Broadband TV News speaks with Jim Owens, Sr. Director, Product Management, Advertising and Video Optimisation, CommScope, about the company’s activities and plans for the future.
The CommScope Advertising and Video Optimisation business focuses on two areas of IP Video, namely manifest manipulation and Multicast Adaptive Bitrate streaming (MABR). How did that come about?
The CommScope Advertising and Video Optimisation business group’s strategy is to help our customers maximise the profitability of their video services, which comes down to three things: The first is monetisation through addressable advertising and personalised viewer experiences to grow revenue. Manifest manipulation is critical to making that happen with ABR video. Second is making the delivery of video as efficient as possible in order to control costs. Multicast ABR (MABR) is a fantastic tool for dramatically reducing the bandwidth needed to stream live video and for mitigating the spikes seen from live events. Third is ensuring a perfect user experience – what we call a “Real TV” experience – in order to reduce churn and keep new customers signing up. All our products support the delivery of that experience, and our customers demand it regardless of the technology delivering the video.
CommScope is a global leader in pay-TV ad insertion. What are the main challenges in server-side IP ad insertion (SSAI)?
Server-side ad insertion (SSAI) is one of the key functions of manifest manipulation, but its complexity is often underestimated. IP video presents very different challenges than broadcast television, including the need to support a constantly changing set of devices and content delivered from different sources. The timing of ads and programming can also vary, and often these breaks are not precisely aligned. Our customers need to be able to address all these variables to produce a high-quality experience – and all while integrating into a complex advertising ecosystem. However, the main challenge is being able to scale a solution to meet extremely high demand that can spike unexpectedly. These are all challenges CommScope has addressed for some of the largest service providers in the world.
What is the role of the CommScope Manifest Delivery Controller (MDC) in delivering a “Real TV” experience on IP?
We see manifest manipulation as the key enabler of a high-quality IP video experience. For adaptive bitrate video, manifest manipulation not only inserts addressable, relevant advertising, it can provide an experience that is tailored to a particular geography, demographic group or even an individual. It can also manage bandwidth and provide critical services, such as Emergency Alert Services, blackout and alternate content. The CommScope team built the MDC product to support all of these services and more, while scaling to millions of active viewers.
What are the challenges of Unicast video streaming and how can they be overcome by Multicast Adaptive Bit Rate (MABR)?
Unicast ABR video is a powerful technology that allows service providers and content owners to deliver video to a large number of devices from the same source, all while adapting to network conditions. However, the challenge is that it’s unicast, meaning every viewer gets an their own copy of the video segments. Multicast ABR, on the other hand, leverages multicast technology – which has been the backbone of Pay TV for years – and applies it to ABR video. With MABR, you don’t lose the flexibility or power of ABR, but you gain the bandwidth efficiency of multicast. This can greatly improve video quality and reduce the last-mile bandwidth needed to deliver a video service. As more and more live sports are being delivered over IP video services, MABR will continue gaining interest and popularity.
What are the advantages of CommScope when it comes to MABR?
CommScope has spent years delivering video over multicast to millions of viewers, so it’s an area where we have a lot of expertise. Our portfolio includes everything from the encoders and network equipment to the gateways and set-tops in the home, so we understand the complexities of delivering multicast throughout the network – so we can provide an end-to-end solution if that’s what a customer needs. Our MABR solution can also run on third-party network equipment, and we can integrate with many types of CPE devices. The solution itself is very intelligent, automatically adding and removing channels to the multicast as they rise and fall in popularity. Finally, our MABR solution was designed to scale to millions of subscribers, but it can just as easily be rolled out slowly if a customer wants to prove its value in a more structured way.
How do you envisage CommScope and its activities developing over the next few years?
Advertising revenue is becoming an increasingly valuable part of any video strategy due to IP video’s ability to target consumers more effectively. As MABR gains traction and we transition from unicast to multicast, it will be critical that targeted advertising continues to be supported in order to grow revenue. With CommScope’s history and experience in Pay TV advertising, we’re in a unique position to ensure that targeted advertising works seamlessly with MABR. Having both technologies in the same business allows us to align our roadmaps and continue to enhance the integration of these two solutions.