Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mobile video 103: On-deck, off deck, broadcast and unicast

Mobile video, as a technology and market segment, can at times be a little complicated.
Here is simple syllabus, in no particular order of what you need to know to be conversant in mobile video. It is not intended to be exhaustive or very detailed, but rather to provide a knowledge base for those interested in understanding more the market dynamics I address in other posts.

On-deck and off-deck (or over-the top, OTT)
  • On-deck mobile video services are services offered directly by the network operator to their subscribers.
    They usually range from a mix of syndicated/ licensed content from aggregators and media companies (music clips, news segments...) to full mobile TV and VOD services such as live and recorded TV, network PVR and catch up TV, Full movie VOD etc... These services are usually premium services with specific tariff plans put in place by the carrier.
  • Off deck services or content are usually provided by third parties not necessarily affiliated with the carrier. These range from social media (linked in, twitter, Facebook...) to user generated content (YouTube, dailymotion...) and professional content (Disney, Hulu, ESPN...). These services are usually not controlled by the network operator and are usually charged for the transport of the data by the carrier but not the content itself.
On-deck content are premium services and generate an important part of a carrier's revenue.  Most carriers do not have content assets though and end up aggregating and reselling content from media companies. Off-deck services are what is driving mobile data growth today. Facebook, YouTube, Netflix and others start to overwhelm and cannibalize what used to be a good revenue maker for carriers. The concept of dumb pipe has emerged over the last few years. Carriers tryu to recapture mobile data traffic and revenue on-deck to avoid being a "dumb pipe" charging for access, but not the value added content.

Broadcast and Unicast 
  • Broadcast video is the method where the connection between the streaming server and the client is one-to-many. The streaming source is unique and is accessed by many devices. This technology has been used for mobile TV services relying on OMA Bcast, ATSC, MBMS, DVB-H and Mediaflo technologies. 
  • Unicast video is the method where the connection between the streaming server and the client is one-to-one. Each connection is unique and can be adapted to the specific conditions of the device, network, etc... The content, its diffusion, quality, advertising,etc... can be personalized for each target. Unicast is used in many mobile TV and Video on Demand, with RTSP protocol. For many"legacy" (i.e. non-smartphone) devices, it is the only video streaming technology. This method has been implemented in many mobile networks for mobile TV as on-deck service.
Although branded as the next generation mobile TV, broadcast has so far failed in many market. But this is due more to the business model than the technology. With broadcast, users all have access to the same programming, the same ads. Most users will consider paying a nominal monthly fee to get access to a few channels, but this is not where the profits are. Unicast offers an alternative as each stream and program can be tailored to the subscriber need. It is more management overhead, but users are ready to pay a premium for an individualized experience.

    No comments: