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7 October 2021

QoE demands for Rogers’ SN Now drives Firstlight to Telestream

Telestream’s NAB press conference, held via a live stream last week following the fateful cancellation of the Las Vegas trade show, talked about a budding relationship with Firstlight Media that takes Telestream’s wide-ranging product portfolio deeper into OTT video, while improving Firstlight Media’s OTT architecture.

Firstlight Media, which is the resurrection of the Quickplay Media assets acquired by AT&T and then re-acquired by its original founders, is contributing its Gen5 low-latency live OTT architecture to Telestream’s fully automated monitoring technology – intertwining software targeted at sports and entertainment services.

Testament to the fledgling partnership is the arrival of a customer already, with Sportsnet, part of Canada’s Rogers Sports & Media, signing up to repower its relaunched SN Now sports streaming service. There are a lot of ‘re-’ moments in this story; let’s hope it isn’t a repeat of previous failings for the former SportsNet platform, for which Deltatre is handling the front-end user experience.

Firstlight Media announced its SN Now contract back in August, so the fact this was namedropped in this week’s press release implies that capabilities of the Telestream variety were a direct demand from Rogers Sports & Media. Telestream would therefore be a no-brainer, having had extensive experience working with Firstlight on evolving earlier generations of OTT services, particularly involving cloud migration projects.

In a mutually beneficial deal, the video quality of Firstlight Media’s Gen5 architecture for live streaming is reportedly being improved by Telestream’s Inspector live and Surveyor products – ensuring granular QoS and QoE metrics that results in a 50% reduction in overheads required to deploy OTT services.

Part of Telestream’s iQ suite, the two products apply quality monitoring at every stage, from source acquisition through encoding to origin server output on a single dashboard, the technology doesn’t just find and identify faults, but fixes them too. Inspector Live casts its magnifying glass over the encode/transcode stages, as SRT (Secure Reliable Transport protocol) feeds enter the live headend, using virtual containerized probes to observe the input source quality while ensuring the encoder output is error free.

Surveyor then brings a continuation of this monitoring through packaging and onto the delivery stage of the chain, scrutinizing quality of HTTP outputs as ABR variants flow through origin servers on their way to the CDN. The access stage (or last-hop/last-mile) – where content is consumed either over fixed broadband networks, mobile networks, or WiFi, over IP or QAM – is a missing piece of the puzzle for Telestream’s portfolio, so requires plugging in third-party client analytics.

The results of the collaboration are impressive, claiming a set-up time of just 15 minutes or less for live streams via one-touch automated deployment, a 10x reduction in costs using a severless and containerized architecture, and 99.99% reliability when scaling to millions of viewers through smart redundancy that encodes and originates content simultaneously in two discrete locations.

With financial backing from private equity firm Highview Capital, Firstlight Media saw an opportunity to reclaim the remaining Quickplay Media assets as the basis for a new end-to-end modular OTT platform, an opportunity which arose as AT&T consolidated to the multi-tenant backend OpenVideo. Firstlight Media’s founders identified a lack of carrier-grade OTT technology on the market, claiming better UI and engagement capabilities for the OTT era than the like of Synamedia and MediaKind, and claims the world’s largest multi-tenant OTT headend.

The headend is part of what was once Quickplay’s full blown Media Operations Center based out of San Diego, which is the driving force behind its reputation for driving transformations from legacy to multi-tenant OTT.

Firstlight provides its Gen5 architecture to build and run scalable applications in the cloud using cloud-native technologies including containers, microservices, a service mesh, and APIs. Firstlight says the Gen5 technology stack provides significantly better performance, a modular approach for feature expansion, continuous delivery for rapid iteration, and built-in scalability, observability and security.

This cloud-native model is vital when aggregating content sources from around the world – enabling content providers to maintain their brands within their own ecosystem.

For personalization, Firstlight has recruited the reliable hand of ThinkAnalytics, injecting its CMS with enhanced personalized recommendations and content discovery algorithms. Firstlight was already offering up in-house personalization tools to customers, and clearly realized it needed to take these basic discovery capabilities to the next level, hence the addition of ThinkAnalytics to the offering a year ago.

By tapping into Firstlight’s CMS, ThinkAnalytics can train its AI and ML models to make continuous improvements to A/B testing, streamlining, and speeding up the tweaking processes for product teams without requiring IT intervention. And by going cloud-native, ThinkAnalytics can run major data operations on multiple availability zones to optimize costs and availability.