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  • Writer's pictureRussell Vilardi

6 Elements of a Video Infrastructure That Works for You

High-speed motion track representing video infrastructure.

6 Elements of a Video Infrastructure That Works for You

When viewers click the “play” button to watch streaming videos, they expect the program they choose to pop up onscreen with no delay. They don’t know all that happens behind the scenes – the video infrastructure that makes over-the-top (OTT) video possible.

Every OTT provider needs an effective and efficient video infrastructure. You can build your infrastructure from scratch or tap into existing infrastructure. However, you approach it, make sure your infrastructure contains six essential elements and that the infrastructure you choose can handle the demands of your content and your viewers.

Key Takeaways

  • Every streaming video provider needs an effective video infrastructure to put its content in front of viewers

  • The six elements of video infrastructure are a source, encoding, storage, content delivery network, playback, and analytics

  • Providers can build their own infrastructure, use a video platform with existing infrastructure, or employ a variety of third-party companies for different infrastructure elements

Essential Elements of a Successful Video Infrastructure

According to eMarketer, more than 240 million people will watch OTT video services in 2022. Experts expect that number to grow to 252 million by 2026, encompassing 73% of the entire population of the United States.

By 2026, 73% of the U.S. population will watch OTT video streaming.

Unique Challenges to Advertising-Supported VOD

While a significant potential for growth and impact exists, AVOD is not without issues for advertisers and programmers. Here are ten of them—all easily overcome.

When you want to serve your streaming video content to these content-hungry viewers, you need to build or tap into a full-featured video infrastructure. What are the fundamental parts of a modern streaming video infrastructure? There are six:

  • Source, where the digital video content is created or ingested

  • Encoding, a pipeline that optimizes the video for streaming

  • Storage, the server that holds each video until they’re streamed

  • Content delivery network, a distributed web of servers that send your content to viewers across the Internet

  • Playback, the client software that lets viewers watch your programming

  • Analytics, which tells you who’s watching what and when

We’ll look at each element in more depth.

1. Source

The source is the starting point for every video you stream. Content can be original or repurposed – in brand new programming or reruns obtained from another party. Wherever the video comes from, it must be stored until it’s ready for use. That initial storage point is the source for your steaming content.

When choosing a source, you want it to be:

  • Scalable, so that it can handle an increasing number of viewers as you grow your business

  • Cost efficient, so that you minimize data storage fees without sacrificing performance

  • Multi-regional, with localized storage for each geographic region you service

  • Located near your content delivery network, to minimize latency and improve program start times

If you have a small amount of streaming content, it might make sense to employ a third-party source. For larger providers, you may want to build your own source solution to manage your video content.

2. Encoding

All the source material you assemble has to be encoded for efficient streaming. This preparation not only shrinks files for streaming, but also optimizes the video formatting for a superior viewing experience. Most encoding pipelines let you apply custom bitrates that maximize both bandwidth efficiency and playback quality.

Look for an encoding pipeline that lets you:

  • Utilize the most widely supported codecs

  • Encode to a variety of bitrates and formats for a variety of different playback devices

  • Employ the necessary digital rights management

  • Preserve ad-signaling metadata so you can stitch advertisements into your streaming content

3. Storage

After a video has been encoded, it must be stored and prepared for streaming. Video content management not only stores encoded videos, but it organizes the content, inserts metadata (including titles, descriptions, tags, and thumbnail images), and ensures each video is ready to stream when it’s selected by users.

4. Content Delivery Network

How a CDN works.

Video content is served to viewers via a network of servers called a content delivery network, or CDN. CDNs employ multiple servers in different geographic locations to ensure that streaming content travels the shortest distance between the server and the viewer. This shortens startup times and reduces the risk of bandwidth or distribution-related issues. (Studies show that CDN can decrease latency up to 83%.)

In addition, the more servers in a CDN, the more user requests the network can handle. Imagine a single server trying to handle simultaneous requests from millions of viewers – a recipe for disaster. Now distribute those requests across dozens or hundreds of servers in a CDN, and your content is suddenly more scalable.

5. Playback

Every OTT provider needs to offer client software so users can view their programming. This playback software needs to identify what type of device a viewer is using, so it can serve content at the appropriate size, resolution, and aspect ratio for a given screen. You wouldn’t want to serve the same format or resolution to smartphone viewers as you do to viewers watching on 80-inch 4K TVs. The player should configure bitrates, resolution, surround sound format, and more – and provide closed captions in multiple languages.

6. Analytics

Finally, the ideal video infrastructure should track various key metrics and provide robust reporting functionality. You need to be able to analyze the performance of your streaming programming – not just counting viewers but also examining viewer demographics, locations, devices, and more. The better you understand your viewers, the better you can tailor both future programming and advertising.

How to Build Your Video Infrastructure

You need all six infrastructure elements to stream your content to viewers over the Internet. How and where you get that infrastructure, however, is a choice only you can make.

Some content providers choose to build some or all of their own infrastructure. They may have their own servers for storage and encoding but outsource the CDN and playback capabilities. Bigger players may try to build their own CDN, although that’s a more formidable task.

Other content providers choose to outsource the entire infrastructure to a full-service streaming video platform, such as YouTube. They lose some control over the process with this approach but get a ready-made solution that can start streaming their videos on day one.

Still, other content providers outsource some or all of their infrastructure to different parties. They may use third parties like Amazon IVS or Vimeo to store their content, Brightcove or Panopto for video content management, and Akamai or Cloudflare for a CDN. This hybrid approach lets you choose the right vendor for each infrastructure element and maximize the streaming video experience.

Is large-scale streaming media architecture moving to the cloud?

Contact Penthera today to learn more about building the ideal video infrastructure.


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