Streaming video, whether streamed by a pay TV provider on its own network, or “Over-the-Top” (OTT) video delivered by streaming providers, involves balancing the new capabilities it offers with the imperative of operational profitability. A technology called Adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming has allowed video service providers to deliver quality experiences more easily to many different types of consumer devices using standard Internet technologies. One of the advantages of ABR video is that it can detect the user’s bandwidth and device capabilities in real time and adjust the video’s quality to work within those constraints. However, ABR streaming doesn’t come without its own challenges.

While ABR can adjust to meet variable network conditions and support an almost unlimited number of device types, it lacks end-to-end management capabilities because end users’ devices independently manage the video experience.

ABR also provides a strong platform for personalized ad insertion—an increasingly important component of the provider’s business model. Increasingly, the way to personalize a video experience and advertising is through manifest manipulation. In ABR video, the manifest is a list of video files that make up a program, and the client uses this list to retrieve the correct files. By changing the manifest, service providers can manage the user experience from within the network.

Not only can this approach personalize an ABR stream with targeted advertising, but it can also substitute content, enable emergency alerts, direct the client to get the content from a more efficient network location (CDN Steering) and help optimize bandwidth.

Survey reveals manifest manipulation is an underutilized tool

Manifest manipulation is not a new idea, but as a tool for more personalized experiences, its awareness and adoption rates are surprisingly low. A recent survey conducted by CommScope of 295 content providers (traditional pay TV, OTT streaming providers, broadcasters, FAST services and virtual MVPDs) in April of 2023 revealed that less than 25% were aware that manifest manipulation could help with a number of video streaming challenges. In many of the areas that could benefit most, adoption rates were below 10 percent.

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The survey also revealed that those providers using manifest manipulation often relied on multiple products and components to do so. These multiple modes of implementation in different parts of the ecosystem can conflict with each other when running in parallel and make it difficult to effectively manage a user session from start to finish.

We found that 57 percent of manifest manipulation users leveraged two or more such components, and 10 percent used five or more!

A simplified platform empowers more personalized experiences

It may surprise you to learn that CommScope is not only a provider of networking and video products, but also a world leader in ad insertion solutions. In fact, with more than 25 years of experience in video advertising for the pay TV segment, our solutions support more than 70 percent of the North American cable ad insertion market, and our streaming customers represent more than 30 million subscribers worldwide across multiple platforms and services.

With the CommScope Manifest Delivery Controller (MDC), ABR streams can be personalized in a broad-based way (such as creating a custom channel or targeting a device type) or in an addressable way to individual viewers. The solution is transparent to all devices and apps, provides deep automation and analytics capabilities and, finally, provides the end-to-end Streaming Session Management that is otherwise lacking.

In short, by going beyond manifest manipulation to provide complete Streaming Session Management, MDC unlocks the full personalization and revenue-generation potential of ABR streaming.

Manifest control is the key to better-optimized, better-personalized streams

The race between technical capabilities and operational profitability may never end for video service providers, but smarter manifest control in ABR streaming can go a long way toward reconciling these two conflicting needs. By empowering better personalization, optimizing bandwidth and delivering a host of connected services, CommScope’s Manifest Delivery Controller can mean happier users and improved profitability for content providers of all kinds.

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