In the life cycle of a TV channel, “primary distribution” refers to the delivery of a fully originated channel by a programmer to distribution partners like pay-TV operators, free to air broadcasters and, more recently, OTT platforms.
With the surge of OTT video consumption, primary distribution has been neglected. Why? Our industry was focused on delivering OTT video to consumers. The new linear channels offered by OTT aggregators (aka virtual MVPDs in the U.S.) and even direct-to-consumer OTT platforms still require primary distribution feeds from programmers. But they don’t need to receive them at hundreds of regional headends via satellite. Instead, they want to receive feeds over IP at a single location, or two locations for redundancy. And the feeds need to be prepared for OTT distribution.
This blog will look at what primary distribution means in this new OTT world, and how you can leverage the cloud and CDNs to perform tasks that are simply not suitable for satellite. To let you in on a secret: There is more to it than just sending video and audio.
The case for the cloud
Since a growing number of OTT platforms are running in the cloud, it makes sense to implement a cloud-based primary distribution solution. Video protocols are now mature enough that linear channels can be delivered reliably and securely over the internet, and using the cloud provides unlimited reach to the programmer, as any location with business class internet can become an affiliate. Besides, offering cloud-based primary distribution as a service (i.e., SaaS) brings additional flexibility to you the programmer and your affiliates.
Deliver from anywhere to anywhere
The cloud acts like a giant hub that can distribute to any internet connected location in the world, as well as aggregate linear channels from any location. What’s the benefit for you? This is a key enabler when source feeds are at various locations that are not interconnected via dedicated network links.
It is important for the primary distribution SaaS to rely on CDNs for channel delivery. Why? CDNs are how the internet scales for media delivery and the cost of CDN bandwidth gets more competitive every year.
Keep in mind that not all protocols can ride through CDNs, and that as much as possible your linear channels should be “pulled” by affiliates from the SaaS, as opposed to “pushing” the channels to them. This important notion can take some getting used to.
Having a fully managed solution makes primary distribution a snap
On the management side, and like traditional satellite distribution, a cloud-based primary distribution solution must provide a simple way for you to grant/revoke access to a channel on a per affiliate basis.
Besides, the distribution endpoints are not just receiving channels, they are controlled and monitored by the SaaS to provide a fully managed primary distribution solution. The diagram below shows an example of software-based endpoints (i.e., cloudlinks) that send and receive linear channels as MPEG-2 transport streams and are fully managed by the SaaS. If you’re a programmer, you can authorize or de-authorize the reception of a channel by any affiliate via the click of a button.
Lower your distribution costs with a usage-based model
With primary distribution as a service, you can quickly establish links to new affiliates without the long setup and commitment required for satellite. A SaaS approach is also ideal for occasional or event-based primary distribution feeds because you only pay for what you use.
This usage-based model is perfect for “new entrant” programmers that want to compete in the linear TV space but cannot afford to make a huge capital investment from the get-go. With a primary distribution SaaS, you can “pay as you grow” and mitigate the risk of exploring new distribution outlets.
Primary distribution with SaaS – simplicity at it’s finest
Using SaaS for primary distribution, programmers can dramatically simplify the way they send OTT feeds to affiliates. CDNs are an important part of the equation, and having a fully managed cloud-based primary distribution solution is what makes this process so easy.
Jean Macher is Business Development Director of SaaS Solutions for Harmonic where he drives the marketing effort for next-generation video solutions in the Americas. Macher joined Harmonic as part of the acquisition of Thomson Video Networks, bringing with him more than 20 years of experience in MPEG-related solutions and digital television implementation. Macher holds a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Institut Supérieur d'Électronique in Paris.