Indian TV test pattern_rca_3The transition by broadcasters and pay TV operators from traditional services delivered to TV set-top boxes, to multiscreen distribution, seems to have created a two-headed beast with respect to video quality assurance.

On one hand, monitoring for MPEG delivery to STBs involves comparison of the source video before and after encoding, monitoring for data communications errors in transmission, and evaluation of the video after processing or delivery: characteristics like clarity, chroma, luma, A/V sync, the integrity of closed captions, plus things like channel-change latency and so on.

On the other hand, monitoring of adaptive bit-rate (ABR) streaming is more about determining buffering time, rebuffing and freezes, DRM errors, how often the stream changed video profiles adaptively, whether or not the viewer abandoned or completed the video – all of which are more transactionally-oriented. Of course, the data generated by this kind of monitoring is also useful to marketers (and not just to video and network engineers)

In reality, end users generally are not aware of the technologies that make their video experiences possible, nor should they care. Therefore, video providers must take an ecosystem approach that helps ensure the quality and continuity of the overall consumer experience, regardless of delivery or the nature of the end user device.

As it turned out, the first 4K content was distributed over adaptive streaming. But 4K, by definition, is high resolution, and to the end user, it doesn’t matter that the distribution was ABR.

So, in reality, the considerations inherent in the ‘two-headed beast’ of traditional and streaming video quality assurance are really one. The preservation of content integrity during transmission (QoS), the perceived quality at the consumer device (QoE), and whether or not the experience had continuity are equally important. And no matter how the video is delivered, monitoring gives video providers more tools to attract advertisers.

My Spring 2017 report for SNL Kagan, on Multiscreen Video Quality Assurance provides further details and analysis of this situation.