough, viewers could experience quality issues.
Despite the challenges for hosting live events, viewers are still highly sensitive to buffering and quality issues. Broadcasters will need streaming infrastructure that can deliver content with very little buffering or lag time to keep viewers happy.
Along with VOD, many OTT solutions include live streaming capabilities as well. These features include the ability to automatically transcode live streams for delivery to a wide range of devices and real-time analytics to monitor the stream’s performance. Live stream recording enables brands to save their live events for backups or playback later on.
Cloud-Based OTT Streaming
There are some drawbacks to OTT broadcasting using on-premise streaming servers. That’s because broadcasters must build complex streaming workflows with enough computing power to successfully deliver video to their end-users without interruptions. Scaling this on-premise infrastructure is challenging, so many brands are turning to cloud-based streaming workflows.
What Is OTT Cloud?
OTT cloud combines streamlined video delivery over the Internet with the scalability and flexibility of cloud technologies. For example, an online video platform (OVP) can use content delivery networks (CDNs) to reduce the load on streaming servers and provide content to end-users more efficiently.
By leveraging CDNs, OTT cloud platforms can also reduce the distance live streams need to travel to reach viewers by utilizing edge servers around the world. This can help broadcasters achieve low-latency streaming and significantly improve the Quality of Experience for their audience.
These OTT cloud streaming workflows can also offer much greater service continuity. That’s because cloud streaming infrastructure can be more easily replicated to ensure redundancy and availability than on-premise video infrastructure.
What Is Cloud Native OTT?
While cloud video platforms offer improved scalability and resiliency, some platforms take it a step further with cloud-native OTT. Software that’s cloud-native is deployed in a container environment, where each individual functions within the application are split into separate microservices.
Using containerized microservices, these cloud-native applications can automatically scale up or down individual components of the application to avoid bottlenecks. This is achieved through orchestration platforms like Kubernetes.
For broadcasters, that means cloud-native video platforms can optimize resources towards uploading, transcoding, or streaming tasks as necessary. This architecture is also elastic, meaning that provisioned computing resources will closely match current demand, which can lead to considerable cost savings for many enterprises.
Who Should Use Cloud OTT Platforms?
Online OTT platforms are great for brands that want to launch and scale video streaming efforts quickly. Cloud-based platforms allow businesses to focus on producing high-quality content for their audience without worrying about hardware, technical challenges, and infrastructure scaling.
Enterprises can invest in cloud OTT platforms with end-to-end video streaming capabilities, and refocus their efforts on core business objectives. That way, brands can simply upload videos to their OVP platform and with a few configurations deliver VOD or live streaming content directly to their audience at an affordable price.
Many OTT platforms also give brands complete control over distribution. For example, broadcasters can use a white-label video player to customize the viewing experience to ensure it’s on-brand. Comprehensive video APIs also allow enterprises to integrate video content and cloud streaming functionality into their own mobile apps, websites, and more.
In the end, OTT video streaming platforms are ideal for brands that want to build professional broadcasting workflows for VOD and live broadcasting without worrying about on-premise infrastructure or other technical requirements.
Today’s consumers want complete control over the content they watch, so OTT streaming is becoming critical for most brands. Cloud-based OTT videos streaming platforms make it easier for broadcasters to get started, and scale up their IT infrastructure as their audiences grow.
Dacast is an OTT cloud video platform that’s ideal for streaming video across the internet. That’s why the platform was nominated best platform for small/medium businesses (SMBs) in the 2019 Streaming Media Readers’ Choice Awards.
Are you interested in delivering video to nearly any device or audience? Try our 30-day trial to see if Dacast fits your needs.
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Thanks for reading, and as always, best of luck with your live streams!