As OTT audiences demonstrate an increased appetite for video streaming, some providers are updating their download options, while others are facing questions about their lack of the capability. With enthusiasm and expectations high, it’s vital for providers to ensure a high-quality experience. But, as more providers add mobile video download capabilities, there’s one issue that remains challenging for many streaming services: licensing restrictions.
Adding Download2Go is about enabling on-the-go viewing, but it also touches wider parts of each VSP’s business. Every content owner has unique licensing restrictions that impact offline content management. These restrictions play a factor in the consumer download experience, as they can force many seemingly arbitrary limitations on the user.
A streaming app may be required, for example, to limit the number of times in a year a video can be downloaded by a device. These limits need to be communicated clearly to the user, to ensure the user’s expectations are managed. It’s also essential to anticipate download permissions issues and solve for them in the app’s design. Reasonable enough, perhaps, but what happens -- for example -- when downloads fail?
When Netflix launched its download feature, it hadn't considered how failed downloads would fit into their permissions model. Early on, there were many download failures. But when customers tried to download and failed, tried again to download and failed, they were eventually told they weren’t allowed to download the asset anymore because they’d exceeded the allowed number of downloads—even though they’d never successfully downloaded the video or played it.
Ideally, a VSP should account for this real possibility within its download permissions model, to avoid inadvertent content viewing restriction.
Handling single-device permissions issues, such as maximum downloads per device, is relatively easy. It gets trickier when a VSP needs to apply permissions across an account and multiple devices. The permissions model needs to communicate across the account in order to deny permissions when necessary and to communicate to devices when restrictions are lifted (e.g. when a device deletes an asset) so that any pending downloads can continue.
This “cross account” model also needs to consider pending/downloading assets in the permissions cycle, and what happens when those downloads are canceled or fail before completing. If a provider only handles permissions at the end of a completed download, for example, then a user may be able to queue up many more assets than they’re allowed to by requesting all the videos quickly at the same time. If a provider only handles permissions when the download request happens, then cancellations and failures may still be counted against a user’s totals, as in the Netflix example above.
If permissions modeling is not baked into an off-the-shelf download solution, then the VSP has to build these limits on top of that adopted solution. That means both client and server-side development, which is not trivial.
Permissions models remain a critical part of implementing a mobile video download solution. As mobile video download becomes the industry standard, the providers with the best viewing experience will stand out from the crowd, ensuring that their unique permissions models are taken into account in all facets of playback. If done well, this experience will cultivate loyalty and reduce churn. Those that still offer a bumpy feature that prevents viewers from downloading what they want will likely see their subscriber bases shrink.