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How to Improve VOD Playback Performance with Virtual Linear Playlists

May 17, 2021
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Original source: Edgecast

Video content management systems often host curated playlists which are played back by an OTT video app or an embedded video player. These VOD assets have to be retrieved sequentially by the player or app from the queue for binge-viewing experiences. Managing long playlists and ad insertions with this workflow can present challenges and negatively impact the viewing experience.

Depending on the distribution channel, playback may be disrupted when playlists are too long. Some OTT devices require user intervention after a set amount of time or number of assets. The annoying “are you still watching” prompt halts playback until the viewer intervenes, interfering with the lean-back experience the content owner intended.

Additional problems arise with ad monetization. VOD manifests require that all ads are prefetched before playback. Waiting for ads to be filled can take precious seconds that can delay playback start time, disrupt the viewing experience and impact monetization due to viewer abandonment, and cause ad requests to time out. This is particularly problematic when it comes to long-form VOD, where each asset may have a large number of ad breaks.

Virtual linear playlists to the rescue

Publishers can address the above challenges by creating virtual linear playlists. With this new capability, publishers can create a linear stream from a library of VOD assets, providing a viewing experience that is constant and consistent and not subject to “are you still watching” disruptions. Virtual linear playlists are appealing because the viewing experience is protected from slow startup times or associated ad timeout issues. Linear manifests are dynamic and allow ads to be fetched on demand. The net result is a positive viewing experience and optimized ad monetization.

In addition to the above benefits, content owners can improve viewer engagement by presenting the library's most popular content at the top of the playlist regardless of when the viewer starts the session. This experience is further personalized and monetized by the Verizon Media Smartplay SSAI (server-side ad insertion), our dynamic manifest technology that inserts personalized ads for each viewer during the viewing session, avoids ad-blockers and creates a seamless, TV-quality viewing experience.

Create a better VOD experience

When experiencing a live linear stream, the player’s scrub bar is often hidden or only provides limited functionality. Seeking may not be possible, and often, the precise end time of the stream is unknown. At times this may be desirable to ensure that a stream is consumed in its entirety. With virtual linear playlist, content owners have the additional option to provide a more traditional VOD-like experience by allowing viewers to scrub forward and backward and to see ad break indicators on the scrub bar. Verizon Media’s dynamic manifest markers inform the player of content duration and ad breaks to present the virtual linear playlist with a VOD-like experience to the viewer.

Common virtual linear playlist use cases

Virtual linear playlists can be presented to viewers in several ways. The user experience is typically a single thumbnail that represents a content playlist. Use case examples include:

  1. Content showreels: Content owners may highlight their content by presenting a linear stream of all their best clips.

  2. Trailers: Like the above, a trailer playlist is a great way to highlight new content in your library.

  3. Point of sale (POS): Video is used to promote goods and services. It is becoming increasingly common to see promotional content supporting products where they’re being sold. Even better, virtual linear playlists can be looped.

  4. Kiosks: Public terminals can share a range of video content, such as tourist information at transportation hubs or to promote shops within a shopping mall.

  5. One-off event channel: These could include a town hall meeting, pre-recorded product launch, or concert.

  6. Niche content channel: Examples include rotating playlists of documentaries, gardening, or home improvement TV shows.

  7. Brand or product channel: A sponsored channel with branded content and ads.

Enabling virtual linear playlist

Virtual linear playlists are currently available as a new API endpoint in the Verizon Media Platform. Once defined, the playlist is converted into a linear stream, creating a TV-like experience with personalized ads and the ability to track usage via analytics reports. With virtual linear playlists, we leverage existing VOD assets, so there is no need to re-encode.

Learn more

Reach out to your account team to learn more about improving your VOD playback performance with virtual linear playlists, or connect with us today.

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