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4 capabilities that every Cloud TV management system should have

Streaming has become one of the hottest buzz words in the TV industry. By now, it’s clear that streaming will quickly replace traditional TV. Although many cloud TV platform providers claim they include all the necessary tools to successfully manage an OTT service, very few actually deliver on that promise. So, when evaluating cloud TV vendors and their management console, here are some must-have features to look for:

 

Note: This is by no means a complete checklist, but a few standout features that can only be offered by a mature and scalable cloud TV platform.

 

Metadata Hierarchy

Not all video assets were born equal. In the catalog section of your cloud TV console, there should be a clear hierarchy. Episodes are organized by season and series; linear channels are made up of programs or events. Some cloud TV platforms will let you create your own custom assets. For example, Sports->Football->Teams, with a hierarchal relationship between them. The console should organize all these assets in a clear UI that allows the operator to manage all the assets within the same context in which they will be displayed to end users in the video application. That way, it’s much easier to perform common cloud TV actions like include a series and all its episodes within a new subscription, or price an entire season for rent or sale. If all assets are organized in a flat hierarchy, it will be more difficult to manage, and some assets can “slip between the cracks.”

 

Live TV Management

In the OTT business, live TV management is what separates, the masters from the wannabes, the cloud TV platforms from the video platforms. Not all cloud TV providers require live TV management tools, but large premium services do. The reason is clear once you consider the numbers: TV is still very much dependent upon live content. For the most part, services that charge above $40 per month in North America can only justify the cost of the service by offering premium live TV.

So why can’t a live TV catalog be managed like a VOD catalog? First, we are talking about a high volume of metadata. Let’s do the math:

  • Each service includes tens of channels
  • Each channel can have 50 or more shows per day
  • Every show typically has a large amount of metadata and images

This is a lot of data that needs to be ingested and managed on a daily basis. In addition, live TV typically comes with added services to the end user: trick play modes, restart of live shows, and cloud DVR – all have become the standard for cloud TV. Therefore, every day of live TV schedule is essentially a massive content catalog, and most linear services also include a back catalog of seven days.

So, managing an electronic program guide (EPG) should be ‘table stakes’ for any cloud TV management console. In addition, having time shifted TV and cloud DVR settings for every channel and program is key. For example, operators need the option to blacklist certain events (like sports), so that certain users won’t have access to them based on their zip code. In some cases, the operators don’t have the rights to offer cloud DVR recording for certain channels, so they should be able to turn that option off. To manage a live TV catalog effectively, it’s also important to have tools to quickly find and fix any missing metadata that could impact the EPG’s user experience and catch-up performance.

 

Bulk Editing

Metadata is at the heart of cloud TV services. Some of it is exposed to the users, like information about the shows they are watching (cast, crew, synopsis etc.), while other metadata is used for the service to function correctly (recommendation engine rules, DRM metadata to manage encryption, information about video files, and which devices should consume them). Each program/live channel/movie/series could have dozens of metadata fields, and the service typically needs to manage tens of thousands of such assets at any given moment. The only way to do so effectively is by being able to apply changes in bulk. Bulk editing should be available for as many metadata types as possible and should be applied to as many assets as possible in a single action. The more the merrier in this case, but when dealing with such large volumes, there’s a risk of error. In case of error, the platform should provide a detailed report of which changes were made, and which ones failed.

 

Roles and Permissions

Many companies dream about global domination on the level of Netflix or Amazon Prime, but very few will get there. That type of fame requires a massive investment in content and a huge operation to make sure the service performs around the world. Very few companies can handle such a project if they are only depending on internal teams. Tier-1 cloud TV deployments are supported by multiple vendors that are integrated to a single deployment. Therefore, when it comes to the team behind such a scalable service, there are two important considerations that could, at first, sound contradicting. The first, is to provide many stakeholders with access to the management console in order to bring their expertise to every part of the experience: content operations, editorial, external content editors, advertising, marketing, product development, data scientists, production IT and even customer support. At the same time, each one of those team members should only be able to access a subset of features. So, the challenge is being able to provide services to as many team members as possible, some may even be external vendors, while making sure they can only perform actions that suit their skills and areas of responsibility. Having that level of granularity is key to keeping the service secure and reduce the chances of human error.

 

cloud TV is still evolving but choosing a platform that offers these four capabilities will increase your chances of building a successful and scalable service.

 

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