Delivering the TV user experience from the cloud
Viewing habits are changing. The image of families gathering before a communal screen to enjoy their favourite content is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Today, entertainment is becoming more personalized —a phenomenon driven by the adoption of new consumer devices. This rapid adoption is increasingly blurring the line between the primary and second screen.
Moreover, additional delivery channels, such as IP and LTE, are being widely exploited, untethering viewers from the set-top box (STB) and enabling access to content on all their screens. Furthermore, viewing schedules are being self-curated, erasing the lines among the live, on-demand and time-shifted viewing experience. Now viewers need never miss a program of interest.
Cloud and IP have been driving this revolution. For programmers and network operators, virtualization and CDN have become the “new normal”. By augmenting legacy network infrastructure, these operators have made content available across a wide range of devices and locations. The viewing options available today compared to those ten years ago are astonishing. Indeed, if we look ten years out, it’s difficult to imagine what television viewing will look like. Or, if the concept of television will even resemble that of television today.
It is important to note that, while content may have been liberated from the primary screen, the user experience has not. The discovery of, and request for content is still based on static, siloed, resident applications and TV Everywhere or OTT clients. These applications are inflexible, and routinely provide second-screen support only through separate add-ons. Furthermore, they also require that multiple instantiations of the user interface be delivered in many different formats. For the most part, middleware vendors have completely avoided the iPhone and App Store effect. New features require long implementation cycles and homogeneous application stacks require an enormous engineering effort, as well as extended end-to-end testing. This also often results in the domino effect — touch one piece and many pieces tend to fall.
During the last decade, much of the functionality associated with the delivery of content has moved out of the home into the operator cloud. Content delivery, recording, conformance, personalization and monetization have been virtualized and reside in the operator’s network. This trend is now being extended to the user experience. The result is a transparent, stateful UI, rendered across all consumer devices based on simple cloud and internet technologies. These technologies are the foundation of the current video revolution.
In the future, viewers will be untethered from the traditional STB, as predicted by Nokia in its view of the future of television, called Any Vision. The cornerstone of this new experience will be the viewer’s “anchor device”. Whether it’s a tablet, smartphone, or an IoT device, the anchor will provide the primary interface to the cloud-based user experience. As the name suggests, the device anchors a collection of viewing screens, both inside and outside the home through simple, intuitive voice, swipe or pinch-based navigation. Viewers are automatically identified by voice recognition or proximity beaconing and provided a stateful session that follows the user from screen to screen, from device to device, and from room to room.
A cloud-based user experience will enable a fully personalized content discovery experience on any device or network. Highly refined search algorithms will guide the viewer based on multiple factors, including location, device type, moment in time, user intention, and persona. Moreover, because viewing habits often change throughout the day, week, or year, or change due to the type of device, location, or viewer’s circle of friends, the cloud-based network in the Zettabyte era will be able to present viewers with content relevant to them.
By extracting, indexing, and leveraging raw temporal metadata combined with programmatic and system metadata, the cloud-based user experience will further augment voice-driven natural language search.
To realize this highly personalized experience, it will also be critical to provide powerful content, self-curation capabilities. With this capability, viewers will be able to build personal programs or channels of “like” content or generate personal “highlight reels” that display significant moments in sporting or current events. Additionally, the traditional EPG grid will be replaced with live mosaics based on “what's trending”. These will enable the viewing and selection of multiple programs at once. Where CDN’s are used, all viewing experiences will be cached, providing screening continuity on any subsequent device or location, as well as the possibility of sharing content with viewers’ social circles.
Common IT and internet technologies are facilitating the development of this innovative, cloud- based user experience. The experience can be created using customized HTML and CSS templates or native code. These elements typically provide the page structure for device presentation. So, as the viewer navigates, the templates can be populated with relevant “collections” data, such as programmer and temporal metadata, text, images, video, advertising, as well as social feeds for a completely personalized viewing experience. At the same time, object cachability will greatly enhance scale and the user response. Dynamically generated, navigation vectors will guide the viewer based on both moment in time and intent. In this way, navigation will become adaptive, predictive, and executionally seamless.
Nokia recently brought this concept to life with the launch of its Velocix User eXperience Platform (UXP). The platform’s design enables the deployment of innovative microservice-based applications in days or weeks—not, as formerly, in months or years. Analytics and deep insights collect measurable, actionable data. As a result, successes can be quickly quantified and real-time feedback can instantly provide data for further service enhancements. Put differently, the cloud innovation cycle will drive new business and increase ARPU.
To achieve traction and viewer acceptance, the framework must be executed similarly or better than legacy solutions. Only a highly scalable runtime environment will let this happen — an environment that lets operators develop, customize, and extend their own user experiences. It must also provide the elasticity required to seamlessly and automatically scale to increased workload and consumer demand. For network operators and programmers, the cloud-based user experience, enabled by the Velocix UXP, will deliver on the vision of the highly personalized future of television predicted for the IP streaming environments of the next decade. The experience will provide an environment where display surfaces, devices, and networks provide a single ubiquitous platform for entertainment — one in which self-curation and new content forms will drive consumption, increase ARPU, and improve viewer retention.