LOS ANGELES—VENN is a TV network focused on gaming, streaming, esports and entertainment audiences. Broadcasting live from Los Angeles, VENN creates original programming in-house and in partnership with some of the biggest names across the gaming, pop culture and lifestyle spaces. It is distributed globally across a broad range of media platforms including Twitch, YouTube, Samsung TV Plus, The Roku Channel, VIZIO and more.
I was assigned the job of ensuring the quality of all incoming and outgoing lines of transmission at VENN, including the new remote production feeds that were put in place because of COVID-19. With our global OTT footprint, we needed to install a video monitoring solution that could measure audio/video streaming quality along with CDN performance details of our feeds across multiple regions.
For VENN’s distribution workflow, we produce a program feed that is delivered as a mezzanine transport stream to a third-party cloud service provider. The provider ingests the mezzanine feed and produces the ABR and social media distributions consumed by our audience. It was crucial for us to ensure our contribution feed was being delivered correctly, and that the service provider was maintaining quality and compliance throughout their transcoding, packaging and delivery processes.
A SINGLE SOURCE
My goal was to have one place, a “single pane of glass” to check the status of all program outputs to our distribution partners and online platforms. Since we didn’t want to burden anyone by forcing them to watch a screen all the time, we looked for a system that would “monitor by exception” and proactively alert us whenever anything didn’t look or sound right.
Our search took us to Telestream's Cloud Stream Monitor, and what appealed to me right away was the ability to quickly spin up monitoring instances in different locations around the world. Telestream Cloud Stream Monitor also presented a very low threshold for us to give it a trial run. After inputting my credit card details, we got started immediately with no capital expense to sign off on.
Since the VENN group didn’t really know how their market and viewer demographics would evolve by region over time, having the flexibility to spin up comprehensive monitoring in more than 70 regions was a really important feature for us. We knew that the U.S. was going to be the largest market, but we didn’t know how big it would be in South Korea since there are so many gamers there, or whether Europe and the U.K. would grow before Canada, for example.
From our studio in Los Angeles, we can now monitor our contribution stream to the service provider as well, and then monitor the output again after the content is packaged and the playout system adds additional graphics and bugs, etc.
DEALING WITH ADS
The most recent feature we’ve taken advantage of is monitoring our ad insertions. Stream Monitor allows us to validate the presence and propagation of our ad insertion signaling and we can see the compliant SCTE-35 markers in our mezzanine transport stream and then validate the propagation of these signals as CUE markers in the resultant HLS streams.
We’re able to confirm our DAI monetization policy is being enforced and we have set up automated alerts if ad breaks aren’t being seen or if ads play too frequently. Most importantly, we can pinpoint whether the problem is with what we are sending to the provider or whether the service provider has applied the right settings for the audience-facing streams.
Being early adopters of Stream Monitor, we’ve been able to advise the Telestream engineering team on requirements during development.
Today, Stream Monitor lets us see VENN TV’s channel health from studio to CDN edge, while identifying in real time any issues and at what point in our distribution they’re being introduced. Having added the ability to see that we are successfully monetizing our channel is hugely valuable as well.
Erling Hedkvist has been in the broadcast industry since 2000. He specialized early on in providing networking solutions for the broadcast and media and entertainment industry. He works with clients to design complete solutions for remote production, master control, playout, PCR, OTT and other broadcast applications on top of IP and in a distributed and virtualized environment. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
For more information, visit www.telestream.net.
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