Content versioning: Thinking local and acting FAST

November 21, 2023 by Rick Young, SVP, Head of Global Products

All media businesses are looking for ways to do more with less while getting closer to their audiences through tailored content experiences across multiple platforms. Faced with shrinking resources and pressures on internal teams, it isn’t always easy for content owners to scale their digital distribution models — but it is very possible with the right strategy married with the right, forward-looking, next-generation solutions. Content versioning tools are critical to helping media organizations pursue a modern media distribution strategy, helping repurpose linear channels or live events for distribution across digital platforms and FAST services without investing in heavy CapEx infrastructure — and without adding significant additional burden to already thin teams.

Meanwhile, live remains the most valuable form of content for any broadcaster, sports rights holder, or streaming provider. Media companies are looking for ways to deliver more live experiences for diverse global audiences, but they need robust and scalable channel creation, live event versioning, and video transport solutions to support an ever-increasing tonnage of high quality live content. Legacy technologies weren’t designed to handle the sheer volume of live video required in today’s broadcast landscape. Increasingly, business leaders are realizing that the best way to achieve future-ready levels of scale and customization is through IP-based network solutions that facilitate seamless content versioning.

Media companies and sports rights holders harness content versioning tools every day to create multiple versions of content to drive viewer engagement and increase ad revenues. North American sports fans can tune in to home or away versions of most games to experience the action from their team’s perspective, while ESPN’s popular Monday Night Football broadcasts allow fans to enjoy an alternative, commentary-driven live game experience delivered with both humor and a good dose of football analysis from the world’s most famous quarterback brothers. Amazon Prime is delivering three different versions of their weekly game — including one that leverages some really interesting new graphics implementations. At the same time, Nickelodeon has delivered alternate kid-friendly NFL broadcasts with fun animation and playful graphics to engage younger audiences. Live event versioning isn’t only used for flagship, tier one, game of the week type events. All rights holders and sports streamers can utilize live event versioning services to create language-tailored, platform-specific versions of live event feeds to drive efficient regionalization at scale. By integrating local language commentary and custom graphics, content providers can provide culturally-relevant live sports experiences while enabling optimal downstream monetization via customized ad triggers for localized and addressable advertising.

LTN's Rick Young discussing innovation in sports streaming at an IBC Content Everywhere panel

While rights holders are pioneering creative ways to engage large audience groups with tailored live event experiences, cloud-based content versioning tools are also empowering hyper-local storytelling on an unprecedented scale. As many consumers shift away from traditional cable services and toward newer digital platforms, media companies need ways to connect with OTT audiences at a local level. Local news, sports, and other region-specific programming act as key service differentiators and drive subscriber loyalty for broadcasters launching streaming channels. News producers are beginning to find the key to unlock the path to younger viewers who are no longer watching their content on the main channel but have proven ready to engage elsewhere. With an IP-based network foundation and smart content versioning innovation, broadcasters can take a core linear channel and create multiple derivative versions with altered live programming for distribution across OTT platforms and FAST services. One of the major US broadcast owned television groups serving the biggest markets in the country is already seeing the benefit of IP-powered content versioning for full-time channels, connecting regional audiences with customized weather, news, and other tailored programming via highly automated local streaming channels. The key to success is to marry pre-produced or recorded content with live news (or other genres) whenever possible.

While content providers understand the benefits of content versioning to target local audiences, there’s more to the story than effective localization. Advances made possible by combining solutions like a global IP transport network, with directed and tactical automation mechanisms and creative workflow applications, and surging global streaming viewership mean it’s becoming more feasible for media companies to deliver niche content to hyper-local and highly engaged audiences. Today, spinning up a secondary channel or streaming app to serve niche communities is easier than ever — whether for a specific age demographic, cultural community, fan group, or hyper-local audiences in different parts of town.

Making content versioning pay

Delivering high quality, live, and localized content via FAST and other OTT services helps media companies engage new audience groups (or at a minimum stay connected to their familiar audiences that have simply moved to new platforms) and increase ad revenues. Having a well-defined, niche audience makes your ad proposition a lot more attractive for the increasingly sophisticated brands and agencies. The ability to target advertising to a local and hyper-local level means media companies can provide relevant ad experiences for all viewers resulting in higher CPMs.

Media organizations that want to enable this level of content customization at scale should view the versioning of live events and full-time channels as part of a broader shift toward an IP-first roadmap. Fully managed, multicast-enabled IP transmission solutions such as LTN Wave provide the foundations for cloud-enabled content versioning, with built-in channel creation, signaling, and ad enablement capabilities to streamline complex workflows and facilitate maximum downstream monetization on any platform. One such global media brand reaching audiences around the world is doing just this to automatically tailor its main channel to engage with audiences eager to watch on a wide array of platforms. Partnering with a managed services provider with end-to-end solutions means media organizations can simplify all the complexities of live video distribution — allowing them to focus on creativity and audience growth while dedicated teams with always-on support and proactive monitoring take care of the technology.

Amid ongoing economic headwinds and increased competition, content versioning and customization are becoming more important than ever. Embracing a future-proof IP-based strategy and exploring content versioning opportunities now is critical to driving additional revenues and capturing wider audiences. The new era of television is becoming more viewer-centric than any of us might have predicted. Creative media leaders who best define their audiences and provide tailored viewing experiences on any platform will be ahead of the pack in the new world.

Unlock the future of broadcasting with intelligent IP transport

Many major media businesses have already made the transition to IP-based transmission to future-proof their video distribution strategy. IP-based technologies have matured and are being deployed by Tier 1 organizations on the biggest stages every day — both for full-time channels and high-value live events. Underpinned by LTN’s ultra-reliable, low-latency IP network, fully managed IP-based video distribution provides a flexible, scalable, and intelligent alternative to satellite or fiber-based transport models. The next generation of early adopters are now moving complex workflows like blackout and rights management directly into the transmission network which means content owners can enable complex business rules while simplifying multi-platform distribution — all while achieving the highest levels of quality and redundancy.

Exploring game-changing opportunities through cloud-enabled content versioning and experimenting with exploding business models like FAST requires rock-solid technology foundations. Embracing fully managed IP transmission along with the next generation of advanced workflows bundled into a ready-to-deploy full solution with a proven and trusted partner is the first step to unlocking your new phase of growth. Book a demo with us today if you’d like to find out how LTN Wave can help get you started.