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"African users' willingness to pay is not low"

2020-11-06 22:22:09 rpandora

 

2018 Before the world cup ,StarTimesOn App Officially launched in Africa , Live all the way 32 A team of 64 game , It has gained wide attention and a large number of users . at present StarTimesOn App Besides broadcasting Sports Events , also 140 Several top international live channels , And tens of thousands of hours of film and television content .

But in Africa's network conditions , Delivering a good video playback experience is not easy , So in recent years, Zhang Liang's work is to explore solutions to problems from various angles , To ensure the video playback experience in Africa .

Interview the lecturer : Zhang liang , The R & D director of Sida times , Graduated from Beijing University of science and technology , With more than a decade of video processing and CDN Industry experience , Have a deep understanding of video key technology and large system architecture design , In recent years, we have focused on the optimization of video playing experience under overseas weak networks . Currently mainly responsible for “StarTimes On Video basic platform ” Construction and technical management of the project .

 

 

LiveVideoStack: Please give a brief introduction to “StarTimesOn Video basic platform ” And its highlights .

Zhang liang :StarTimesOn Video basic platform includes video processing 、 Video distribution 、 User request scheduling 、 video QoE And QoS Analyze the four modules , Each part is tailored to Africa's unique challenges .

When it comes to highlights , First of all, it should be 0-RTT The characteristics of starting broadcasting , Users don't have to interact with the background and CDN Interact many times , Instead, download the video and start playing it , This feature protects users from high RTT The first screen takes a long time .

stay Video processing part , We're targeting Africa's relatively poor network environment , The transcoding algorithm and package format are designed , Improving video quality at very low bit rates 、 Increase download speed 、 Reduce the playing jam ratio under the weak network .

stay Video distribution part , We solved the African countries 、 The problem of poor interconnection between operators . In order to reduce the packet loss rate and delay , Improve the video download speed of users , We're going to edge CDN Deployed to the core computer rooms of major operators in African countries . At the same time, in order to reduce the cost of content distribution , We use the broadcast properties of satellites , Put the video content from South Africa , Broadcast to many business opportunities in Africa , So as to effectively reduce the overall operation and maintenance cost .

 

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LiveVideoStack:“StarTimesOn Video basic platform “ Which countries are deployed in Africa , And how the network environment in these countries is different from that in China ?

Zhang liang : our The video processing platform is deployed in South Africa , Transcoding the original video content 、 After packing , Distributed by satellite to self built CDN. at present CDN Has been deployed in South Africa 、 Nigeria 、 Ghana 、 Kenya 、 Tanzania 、 Major African economies like Uganda / A large population Within the major operators of .

The reason to cover operators in multiple countries , It's because, on the whole, the network resources of African countries are still very scarce . First of all, operators' access network and Internet export resources are very tight , On mobile phone ping Server side , Latency can easily reach hundreds of milliseconds or even seconds .

Secondly, there is almost no interconnection between operators ,IXP The bandwidth to the operator is very limited , What's more, there is not enough penetration depth of CDN Service providers and cloud service providers , This makes it very difficult to exchange data across carriers .

These two features make it hard to provide a good video experience in Africa . If you use a third party directly CDN Service or in IDC Built by China CDN, The service quality is unstable and the cost is high .

therefore , We choose to build directly with operators CDN, Avoid crowding out operators' already limited Internet exports , It not only reduces the export pressure of operators , It also improves the user experience .

 

LiveVideoStack: In solving the problem of weak networks in Africa , What are the special difficulties and specific considerations ?

Zhang liang : The weak network in Africa is mainly caused by severe congestion , Including access network level congestion and Internet export level congestion . On the one hand, this congestion leads to high packet loss rate , It also leads to RTT Extremely unstable and usually high . under these circumstances , Conventional optimization methods often fail .

When we deal with this kind of problem , On the one hand, it starts from the network infrastructure level , By deploying nearby CDN To effectively improve the quality of the network itself ; On the other hand, it combines its own business characteristics , Through various ways to make business to high latency 、 High packet loss becomes less sensitive .

For example, in the normal video startup process ,App Need to interact with the background many times 、 After many RTT To start downloading the video and play it . By optimizing the start-up process , After the user clicks on the video on the list page , Skipping normal business interface calls 、CDN Dispatch 、 download manifest Documents, etc , You can take advantage of established TCP Connected to the CDN Download the video content and play it , amount to 0-RTT Start broadcasting , This greatly reduces RTT The impact on the first screen time .

These optimization experiences also let us deeply realize , Any optimization can not be separated from the business scene to design in a vague way . If you want to get a universal optimization method , Often you get half the result with twice the effort ; It is easier to achieve the goal by designing the optimization scheme according to the specific problems .

 

LiveVideoStack: What stage is the development of online video services in Africa , What is the demand of local users for online video service ?

Zhang liang : Limited by the level of economic development in African countries , At present, most people can't watch online video for a long time , Compared with domestic , The user scale of this market is still very small . therefore , The first online video services launched in Africa are basically paid services , Such as DSTV Now, And the famous Netflix, at present StarTimesOn The platform is also based on paid content .

in addition , The average level of economic development in Africa is relatively low , But the willingness of users to pay is not low , With StarTimesOn For example, football programs on the platform , Once there's a football match , The sales revenue of daily paid members can be several times higher than the usual level .

It can be seen from the above phenomenon that , Although limited by the level of economic development , The overall market size of online video in Africa cannot be compared with that in China , But users are willing to pay for quality content , This leaves enough market space for service providers who can provide quality content .

 

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LiveVideoStack: The technology you are most concerned about recently 、 What is the industry trend ?

Zhang liang : It's all about improving the video experience of African users , For example, pay attention to network protocol QUIC,SRT And new transmission control protocols , Also pay attention to BBR The performance of congestion control algorithm in African weak network .

Video coders, we're online HEVC, At present, we are exploring AV1 or VVC Application potential of . In terms of streaming media protocol , Now it's HLS, I'm also paying attention to Dash Some characteristics of , At the same time, we will customize these protocols according to our own needs , For example, define your own manifest To speed up the first screen startup time . There are many similar technical points , I will be in LiveVideoStackCon Share with you in detail .

 

LiveVideoStack: What new understanding of audio and video technology did you have when you joined Sida era ; In your eyes , What kind of development and changes have taken place in the Sida era during this period ?

Zhang liang : I 04 We joined the era of Sida , At that time, the service object of Sida era was domestic radio and television operators , Help domestic customers set up video time shift based on radio and television network 、 Look back and on demand system .

At that time Comcast It's also very influential in the field of interactive video 、 Cisco Video server in China every year also has a huge sales , So I was learning 、 The specification and technology of research are inseparable from this scope . At the same time , I led the team to develop the live injection server 、QAM Multiple systems such as resource manager and session resource manager .

Later, with the continuous development of Sida's business in Africa , We also came up with an African version of TV Anywhere Solution , That is, live broadcast of high-quality channel content based on TV , Provide live playback through mobile phones 、 Video drama on demand and broadcast of popular sports events . Among them, the online video service on mobile phone is provided to our advanced users for free .

therefore , We also quickly accumulated a group of loyal mobile end users . At this stage , We focus more on technology “ The Internet, ”, A lot of open protocols and open source technologies are used , For example, we are familiar with HLS、X265、Nginx etc. . at present , Our online video background system has been completely based on open source technology , At the same time, a lot of transformation has been carried out according to the specific situation of Africa .

These years of practical experience also let me realize that , It's hard to keep evolving within a small circle of industry norms , Because fewer people use it , There are few problems , Fewer people solve problems , So the closed garden doesn't grow up after all . Only based on open platforms and technologies , Continue to be tested in the vast world , So that technology can continue to evolve , Ultimately, it benefits everyone who uses these technologies .

Sida era has also completed the transformation of its own operation ideas in this process , From the original only rely on television as a platform , Today, TV combines with the Internet , Even in the future, it may be the combination of Internet and TV . In terms of content , In addition to the traditional live channel , We're also looking for more sources of content , To better meet the needs of users . In a word , Compared with the previous live TV , Now the Sida era has become more open .

 

LiveVideoStack: What's the most unforgettable project you've been involved in ?

Zhang liang : Speaking of the most unforgettable , Not one or two projects , I think it should be the environment of Africa , It made me realize the importance of focus and pragmatism .

What we offer is Long video service , And it's all Copyright content , Users need to pay to watch , So users are very picky about the quality of service . We often see users in Google Play On the evaluation said that the broadcast experience is not good , One card, one card , And then a star .

Africa's poor network conditions , It's hard to imagine the students who haven't been in touch with . We're trying to provide video services under such poor conditions , But in exchange for bad reviews from users , To be honest, the result is hard to accept . But it's over , The problem has to be solved , Who asked us to do a paid video service .

Later, we analyzed the causes of poor user experience , Carefully analyze what we can change 、 Nothing can be changed , And then experience it from the player 、 Business logic 、 Transfer protocol 、 Video coding package 、CDN Construction and other aspects of continuous optimization , Finally delivered the video service experience that satisfied the vast majority of users .

In the process , We didn't go blindly to find some technical points to fight , It's about the problem , Look for bottlenecks , And then targeted optimization . For example, for the African Network RTT The larger and more unstable status quo , We proposed 0-RTT The technical scheme of video playing , This scheme is implemented through a series of optimization measures , send RTT It has little effect on the first screen time , So it's a perfect solution RTT Problems that have a greater impact on the user experience . These optimization schemes are by no means a cluster , It can't just be from other people's best practices copy Come to , Can only be based on their own actual situation of careful analysis 、 Continuous iteration , Then we can get good results .

 

LiveVideoStack: What is your biggest difficulty in recent years , And how you stick to it ?

Zhang liang : It should be Online video service The R & D process of . At the beginning, we put in a lot of functions in accordance with the more conventional ideas , Even in addition to the long video, there is a short video 、 Graphic information flow 、 Sports forum, etc . But after doing a lot of functions , User activity and revenue have not improved . This process is very painful , Give but no gain , At that time, the product and R & D teams were confused .

And then we went back to User experience This is basically , stay CDN Building 、 Play experience optimization 、 Continuous improvement at the most basic level such as payment experience optimization . In the end, these improvements paid off , We can see that as the experience continues to optimize , The average and daily viewing time of users is increasing 、 The retention rate is increasing 、 Payment success rates are also increasing .

Support us to continuously optimize the user experience , And give up the function of stacking products , Actually, it comes from a very simple idea :

In the age of the Internet , User loyalty is very low , Because of all the app They are all taking up the limited time of users . If we can't satisfy users in terms of experience , It's better not to do it in the first place , To avoid wasting resources .

The idea is simple , But the simpler things are, the more likely they are to be ignored , When people are superstitious about stacking product functions to pursue differentiation , Think about it again , Whether we really meet the basic needs of users .

 

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LiveVideoStack: On your way to technological advancement , Who inspires you the most ?

Zhang liang : One is Professor Wen Jiangtao, former president of Sida Research Institute , The other is our present CTO Bi Xianchun . They all have one thing in common : focus 、 Pragmatic . These two words look plain , But it's hard to do it in practice .

Both of the experts have very strong technical ability , It's also very open-minded , But in the face of every specific problem , They don't come up with solutions directly based on past experience , It's going to dig into the cause of the problem , What exactly does the problem limit 、 Why must we solve 、 To what extent should it be solved 、 What is our ultimate goal 、 What are the ideas to solve the problem and the input-output ratio of each …… They think from a tricky angle 、 All the wonderful solutions proposed have opened up the brain hole , But it is also through the deep excavation and analysis of the problem , In the end, you can come up with the most pragmatic solution .

It is under the guidance of this kind of thinking , For the video playback problem under the weak network in Africa , We dig deep into the cause of the problem and define our goal , In the end, a series of unconventional 、 But very effective and easy to implement optimization , Good user experience with African videos .

 

LiveVideoStack: If you can do anything right now 、 Be anyone , What do you want to do most 、 What kind of person do you want to be ?

Zhang liang : The problem is too big …… In a way , I should be a less imaginative person , The eye sees more of the current goal , Thinking about how to accomplish the task . If you have to , I hope I can master the key technology of audio and video and business background field comprehensively , Be able to provide practical system design scheme according to business characteristics , Then lead the team to create a good use 、 Efficient audio and video services .

 

LiveVideoStack: Can you tell me something about this LiveVideoStackCon 2020 What exclusive content will Beijing station bring ?

Zhang liang : It is a very hot topic for Internet enterprises to go abroad , But at the moment, most people are sharing Southeast Asia 、 India's sea going challenges . I'd like to share some of the unique problems that Sida encountered in developing online video services in Africa and our solutions , I hope to discuss with you .

Optimization Practice of online video platform under overseas weak network : Under the weak net , Video start-up time and playback will increase . In order to improve the weak network user experience , Need to identify the main problems and then targeted tuning . This lecture will be combined with the construction in Africa in the era of Sida ”StarTimesOn Online video platform “ Rich data accumulated in the process , Key issues related to transmission routing optimization and transmission protocol optimization , As well as the effect comparison of various targeted optimization schemes online .

LiveVideoStack: What are the problems you are solving at this stage and what are your next R & D goals ?

Zhang liang : Efforts are still being made to improve the user's video playback experience , This should be a goal for quite a long time . Because we offer a paid video service , Users are extremely sensitive to the quality of service , Especially when it's live , Any stuck 、 Flower screen and other failures will lead to user complaints .

say concretely , At present, we have solved the problem of network delay in the first screen time and stuck , But there are still quite a number of users due to slow download speed , This may cause a jam in the playback process . therefore , On the one hand, we need to continue to work on video compression technology , At the same time, it can reduce the bit rate continuously ; On the other hand , We also need to study how to effectively improve the download speed under the weak network in Africa , To ensure the user experience .

So far, we've got to Quic、BBR The new transmission protocol and congestion control algorithm are tested in real network , A lot of data has been collected , Optimization is still in progress .

 

LiveVideoStack: In the process of developing an online video business in Africa , What's the experience 、 lesson , What are the different challenges and opportunities ?

Zhang liang : Limited by the overall size of the market , I think the first thing to do is to find the target users of their products , Really meet their most basic needs , At this most basic level, no one can replace it , So there's a basis for survival . Before the foundation is solid enough , Do not blindly stack product functions , Hope to attract more users by these peripheral functions .

edit :Coco Liang

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