Ateme and castLabs Zap into Lower Latency to Optimize Quality of Experience

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The technology used to deliver linear channels to the TV is changing from legacy IPTV or QAM to unicast streaming. But the expectations of the viewing experience are not. Viewers still expect high-quality video and responsive channel zapping as they navigate linear content via the up-and-down buttons of their remote control. They also expect the same type of latency currently provided on their broadcast TV experience. While streaming has met the video-quality expectation, the performance of channel zapping and latency are still areas of improvement. With that in mind, Ateme and castLabs are working together to zap into lower latency to optimize Quality of Experience (QoE) to keep you and your viewers happy. 

Quality of Experience Challenges for OTT Video Content 

OTT streaming makes content available on any screen — mobile phone, tablet, computer, gaming console, set-top box, and connected TV. However, the standard streaming protocols used to deliver video content to a multiscreen environment add latency. This means that viewers may see a live event 30 or 40 seconds after it actually happens. This increases the potential to create a “spoiler effect” when social media provides faster notification of the event.   

Primary screen viewers also expect lightning-fast channel switching, referred to as “fast zapping,” to transition seamlessly between linear channels. Fast Channel Change approaches have already been deployed for legacy IPTV and QAM linear delivery to address this need. Now the streaming world must also provide robust solutions to address this expectation. 

However, meeting this need for fast-zapping speed poses a substantial hurdle for video streaming platforms. While designed to deliver content efficiently, streaming protocols rely heavily on the player’s capability to swiftly process and decode incoming data streams (audio, video, DRM licenses and encryption keys). At the same time, they must avoid buffering at all costs. If the player lacks the necessary horsepower or efficiency to handle the rapid influx of information, frustrating channel-zapping experiences can arise. In turn, this hinders the overall QoE. 

While lower latency is crucial for fast zapping, achieving consistent quality across a range of bitrates and resolutions is equally essential. Viewers have diverse preferences and device capabilities. Streaming solutions strive to strike a delicate balance between speed and video quality. So ensuring that each frame maintains its intended visual and audio fidelity becomes a complex juggling act. 

Ateme and castLabs Join Forces 

As leaders in the OTT streaming industry, Ateme and castLabs have come together to address these core challenges. Notably, to improve the Quality of Experience for the users of OTT streaming services. The key is to leverage standards-based approaches with unique added-value functionality. Ateme and castLabs can provide low-latency fast channel zapping functionality AND deliver an optimized video and audio experience. 

castLabs Provides Powerful Player Optimizations

castLabs’ innovative technology has simplified content playback and protection for over 15 years. Through their stellar PRESTOplay player, castLabs provides a cross-platform solution that greatly reduces latency and enables seamless, lightning-fast channel zapping. The player is optimized around four key areas to ensure a smooth streaming experience: 

  • Resource management: the player efficiently handles resources such as memory or decoder instances allocated per session. This ensures the timely reproduction of media without delays. For example, using fragmented segments that contain multiple moof/mdat boxes reduces decoding time on PRESTOplay. 
  • Stability: the player ensures constant quality and uninterrupted reproduction thanks to its ABR-decision algorithm, prioritizing a continuous stream. Moreover, pre-loading and updating manifests for more than one live channel allows anytime playback of content channels. 
  • Fast track and rendition switching: every switch will empty the buffer and freshly reload content. All segment requests will be cache-busted, so nothing should be loaded from the cache.  
  • Competence in content security: the player allows secure content reproduction. This is thanks to its DRMtoday support. It ensures licenses pre-fetching, avoiding delays due to license loads during the tune-in process when streaming videos. 

Compared to open-source options, PRESTOplay can parse and render video and audio to achieve sub-second zapping (under 250 milliseconds). Think of it as a race against time. PRESTOplay, like a nimble sprinter, swiftly retrieves and decodes data packets. Viewers can glide effortlessly from one channel to the next. On the other hand, an inadequate open-source player, burdened by its limitations, stumbles and falters, leaving viewers stranded in a disorienting limbo as it struggles to catch up.  

Ateme Provides Low-Latency Streaming Solutions

For over 10 years, Ateme has been a provider of standards-based OTT streaming solutions. Today, Ateme offers a low-latency solution that enables end-to-end latency of less than five seconds. Its components can be deployed on-prem or in the cloud, providing flexibility for OTT service providers to build the solution that best meets their needs. The solution components include:  

  • TITAN, a suite of video compression and processing solutions that deliver a premium viewing experience with unmatched compression efficiency. For low latency, TITAN Live encodes video in under two seconds and egresses those live streams as either TS streams or CMAF segments. TITAN Live also supports a robust suite of Content Aware Encoding features including Constant Quality — based on our Emmy® Award-winning Ateme Quality Index technology — that optimizes video quality with lower bitrates. This saves downstream storage and network bandwidth. 
  • NEA Live®, a feature-rich just-in-time packager that maximizes QOE for both HLS and DASH players. This includes enabling rich UI experiences with trickplay and multi-audio as well as enabling broader audiences for your content with robust subtitle and multi-language functionality. For low latency, NEA Live can package linear streams as either low-latency DASH (LL-DASH) or low-latency HLS (LL-HLS) within a second. With the ability to share the same CMAF chunks for both DASH and HLS low latency streams, it reduces core-to-edge network traffic as well as CDN storage requirements.  
  • NEA CDN®, a highly scalable and flexible CDN solution that optimizes the video experience while reducing the cost of delivery. NEA CDN supports Chunked Transfer Encoding for LL-DASH and both HTTP/2 and byte-range requests for LL-HLS. This ensures that video is delivered to the player in the fast and efficient manner required for a low-latency and fast zapping experience. 

castLabs and Ateme are Dedicated to Creating Winning Results 

Ateme and castLabs are dedicated to creating winning results with a strong focus on low latency and high Quality of Experience. Initial testing has shown the ability to reduce end-to-end latency to broadcast levels and significantly decrease channel zapping times across a variety of devices.  

Most importantly, our combined solution for low latency and fast channel zapping also maintains the high-quality audio and video experience viewers expect. Both Ateme and castLabs are committed to pursuing other joint integrations that further improve the quality of experience for our customers. 

To find out more about our joint low-latency/high QoE solution, get in touch. And if you’re heading to Amsterdam in September for IBC2023, set up a meeting. You can also pass by our booths at Hall 1, booth D33 (Ateme) and Hall 5, booth G55 (castLabs). 

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