OTT is about to get simpler – 3 steps to reach every device

Getting your OTT service to as many screens as possible is key to win customers. But the industry has made this difficult, with competing technologies doing the same thing on different devices. But reaching every device is about to get simpler.

Step 1, package once, serve many

The root of all evil started with DRM fragmentation. To reach popular web browsers and devices, you must support potentially five DRMs. Supporting multiple DRMs is annoying but fortunately not very expensive. What’s challenging is that these DRMs support different media containers. Having multiple media containers per video multiplies costs on packagers, storage and file delivery.

In 2015 MPEG DASH was introduced, the first step to huge cost savings in the fragmented OTT world. It’s an open-standard streaming technology, codec and DRM agnostic. With MPEG DASH operators can use one streaming video format across devices; for both broadcast and OTT. Even Apple has added CMAF (DASH-compatible) video container support to HLS, which means the same file format can be used on iOS devices (with two manifest files referencing one video container; more on that in step 3).

Step 2, encrypt once, make money on any device

CMAF and MPEG DASH unified the video file format across devices. But if you want to offer a pay media service, you should encrypt the file. Easy, right? Well, there’s a variety of encryption technologies to choose from. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Apple chose AES 128 Cyber Block Chaining (CBC) for FairPlay DRM. Everyone else including Microsoft chose CTR.  So you may have one file format – thanks to MPEG DASH and CMAF – but it’s not the whole story. To offer a pay media service, you need to encrypt the file two different ways to cover all major DRMs. Two files, two times your CDN cost. Until now.

In 2016, the first break came: Google’s Widevine and Adobe’s Primetime added CBC support. At NAB 2017, Microsoft announced support for CBC toward the end of 2017. Keep in mind that legacy devices or some web browsers may never support CBC. So you still need to support them the old-fashioned way until they are phased out.  But when all devices catch up to CBC support, you’ll need just one encrypted stream for every screen. No more duplicated CDN cost.  And you also won’t need Just In Time (JIT) packaging for VOD anymore, either. Offline packaging will be just fine.

Step 3, produce two manifest files, done

The only thing that remains different for HLS and MPEG DASH is the manifest file used to reference the actual video files. Manifest files are small text files. Producing two manifest files per video incurs only minimal overhead in the packager and in the CDN. Don’t worry about it! Let’s start enjoying our much simplified OTT life.

If you want to know more about the most important considerations for operators considering a switch to MPEG DASH, download our e-book here.