Piecing Together the Problem of Device Fragmentation

Has device fragmentation got you down? If so, you’re not alone. Streaming continues to reign supreme for viewers, and operators are navigating the delivery of content on a seemingly endless array of devices. Add to that the associated platforms, operating systems, and updates, and it’s no wonder device fragmentation has become a major issue for streaming services that want to provide the best experience possible for subscribers.

In a recent Streaming Video Alliance webinar on The Woes of Device Fragmentation, experts explore what device fragmentation looks like, common challenges impacting streaming providers, and best practices for getting it under control.

A win-lose? Understanding device fragmentation from both sides

From a consumer’s perspective, the ability to view content anywhere, any time, on any device, is a big win. After all, you can start a movie on your smart TV in the evening, continue to watch it on your phone during a break the next day, and wrap it up on your tablet or laptop in bed the following night. It’s a dream for busy viewers who demand flexibility that can keep up with their on-the-go lifestyles and thirst for content.
From the streaming service perspective, though, it’s difficult to provide viewers with a seamless experience when they’re hopping from TV to mobile to laptop and back again. Just how do they develop content that works across all conceivable hardware and software scenarios? And how do they develop the custom content recommendations and user messaging that keeps viewers coming back for more?

“Being able to work across all of these variables is essential to scaling in the modern media business.” – Sam Jenning, Principal Architect at Conviva

The elusive common denominator

Back when set-top boxes were new on the scene, it was much easier for streaming operators to wrap their arms around experience. The codec was the same, and MPEG transport stream was the common transport for video.

“Nowadays it’s different everywhere. There’s no more common transport and no more common codec when it comes to great new technologies such as HDR. There’s no common standard.” – Damien Lucas, Chief Product Officer at ATEME

The lack of standardization means it’s up to operators to address different screens that are different sizes and can handle different colors. There are now myriad video and audio formats to contend with, too.
Streaming publishers know that this situation is not going to resolve itself in the near future, and they need to develop strategies to address the challenges head on so they can remain competitive.

The downsides of digital diversity

The lack of standardization in the industry, coupled with the big players like Google and Apple offering proprietary formats for their own devices, makes a complicated situation even more tangled.

“Supporting all the devices is probably way too complex to be done, apart from maybe a few giants.” – Damien Lucas, Chief Product Officer at ATEME

In the end, most publishers need to make a call about who their target market is and which devices to focus their resources on.

In the quest for quality of experience across a fragmented landscape, it can also be challenging to gather and analyze data in a way that provides an apples-to-apples view. Collecting all the right metadata may not be easy to do for some platforms, while getting a real picture of their performance—and the many factors that can impact it—can prove especially difficult for publishers. They must figure out a solution though, to keep their fickle subscribers happy so they don’t move on to the next streaming platform if or when their experience becomes frustrating.

Bridging the gap with Conviva’s experience solutions

As is often the case, leveraging data is key to solving the mounting challenges of device fragmentation. It’s important for streaming operators to collect data from end-user devices from each stage of delivery so they can understand how their platform works as a complete system, but that creates a massive amount of information to wade through.

“Cache servers can deliver tens, sometimes hundreds, of gigabits per second. Even 1% of that is a lot of data. It’s very important to make sure that the operator knows what the relevant data is to grab from the cache servers.” – Damien Lucas, Chief Product Officer at ATEME

Conviva’s Experience Insights can help publishers make sense of the sea of information available to them so they can locate issues before they become problems for viewers—and keep each experience a positive one.

“You’ve got to start with data you can trust, and if you don’t know for sure the bitrate that’s coming through, or how many seconds of content are being watched, you really can’t begin to work to improve the experience.” – Sam Jenning, Principal Architect at Conviva

Jenning recommends making sure your metadata supports A/B testing and contains the information you need to determine the root cause of any impacts to the experience. He also is a proponent of testing on the actual devices that viewers use, which is something Conviva does. Conviva also operates its own network gateway, which is used to interpret traffic coming through it. On top of that, Conviva invests in upgrading its storage architecture constantly to ensure it is faster and lower latency.

“The stakes are just getting higher every week, and so you need the process, people, and tools in place to do it right.” – Sam Jenning, Principal Architect at Conviva

To learn more, watch our webinar: The Woes of Device Fragmentation.