In recent weeks, Kinow has been able to meet some of its partners for special "expert" interviews. Michael Stattmann, CEO & Founder at castLabs. He tells us "How to reconcile premium content protection and user experience".
Michael Stattmann is CEO and Founder at castLabs, a company specializing in digital video delivery solutions.
With over a decade of technical and market expertise, castLabs pioneers software and cloud services for businesses to deliver protected premium content to business users and consumers online with player technology, DRM licensing, and encoding/packaging services.
What are some of the main challenges companies face when launching streaming services?
For services offering premium studio content I believe the main challenges are in the areas of consistent user experience across a large number of streaming devices, studio requirements for content security, as well as scalability and cost efficiency. With a quickly growing user base for OTT services demanding highest content quality, operating and scaling infrastructure systems has become a challenge. For live must-see events with everyone tuning in at the same time, the load of a CDN or DRM service can explode, i.e. jumping from a few views and license requests to over 50 million in minutes. Companies look for solutions to accommodate the demand for large live sports events, whilst maintaining low latency and an error free tune-up without buffering. Additionally, with ever increasing technical quality of content ranging to UHD, 8K, HDR and beyond, the requirements content owners have for content protection increase as well. The current challenge lies in correctly fulfilling these requirements across a multitude of viewing devices and platforms with different security levels while ensuring the best possible user experience. And that requires in-depth knowledge of a quite fragmented world of device platforms as well as multiple DRM technologies.
How to conquer those challenges and stand out from the competition in OTT?
To combat scalability issues and increasing complexity, it is important to rely on flexible solutions with a global footprint, a good set of turnkey features and expert advice. Streaming services are ubiquitous and often the more efficient approach is to buy proven infrastructure services rather than attempting to build critical infrastructure. It's hard to match the best readily available solutions out there, but easy to make mistakes and create a sub-par experience. Standing out from the competition is a matter of focusing on content and usability features rather than putting effort into developing basic infrastructure. The main attributes to look for in infrastructure services are elasticity to adapt to unexpected peaks and resilience to provide fault tolerance - both cheaper to get where economies of scale are at play. It's also critical to have an experienced frontend team at hand when rolling out new device platforms for a short time to market with as few hiccups as possible.
Why is customization so important in video streaming?
There are too many OTT video streaming services available to users, many of which follow some cookie-cutter principle. Often the user experience isn't optimized to the viewing device nor to the unique requirements of the specific user base. But a connected experience on a device like a phone or tablet offers entirely new opportunities to engage with the viewer. It's necessary to build on a flexible technological basis which enables quick iterations and inspires experiments with novel user experiences. Only engaged and fully immersed viewers will stick around!
Due to the current changes with COVID-19 pandemic, what do you predict the future of video delivery will be?
The global pandemic has resulted in a surge of demand for video streaming worldwide in the short term. It even led to bandwidth reduction by some services to reduce the strain on networks. That’s good news for all existing and recently launched streaming services, but requires scalable and easily configurable infrastructure. Also a shift to more remote work and education opens up opportunities for innovation and new types of video streaming services. However, it is important to ensure the protection of privacy and intellectual property in this area.
The decline in cinema visitors also starts to change the way movies are released and it is likely that we will see more "digital first" releases in the future. The content production was also affected and we will have to wait a little bit longer until our favorite series and binge watching can continue.
For the long term we hope that the production of cinematic and TV content will resume soon, the industry as a whole seems to be doing comparably well and was quick in adjusting to the changes in processes and every-day activities to make sure that digital video remains accessible to as many people as possible in the safest and most protected way. I predict the future of video delivery will continue developing and striving as it has been proven once again to be highly demanded.
Kinow is integrated with castLab's DRM licensing technology for secure delivery of all types of content (including content from Hollywood studios). To find out more, contact our experts!