With demand for OTT services and content growing at an explosive rate, the market is seeing a rise in FAST services - free, ad-supported TV – that enable consumers to stream content at no cost, if they are willing to accept advertisements writes Krsto Lazić, Sales Manager at iWedia.

Krsto Lazić

Krsto Lazić

There is a huge potential for launching these new generations of service, often using Android TV. However, integrating all the different technological elements, and the need to develop an engaging and efficient user experience, are complex tasks. 

While many of the challenges of launching a new FAST service are unique to each individual operator and the market that they are working in, there are some that all operators have in common; and these challenges can represent opportunities for the operators to show their added value to the overall global IoT trend.

A major aspect where operators must show value is the quality of service. This is challenging from many angles, such as video quality, latency, stability of the video; and as the service grows, scale and concurrency can also present serious challenges in which the whole infrastructure can become a problem. To avoid this, the whole video pipeline needs to be state-of-the-art, from encoders, packagers and CDNs all the way to the player on the client device, especially when looking at bigger screens where the end user’s tolerance for errors and issues is very small. Operators must opt for market proven solutions, both for infrastructure and client software. 

Another important challenge is to deliver a user experience that will establish a bond with the end user, increase engagement time and offer opportunities for additional monetisation. Localisation capabilities are a big advantage that operators can focus on. In our experience tailored products, where the user experience and the flows are adapted to the local audience habits, resonate very well with the end user. To be able to do that in a reasonable amount of time and a sensible budget, operators need a vehicle that can drive them quickly to a solution. From what we see at this moment, the Android TV operator tier seems to be the way to go, and it has very little alternative in the market currently. In addition, users expect constant improvements, and Android TV enables operators to have a well-planned, continuous improvement cadence that can be executed easily.

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While monetisation and finding new revenue streams present a certain challenge, one of the biggest opportunities here for operators currently is targeted advertising. Implementing a targeted advertising platform can be a highly complex technical undertaking but can build tremendous success if done well. iWedia recently worked with True Digital Group to successfully implement an ad insertion solution for True ID TV, now Thailand’s leading OTT set top box product. The success of True ID TV’s FAST service sets an attractive precedent for other operators to implement similar services.

There is also a relatively new concept of operators creating ‘pseudo channels’ which can be seen as a cross between FAST and super aggregation. From a technical perspective, the pseudo channel can be synthesised in two ways – either server side or client side. Server-side synthesised pseudo channels use the same infrastructure as linear OTP and are usually limited to operators’ own content; this is an interesting way for channels to repurpose some of their older or niche content and extract some extra value through an ad-driven model. Client-side synthesised channels, on the other hand, can access all the content available on the device from any accounting service that the user might be signed onto, like Netflix, YouTube, HBO GO, so it makes a much richer experience. It usually uses deep linking between apps and does not require any special dedicated infrastructure to work, though it can lead to a fragmented user experience. The concept is still in the early stages, but we think that more and more operators will try to create differentiation in this way. 

FAST is a growing trend that may overtake some of the existing models we see currently, such as AVOD, simply because of its ability to push more content to end users. It presents a great opportunity for platforms which will be able to become more relevant with these new models and services, and iWedia is looking forward to seeing how this exciting trend grows in the coming months and years.

Krsto Lazic is an iWedia Sales Manager