The pandemic has been a global disrupter, urging the media industry to shift towards over-the-top services. As per a report by Statista, the revenue in the OTT video segment is forecasted to reach US$ 275.30bn in 2022 with an annual growth rate of 11.60% (CAGR 2022-2027). This amount of traction that streaming platforms have gained in recent years has increased the importance of OTT testing to help media companies cater to the dynamic needs of consumers and offer them best-in-class digital experiences.
The need for a holistic approach to streaming testing
In the digitally advanced world with a myriad of video apps where users choose what and when to watch content, testing the OTT services is essential to ensure optimal user experience. Users can easily give up on a piece if there's any amount of latency or undesirable response from the apps. Again, users have multiple streaming media subscriptions, heating up the competition. With the increasing competitive pressure, it has become essential that streaming applications are tested effectively in order to attract and retain customers.
Why do you need effective testing?
With the importance of streaming content spiraling each day and becoming an integral mode of modern-day communication and distribution of information, reaching out to diverse audiences across different geographies, OTT testing is pivotal. Users consuming streaming media content from multiple delivery channels has increased exponentially, making it even more crucial to ensure that the end-user experiences are picture-perfect. Following are some of the primary reasons why OTT testing is essential -
- Ensure quality across multiple platforms
- Bandwidth adaptability as consumers expect a continuous media streaming experience even when strong internet bandwidth is unavailable
- Superior playback video quality
Check out: What is a Mean Opinion Score or MOS?
Challenges of testing streaming applications
Today's world has a wide range of streaming devices and applications offering a large volume of content, making it complex for companies to execute audio and video streaming quality tests and ensure good experiences.
1. Cross-browser and cross-device issues — Different devices respond differently and therefore bring in multiple issues. Similarly, every application might run differently on different browsers. This requires rigorous testing to ensure browser compatibility for offering optimal experiences to audiences across every device and browser they choose to consume content from.
2. Capturing and monitoring crucial performance metrics — Eliminating the performance bottlenecks are a must for media companies to ensure that end-users consume the best quality OTT content. As a result, it is vital to run efficient OTT platform testing to measure performance metrics like response time, latency, average load time, error rates, and many more to help companies monitor and improve performance and deliver top-quality content.
3. Identifying user interaction issues — Testers need to consider how the users interact with the streaming apps and ensure seamless usability. Certain users might not be tech-savvy, and in case they observe any network performance issue and notice any stalling, they might give negative feedback. Again, the user interfaces must be tested for user friendliness and smooth operation to avoid deteriorating the users' overall experience.
4. Taking into account multiple streaming factors — Several factors like streaming statistics, latency, buffering, and many more are essential for creating a flawless streaming experience. Two primary complexities include:
- the location
- the set-top box (STB) in use
OTT media content expands to multiple geographies that require efficient streaming tests to monitor how users across different locations perceive the content. Additionally, if the STB is of good quality, then whether it supports the right streaming settings (Video and Audio) that can help stream quality media. In case of poor streaming settings, there will be audio and video packet loss leading to a bad experience for users using the application.
5. Complexities of regional testing — Today, global OTT platforms offer content to consumers in different regions with diverse devices, apps, network conditions, and much more. Additionally, the content across different locations interacts with a diverse target audience, linguistic and culture aspects. These diverse factors make it complex for developers and testers to efficiently test across these multiple regional parameters to cater to dynamic user expectations.
What makes your streaming testing efficient?
The ultimate goal for any brand offering streaming content is a flawless user experience, requiring a substantial number of elements to be tested. For optimal outcomes, companies are looking for holistic OTT testing tools that allow end-to-end testing of the content while capturing critical performance and user experience metrics. Following are some of the primary aspects that testing solutions need to include—
- A shift towards automation: The traditional testing approaches often fall short in catering to the dynamic testing needs of the current market scenario with rising consumer expectations. Media companies require comprehensive solutions for video streaming automation testing that enable fast tracking and improving the testing, identifying functional and performance issues, and ensuring the best user experiences.
- Seamless integration: One of the most critical aspects is an easy integration of the solution in the existing CI/CD pipeline to streamline the video streaming tests and achieve optimal outcomes.
- Remote testing approach: Organizations are aiming to shift to remote testing more and more today to improve the overall testing process and outcome. Remote testing allows distributed teams across the globe to execute testing in any location, time zone, and device, offering a more flexible and on-demand testing approach to ensure high-quality software and faster release cycles. Moreover, this testing method helps garner a significant cost advantage by relying on independent QA teams located in regions with a lesser cost of equipment, devices, or testing resources.
- Optimizing in-app experiences: Monitoring and ensuring flawless performances of the OTT apps can be challenging yet remains crucial. Often companies need to test the apps on real devices across the entire app lifecycle to precisely monitor and evaluate the live streaming services and the quality of audio and video of the content.
- A single, unified platform: OTT content is consumed across a wide range of devices, including different Smart TVs, Mobile, Tablets, and many more. As a result, to streamline the testing process and make it more efficient, it is important to deploy a single testing platform that can accommodate multiple devices and efficiently run end-to-end tests on these devices.
- Continuous monitoring and evaluation of content across multiple platforms: As OTT content is now expanded across multiple delivery channels, the content must be tested for seamless streaming across all the platforms. Capturing key metrics across platforms, including Smartphone apps, Smart TV apps, streaming device apps, and many more, helps ensure the perfect quality of the content, thereby improving user experience.
How does HeadSpin help improve streaming testing to deliver superior quality content across the OTT platforms?
As media and entertainment companies aim to cater to the new testing requirements and deliver flawless streaming experiences for users, HeadSpin's holistic AI testing solution for the media industry assists in achieving these goals.
HeadSpin enables media companies to test video applications, run tests on OTT media devices, test DRM-protected content and help companies in perfecting digital experiences.
At the core of HeadSpin's offerings for OTT testing is the Audio-Visual (AV) Platform that enables you to test video applications, including media, entertainment, and much more. The platform helps run tests on OTT media devices, test DRM-protected content and capture critical user experience metrics to ensure optimal quality content.
This one-stop-shop solution allows to capture of audio and video from a device placed inside the appliance and helps test the:
- Physical camera and microphones
- Smart assistants
- Smart TVs
- Fair-use DRM screen capture
- Communication apps and camera apps
How HeadSpin's solution helps streaming tests?
The AI-enabled solution of HeadSpin allows companies to leverage the following capabilities to render desired performance of the apps and improve the content-consuming experience for audiences.
1. Capture QoE and streaming performance KPIs: The HeadSpin solution allows to capture and continuously monitor critical KPIs. These include:
- Blurriness, Blockiness, Brightness, Colorfulness, Contrast, Blur, Exposure, Flickering, Freezing, etc.
- Video Frame Rate Drops, Loading/Buffering Time
- Reference-free video MOS
- VMAF-based full reference video MOS
- Audio match analysis
- WebRTC support
What is MOS?
MOS or Mean Opinion Score refers to the subjective scores offered by a set of users in a study of the perception of content. This helps to quantify the subjective perception of audio and video content with a single number, where a lower number indicates poorer QoE. HeadSpin's reference-free and patent-pending MOS works with supervised learning AI that is calibrated against real user experiences, pooling voluminous subjective quality scores on diverse video content. More importantly, this score doesn't rely on other metrics and can be seamlessly combined with the other HeadSpin video quality metrics and issues cards to better help understand the QoE issues and the impact of the metrics on users.
2. Performing automated and functional testing: HeadSpin allows companies to access numerous devices from HeadSpin's secure global device infrastructure and run automated and functionality tests on real devices under real-world scenarios.
3. Perform regression testing: HeadSpin's regression intelligence capabilities offer a robust comparison tool to help analyze degradation across new app builds, feature additions, locations, OS release, and much more. This helps obtain intelligent insights enabling a reduction of overall regression cycle time and cost.
4. Performing root cause analysis: The holistic testing solution of HeadSpin is driven by advanced AI and ML algorithms that enable robust performance and user experience testing to proactively identify performance issues and their probable root causes and resolve the issues.
5. Run and record tests: The HeadSpin AV Platform enables users to seamlessly run and record tests for OTT media devices, including Smart TVs. Users can leverage the Smart TV remote control app and execute commands on the setup box via the HeadSpin UI.
6. Video and audio analysis: HeadSpin's AV Platform allows you to playback your media tests, analyze them with advanced video and audio analysis capabilities and optimize the content quality and delivery. The robust perceptual video quality KPIs and AI-based issue cards enable users to capture the critical video quality aspects and monitor the app's performance to ensure delivering flawless user experiences.
HeadSpin Deployment Models—an added advantage
HeadSpin offers a number of deployment models that help deliver the industry superior outcomes to media companies.
HeadSpin's solution can be deployed on-prem in an isolated network that is entirely managed by the client, with no traffic leaving the isolated network.
Cloud (Single tenant)
HeadSpin's single-tenant cloud deployment model offers dedicated devices for clients in the HeadSpin cloud.
Cloud (Multi tenant)
HeadSpin offers access to shared devices deployed in the HeadSpin enterprise shared pool, catering to dynamic testing requirements and device-independent requirements.
Create Your Own Lab (Reverse Bridge)
The reverse bridge model (unique to headSpin) allows distributed testing from any location in the world with low latency access to remote devices, offers deep data and insights, and helps manage QA for users having their own devices already.
How HeadSpin has assisted prominent organizations improve their OTT testing
HeadSpin's holistic media solution has reached several organizations in the industry, Globo being prominent among them. Globo is the leading broadcast and television network and pay-TV programmer in Brazil and also owns a diversified group of music content companies. The company recently launched its streaming application, GloboPlay, to expand its digital footprint. Globo aims to test and evaluate the behavior of its streaming applications and other digital products to improve user experiences. HeadSpin enabled Globo to test GloboPlay and their other digital platforms on real devices, capture QoE and streaming performance KPIs, and identify performance and functional issues to ensure delivering optimal user experience across multiple global locations.
Know more about how HeadSpin helped Globo meet its testing requirements to improve its streaming app's experience and drive omnichannel growth.
With emerging media technologies that are offering higher bandwidth networks like 4G and 5G, one can only expect the OTT Video streaming world to proliferate with on-demand video consumption. This will raise the bar of testing solutions in order to suffice the needs of the companies and consumers. Holistic solutions like HeadSpin are drivers enabling media companies to execute end-to-end testing for perfecting digital user experiences.
Q1. What are the primary test types to be included in the QA strategy to offer the best media streaming experience?
Ans: Following the key tests required:
- User experience testing, to test for layout consistency, intuitive navigation throughout the platform and functionality of the dashboard, and much more.
- Performance testing, to ensure that the product upholds reliability, stability, and server responsiveness, regardless of bandwidth access or stream requests.
- Load Testing, to verify that your software application still performs optimally, even under extreme loads.
- Localization testing, to test for linguistic accuracy, cultural appropriateness, customized symbols, correct currency formatting across locales, and many more.
Q2. What is OTT subscription testing?
Ans: There might be several combinations of OTT subscriptions where users can be logged in on multiple devices or a single device, or the subscription supports HD channels or SD or UHD. It is essential that QA teams test these combinations to ensure seamless experiences across any combination of subscriptions.
Q3. What are the key pitfalls and challenges that OTT Platforms face?
Ans: A few notable OTT Platform challenges are:
- Requirement of more power
- Retaining viewers
- Utilizing an incorrect revenue model
- Video quality and delivery
- Piracy of videos
Q4. What is IPTV?
Ans: IPTV or Internet protocol TV is a platform where content is delivered to computers attached to the network based on the Internet protocol. In IPTV, content is delivered via a dedicated and managed network that follows a closed ecosystem, and the content is transmitted via the internet to a dedicated set-up box.