The Heart of the Transition from Broadcast to Streaming is Monitoring

Written by

Brenton Ough

March 4, 2021

The Heart of the Transition from Broadcast to Streaming is Monitoring

If the pandemic has shown the world one thing it’s this: the future of video delivery is streaming. In fact, a recent report shows that streaming consumption in Europe grew by 122% between Q4 2019 and Q4 2020.

Of course, it will take a lot of time to transition from traditional broadcast infrastructure and processes to an OTT content environment. But it’s already happening. And when everyone was sheltering in their homes, eager for content, they turned to those non-traditional, online sources, like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, to watch shows and movies that weren’t even available from their PayTV provider. The result was an explosion in cord-cutting and streaming subscriptions. 

While that in itself is a nice little story for 2020, it’s really just the introduction to a much larger story that has been going on for the past few years: large network operators and telcos shifting their broadcast operations to streaming technologies

There’s just one catch; PayTV operators, who have a very unique relationship with their subscribers via a set-top box, have often prided themselves on five-9s or greater QoS. Unfortunately, though, much of that operational monitoring can’t be applied to streaming leaving network operators wondering how to operationally support this transition.

Rewriting the Story

Right now, this story about telcos and network operators transitioning to streaming doesn’t have a happy ending. It ends with upset subscribers and operations engineers who spend countless hours in root-cause analysis. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

You can write a much better ending by changing the hero of your story. It’s not the IP technology that is more cost-efficient to backhaul and deliver video content. Rather, it’s the monitoring harness you are going to put into place that will be key for creating broadcast-like QoS for streaming. This harness is like the coat rack for your monitoring tools. Think of it as the evolution of the quality-of-service system used to support traditional broadcast. But rather than a monolithic system tied to specific hardware, it’s flexible and adaptable to the mutable world of streaming technologies.

What’s a Monitoring Harness?

A monitoring harness is just that: a framework into which other, complementary components can be plugged for enhanced functionality. We’ve all seen the harness in front of a wagon, Regardless of the number of horses hitched to it, the harness supports more than just one horse. So when more pulling power is needed, more horses are yoked to the harness. 

Your monitoring harness works in much the same way. As a framework for capturing and visualizing streaming data, it’s based on a simple principle: enable easy connectivity to streaming video technologies within the stack. So the harness itself serves two basic purposes: to gather data (from components that are yoked to it) and to provide connection points (via APIs).

The New Hero Of Your Story

Remember that this story of transition follows a simple arc: 

Telco provides great service to PayTV subscribers => those PayTV subscribers want to watch their content on other devices => the telco decides to transition to IP-based broadcast. 

If you leave it at that, the end is obvious: telco can’t guarantee quality-of-service and subscribers flee for other providers. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. By adding one crucial step before that transition, implementing a monitoring harness, the telco or network operator can ensure visibility into all current and future streaming technologies to make root-cause analysis and quality-of-service guarantees easier.

The Best Part of Implementing a Monitoring Harness

One of the biggest issues with streaming technologies is they are constantly evolving. Yes, there are some fundamental components, like segmented HTTP delivery, which are here to stay, but the way they are implemented is still up in the air (HLS vs. DASH vs. CMAF, etc.). A monitoring harness based on API connectivity, data aggregation, and normalization isn’t employing any technologies or strategies that are going to change. As a result, the harness itself won’t ever need to be replaced. 

As you replace or upgrade components within the streaming video technology stack, these new components can be easily plugged into the harness via API to enable gathering and visualization of the streaming data. What’s more, engineers don’t need to be continually re-trained because the core functionality of the harness, data gathering and visualization, don’t change. Instead, they can be trained just once on how to read and interact with the monitoring harness dashboard and are then set up for good.

Implement the Fundamentals First And the Rest Will Follow Much Easier

It’s easy for telcos and network operators to embrace IP-based transmission and turn on a streaming service because that’s what their subscribers want. But that isn’t the most effective strategy for long-term success. Without effective monitoring, those subscribers will become disenchanted with your streaming offering and potentially churn to other providers (or even cut the cord completely). To prevent that, your story needs a hero who will ensure you can continue to offer the same high-level quality-of-service your subscribers have come to expect...and at which your operations engineers are so adept. That hero is your monitoring harness. 

When implemented early on, new technologies in your broadcast infrastructure that are transitioned to streaming can be easily integrated into the harness. Data can be gathered and visualized by engineers who’ve already been trained in how to suss out root-cause in the streaming workflow. Don’t let the ending of this story about the transition from broadcast to streaming be written without your input. Take control and put the monitoring harness at the beginning, rather than the end. Your operations engineers, and your subscribers, will thank you for it.