Multiscreen: Build vs. Buy

April 10, 2013
By the end of 2016, more than 400 million people will use a smartphone to watch at least one TV program or movie per month. Likewise, 200 million will use a tablet to do the same, according to a recent report by IDC. It's no surprise that multiscreen viewing ...
By the end of 2016, more than 400 million people will use a smartphone to watch at least one TV program or movie per month. Likewise, 200 million will use a tablet to do the same, according to a recent report by IDC.It's no surprise that multiscreen viewing is marching full force into the mainstream. Nor is it unreasonable to expect that the more people become used to it, the more features and functionality they will demand. For the service provider, this means increased complexity as each new step, especially live streaming video, ups the ante from an infrastructure and management perspective.Given the fact that few service providers currently are "equipped to support" a specialized multiscreen service moving forward and given the cost, difficulty and time to market, it doesn't always make sense to invest in an in-house platform, the IDC report says.In fact, the research firm makes a compelling case for a managed multiscreen service, which offers a quick launch time (perhaps as little as 90 days for a basic model), predictable operating expenses, no capital outlay, and no need to make technology guesses or continued investments in new features and functionality.Even still, service providers debating whether to build vs. buy need to weigh several factors, said Nikki Gore, VP of marketing at QuickPlay Media, a managed multiscreen services company. (QuickPlay commissioned the IDC study, but says that the data used and the conclusions drawn were independent.)Some companies, for example, may think that encoding is the be-all and end-all, Gore said. It actually takes place midway through an entire workflow process called media transformation."I caution folks that think if they buy encoders they will be able to do multiscreen. A lot of things need to be done to content to get it ready to play on a device at the highest quality," Gore said.Adding live streaming video ups the complexity even more as it involves, among other things, a satellite antenna farm, redundant power supplies, and service monitoring facilities. "You need the infrastructure, operations experience and personnel," Gore said. "You are taking a live signal, encoding it and prepping it to get it to the device .... It is a very complex and very expensive proposition for somebody trying to do it themselves."As for cost, there are several factors to be weighed in the build vs. buy debate. For starters, infrastructure for multiscreen video has to be capable of handling peak loads. This requires a significant number of servers and encoders to handle peak traffic that may occur only a small percentage of the time. "We are built for peak, too, but it blends out across the customer base," Gore said.Also, the more content offered, the more storage, media transformation, cataloging, etc. needed, and, therefore, the higher the cost for providers building their own infrastructure. Managed services costs will also go up as content and subscribers increase, but not at the same trajectory. "In a managed service structure, the cost increase isn't as high as if you are building it yourself," Gore said.Monta Monaco Hernon is a free-lance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].

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