Mary Kay Evans, chief marketing officer for Verizon Digital Media Services (VDMS), spoke with the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) about what a new Time Control feature for its Smartplay platform that the company is bringing to this month’s IBC Show in Amsterdam.
MESA: What prompted VDMS to add this new Time Control feature with your Smartplay technology?
Evans: We have always had the ability to control various aspects of time with our Smartplay technology. For example, early on, key features in Smartplay included the ability to time shift content across multiple time zones and to have content owners offer start over or go back like features using time delays within the URL request.
Through spending many years connecting with our customers to deeply understand their needs, one top ask has been to continue to significantly reduce latency. The caveat: it could not come at the expense of quality or at our customers’ monetization opportunities. We still provide the option to introduce latency at a customer’s request when it improves the viewer experience, but we also now offer lower latency on any session, at any time, without additional adjustments to our customers’ workflows.
We offer this through our all-new Time Control feature within Smartplay, which facilitates low latency video streaming, complete with full session-based server-side ad insertion. It delivers content 40 percent closer to real time and can encode up to 60 frames per second. It can do all of this while still offering must-have benefits such as digital rights management (DRM), server-side content replacement and Dolby Audio integration. And just as importantly, we provide it with the same simplicity that existed with other Smartplay features, so as to maintain our customers’ existing workflows.
MESA: What are some of the highlights with this new feature?
Evans: Time Control can deliver content 40 percent closer to real time, all still with the full functionality of server-side ad insertion. That’s critical functionality for our customers who are looking to monetize live events through ads; serving dynamic ads to each and every user watching their streams is a must.
Smartplay with Time Control can deliver streams closer to live, and it can also time-shift content. There may be instances when our customers need to hold content, for example, to meet different distribution requirements across various time zones. Plus, we’ve added a simple URL parameter to the playback URL so that content owners can control how much of a delay or time-behind-live there is for each and every user session created.
Finally, we’ve made this as easy and quick as possible to get up and running for our customers. Since Smartplay technology is all server-side, there are no platform-specific, player-specific development needed. Broadcasters and content providers only need to add a simple parameter to a playback URL, and the technology will immediately be activated and available. Smartplay with Time Control is already included within the Verizon Digital Media Services platform, seamlessly integrating with other video streaming and content delivery network services.
MESA: What were some of the technical challenges in putting this technology together?
Evans: We had to meticulously go through each and every step of the chain — from encoding to Smartplay session management to delivery — to figure out where we could shave a second here and there, to get to where we are today with Time Control. Owning all of the pieces within the pipeline including a global content delivery network enables us to find efficiencies where no other provider can.
Looking ahead, we already have plans to reduce latency by another 50 percent by early next year. We know that it will take intelligent engineering and industry-leading innovations to dock off each and every second so that we can get as close to real-time as possible — all with full monetization capabilities so our customers don’t lose a single penny in the process.
MESA: What can attendees at IBC expect from a VDMS booth visit?
Evans: At IBC, we’ll have demos of Smartplay with Time Control at our booth. We welcome attendees to stop by, see how it works and talk more with our team. We’ll also have an evening cocktail mixer at our booth on Friday, September 14, 4-6 p.m. You can find more information about what we’re planning on our web site, verizondigitalmedia.com.