OTT providers are looking to create a new generation of ad-supported services that drive subscriber satisfaction and monetization

Quickplay is leading cloud transformations of OTT and in-home experiences for pay-TV and telcos. The company’s cloud-native platform leverages a transformative fifth generation architecture for unparalleled performance in delivering premium video, handling complex use cases, and scaling to millions of viewers.

In an interview with Express Computer, Goutham Vinjamuri, COO and Co-Founder, Quickplay, shares his perspective on the advantages of a cloud-based architecture for OTT players

What are the advantages a cloud-based microservices architecture can offer OTT players over a more traditional technology set up? Does it help augment the viewing experience for a customer?
When talking about cloud-based architectures, it’s important to distinguish between cloud-native infrastructures that maximize the value of the cloud and cloud-adapted systems that leverage peripheral cloud elements. We believe that a 100% cloud-based system is the only one that offers all of the advantages that impact service performance and, of course, the consumer experience. These are:

• Performance and Cloud Economics: Here’s what can happen when you use a cloud-native solution instead of one that leverages a few peripheral cloud elements such as containers and virtual machines: We’ve seen a 10x performance in terms of start and response times for microservices written in GO when compared to traditional Java services deployed in containers. Furthermore, cloud-native solutions leverage stateless architectures that contribute to a highly responsive API layer. They also enable scaling to meet demand as viewership increases; load balancing to accommodate high usage in specific areas; repairs to expedite correction of technical issues; and rollbacks to earlier software versions to alleviate service problems. Finally, cloud -native solutions drive significant reduction in cloud spending – up to 40% less – when compared to cloud-compatible solutions.

• Automation: Cloud-native architectures leverage automation in three key areas: infrastructure deployment for rapid time to market; instantaneous resource allocation for efficient scaling; and DevOps. This enables the solution to be agile while supporting complex media workflows and allows the launch of new services in weeks and new capabilities for existing services in days.

• Modularity: In a cloud-native architecture, capabilities are implemented as a series of atomic functions that come together to build the final end product, so that OTT providers can build on top of extensible modules and focus on innovation. Modularity enables change control for services, which can be forked to serve different use cases and won’t impact the entire system if one of the microservices misbehaves. Lastly, modularity is directly related to the maintainability of the codebase. Maintenance costs can be reduced by as much as 40% when development occurs on a modular architecture with an automated CI/CD pipeline.

• Zero-Trust Security and Scalability: To maximize deployment flexibility, every module in a cloud-native stack – all the way down to the granular microservices – can and should be designed to eliminate the possibility of breaches, whether it is deployed in a public or private cloud, multi-cloud environment, on-premises, or in a hybrid fashion. Even better is to ensure that each component has its own independent authentication and trust built in, so that OTT providers can scale quickly across different infrastructure targets in a secure fashion while providing full observability to our support teams through a service mesh interface.

• Innovation Readiness: The agility of cloud-native platforms enables constant evolution, including the addition of business logic, the creation of new microservices, and the integration of third-party solutions. This is often done as a managed service solution to help customers keep pace with technology in the media space and experiment with new features that drive user engagement and increase revenues and/or decrease costs for the service provider.

 How is Quickplay helping new and existing OTT players, scale and build long-term subscriber value? Can you elaborate on the services you provide? Is most of it done in-house or is it through partnerships with third-party vendors?
Quickplay has spearheaded OTT’s migration from premise-based and cloud-adapted environments to a next-generation, cloud-native architecture – Gen5 – that is designed to build and run scalable applications in the cloud. Gen5 harnesses the power of cloud-native technologies – including containers, microservices, a service mesh, APIs, and immutable infrastructure – to enable in-house development or best-of-breed integration when desired. When we supported the launch of aha 2.0, for example, we worked with a number of partners to ensure the best possible service experience.

The Gen5 technology stack provides significantly better performance, a modular approach for feature expansion, continuous delivery for rapid iteration, and built-in scalability, observability and security. Gen5 is a future-proof strategy that meets the demands of high concurrency, low latency, and resiliency expected of OTT video, while optimizing cloud infrastructure spend.

Our ability to help our customers optimize consumer engagement, consumer satisfaction, and monetization is based on industry-leading innovation in three key areas:
• Our video pipeline is designed for high-quality, low latency streaming at scale. We have experience serving thousands of linear and virtual channels, live events and video on demand and can build custom workflows to meet your customer needs.
• Our end-to-end platform is powered by a Video CMS that enhances viewers’ discovery of content with relevant and personalized experiences. It provides editorial tools and actionable data insights to cultivate engagement and drive monetization.
• Our ready-to-use applications across web, mobile, smart TVs, set-top-boxes and gaming consoles are designed to reduce time to market. We also support powerful client libraries and player SDKs for customers who want to build their own rich and immersive user experiences.

Tell us about the work you did with aha in India. I believe it has been a quick turnaround and what were the business benefits?
When aha embarked on its “glocal” strategy, it turned to Quickplay for a cloud-native architecture that would be flexible, agile, and scalable enough to meet its ambitious cost, time-to-market, and subscriber growth objectives. The relaunch was a seven-month process that began in Q2 2021 with discovery sessions that helped to break down business and product needs into functional requirements. Lollypop, a Bangalore-based UI/UX design firm, played a key role in visualizing the problem statement of bringing the 100% regional language experience to customers. Quickplay enabled seamless integration of user content and display language into the platform experience across all supported devices and global locations. This included the strict segregation into Telugu and Tamil of content distribution, associated subscription plans, storefront curation, and other features.

The rollout of aha 2.0 was a classic case of agile methodology. Numerous QA iterations were conducted after every build roll out. Qualitrix, an external QA agency, was onboarded for the UAT validation and crowd testing trials involving >50 people provided in-field validation. Unification of catalogs and dynamic viewing experiences on connected TVs despite different operating systems, development technologies and store guidelines was one of the key achievements that Quickplay enabled through our feature rich storefront.

Another element that has been essential to the success of the project was the way Quickplay worked with Evergent to implement the complex personalization structure of mapping languages against user profiles and locations.. A typical Indian family scenario might include parents who prefer content in Telugu and the display language in Telugu, children who prefer content in Telugu and display in English, and grandparents who prefer content language in both Telugu and Tamil and the display language in Telugu or Tamil depending on the catalog. For hyper personalized recommendations, storefront seamlessly integrates with the recommendation engine to serve targeted contents based on the user persona, profiles, usage and watch history. This integration enabled a 5x increase in user engagement and watch duration.

aha 2.0 has been a technology, business and market success that is being judged as equal or superior to major global brands. The success has been phenomenal because of its 100% regional and hyper-local strategies. Coming to market in a record time frame, the cloud-based platform today supports >10 devices, dozens of new integrations to help capture data and run operations efficiently, and gateways for payments around the globe. Currently, more than 50 million unique users have visited and upwards of 18 million mobile app downloads. International subscribership has risen by 60% since the launch of aha 2.0, and paid subscribership has increased to nearly 2.5 million across two prominent South Indian languages – Telugu & Tamil.

When aha and Disney+ Hotstar simultaneously aired the Indian blockbuster “Bheemla Nayak” earlier this year, aha 2.0 earned rave reviews for its performance. Viewers tweeted lavish praise for aha’s Dolby 5.1 audio and 4K HD video quality and in an informal online poll more than 62% of viewers selected aha’s telecast as the superior experience. Higher user engagement was made possible through a unique promotional approach powered by storefront’s dynamic tagging capability and bringing the content to the forefront for any user based on its popularity and usage.

Considering your experience in other international markets, are there major differences you see in the way the OTT industry functions in India and abroad?
There are a number of factors that differentiate the India OTT market from others around the world, not the least of which is the nature of the delivery network. Rather than relying on fixed broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity, India is a mobile-first market, so there is tremendous sensitivity around data consumption.

In addition, there are several factors that increase the go-to-market complexity for OTT providers. These include the wide variety of smart phones,ranging in price from USD $50 to USD $2,000 and with vastly different OS and versioning considerations, and the diversity of languages that demands localized applications and content.

Other characteristics of the Indian market include last mile connectivity challenges to remote locations; high rates of content consumption that demand optimized distribution solutions; and the need for volume-based business models that leverage high subscription and advertising volumes to make up for low ARPU.

Taken together, these factors contribute to an environment in which the flexibility, agility, and scalability of cloud-native platforms are essential to success.

What according to you is the future of OTT services globally and in India?
Estimates vary widely of the projected dollar amount of OTT services globally, but there is unanimity that OTT will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years. We believe the key to success for the industry is having the technologies available that will help providers harness that growth and quickly enable new opportunities to engage and monetize audiences.

One of the lessons of the pandemic is that many OTT providers, in their rush to bring new services to market, locked themselves into platforms that have limited their growth. Lack of scalability, the difficulty of implementing new features, and the inability to launch new monetization strategies all prevented them from taking advantage of the pandemic boom in OTT viewing.

We see many of these customers now rethinking those choices and evaluating cloud-native platforms such as ours that can deliver the flexibility, the agility, and the scalability they need to achieve their objectives. As the industry pivots from SVOD (Subscription VOD) to AVOD (Ad-Supported VOD) and FAST (Free Ad-Supported Television), providers are looking at ways to create a new generation of ad-supported services that drive subscriber satisfaction and monetization through better personalization and targeting.

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