A good video player has to be capable of minimising the delay between what viewers see on a broadcast channel and a live OTT channel, as well as addressing network congestion on mobile devices.
Embedded in TV applications, the video player is the software in charge of rendering video, audio and subtitles, managing playback controls such as pausing or seeking during a live programme, and accelerating playback speed. A vital part of the entire TV solution, it is essentially what allows end users to enjoy hours of video content a day. However, when it comes to live sports, additional challenges need to be tackled in order to fulfil fans’ expectations.
The first is low latency. When watching a live sports event, fans want to view major highlights like goals or fouls at the time they occur, not after hearing a neighbour’s reaction or reading a tweet. A good video player has to be capable of minimising the delay between what viewers see on a broadcast channel and a live OTT channel, as well as addressing network congestion on mobile devices.
Security is vital as well. Acquiring rights to distribute sports events is extremely expensive for popular sports such as football or basketball. Strong security mechanisms are therefore necessary to secure the revenues of such a large investment, in order to prevent video piracy and other hacker practices. A good video player is not only capable of playing licensed, encrypted streams in compliance with the content owner’s security measures, but also able to protect against on-device attacks and enable advanced security services such as code obfuscation, dynamic watermarking and vulnerability detection techniques.
As well as defending revenues, an effective video player also needs to provide opportunities to maximise them. It plays a central role in boosting monetisation opportunities in the sports arena by extending the available inventory space for advertisers, for example through banners, overlay and pre-/mid-roll ad replacement, while ensuring seamless user experiences regardless of which technology or network is used at the backend.
The user experience is central to success, and there are three main areas where this needs to be optimised. The first is the use of statistics. Visualising the most important metrics for a live sports event in real time provides further insights for fans. Moreover, direct on-screen access to on-demand content such as the major events of a match increases customer satisfaction, ensuring loyalty to premium TV subscription offerings.
Social experiences are also part of this picture; the ability to watch the same sports event with your friends or family remotely creates unforgettable joint experiences with no one left to watch in solitude. A good video player ensures perfect synchronisation across all connected devices to watch the same scenes at the exact same time, with seamless management between the media audio volume and the friend’s sound volume.
New features take the feeling of immersion further too. When watching a sporting event on any device, sports fans long to feel as if they are physically in the stadium. Achieving this involves allowing the end user to control her viewing experience beyond what is decided by the broadcast director, such as choosing a camera angle, following her favourite player, panning/zooming 360 degrees from a strategic spot at will, enjoying spatial audio on a headset accessory, and replaying any scene at slow speed.
Improve retention, minimise churn
The video player has a direct impact on customer retention and churn, by providing capabilities specifically relevant for sports and allowing a consistent user experience across all devices. Moreover, it enables better monetisation of live sports events using advanced ad-insertion technologies, especially on the big screen, which increases inventory and boosts revenues.
Robust content protection and adequate anti-piracy measures for all use-cases are required, however. These allow better catalogue negotiations and optimised pricing schemes, all with a direct benefit to both viewers and the TV industry.
Benoit Brieussel is Head of Front-End Products & Global Services at Viaccess-Orca.