Over-the-top (OTT) streaming – or, simply, delivering media content directly over the internet – has redefined the media content consumption landscape. In 2019, the number of active global monthly OTT video subscribers surpassed 750 million, accounting for more than 30 percent of digital video viewers globally.
Cloud vendors have significantly contributed to this exponential growth by providing core cloud-native delivery infrastructure to OTT players at lower costs, making it much easier for them to reach global audiences and dynamically scale their workloads with just a few clicks. In fact, over the years, the role of cloud vendors has shifted from infrastructure providers to prime drivers of technology for the OTT industry – so much that they now lead media technology altogether.
Initially, cloud vendors’ core offerings comprised storage, processing, transmission, packaging, and transcoding, which enabled OTT players to gain scale, cost, and flexibility benefits. Now, the cloud has become the default infrastructure provider for OTT delivery. In fact, all of the flagship OTT players have migrated to cloud-based OTT workflows. For example, Netflix completed its migration to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2017, and Spotify completed its Google Cloud Platform adoption in 2018.
The major cloud vendors, such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, lead the global technology landscape, and they are leveraging their expertise in advanced technologies to offer not only their core functional offerings but also compelling value-added services over the cloud. These value-added services include:
- Direct content ingestion
Cloud providers like AWS and Azure offer direct content ingestion capabilities to OTT players, enabling them to either ingest content directly from a camera to a cloud-based management system or stream it live to various platforms. They also enable content creators to shoot videos through smartphones and send them via mobile networks to production and content management systems operating in the cloud, bypassing camcorders and live production trucks.
- Native language translation
Cloud providers such as Google offer application programming interfaces (APIs) with natural language processing (NLP) capabilities for native language translation, which allows audiovisual content localization and translation, making it convenient for OTT players to expand their reach globally.
- AI-powered encoding
Vendors like AWS and IBM have integrated AI with their cloud-based offerings, and cloud-based OTT workflows intensively leverage AI to provide a better viewing experience. AI helps to better monitor network traffic, improves compression techniques, and offers adaptive encoding techniques to stream HD videos over low bandwidth networks.
- Video indexing
Video indexing services, such as Azure’s video indexer, automatically extract advanced metadata from audio and video content, including spoken words, written text, faces, brands, and scenes. OTT players can leverage the extracted data to generate insights and increase the discoverability of their content, improve the user experience, and enhance monetization opportunities.
- Advanced targeting
Cloud providers like AWS and IBM leverage advanced analytics services such as device ID-based content tagging to provide recommendations for better viewer targeting, which enables advertisers to reach out to specific, targeted, and identified audiences. OTT players can utilize these recommendations for better content monetization.
These additional services have become core differentiators for cloud vendors versus traditional Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) that offer media streaming solutions. They’re also enabling OTT players to create true differentiation in their offerings. Additionally, the cloud has become a great leveler for players who are entering the OTT market relatively late, as it provides them the latest cutting-edge technology at the click of a button, saving them precious time in getting up and running.
It will be interesting to see how the market shapes up in the next 12-18 months, as more content and production houses start setting up their OTT platforms and make the existing battle of viewer acquisition and retention fiercer.