How to Use Geolocation Data to Enhance Global Broadcast Services

January 2, 2019

In September, we at Spicy Mango announced our partnership with Digital Element to provide technical architecture and services to integrate its geolocation data into the Over-the- Top (OTT) platforms of some of the world’s most prominent broadcasters. For those who aren’t too familiar, location data is hugely useful to video providers and gives us as technologists a method to “translate” an IP address into a whole bunch of valuable information.

As an example, in modern handsets, laptops and tablets, GPS receivers extract your latitude and longitude, then pass this information back as a city, region or country code. However, in older devices, GPS receivers aren’t so common. Even in modern handsets, with privacy at the forefront of everyone’s minds these days, it’s a dwindling few that give applications and services access to their device location anymore.

Why Location Data Is Needed for Video Distribution

So why do we need geolocation data and services such as this? For a service provider or operator of video platforms, having global geographic-rights and entitlement-management capabilities are critical. Studios and broadcasters issue content to providers, such as Netflix or Hulu, with rules. These rules determine where and when the content may be viewed by the consumer (that’s you and me). Seems like a trifling issue, but the reality is that the penalties for a breach of the rules are severe.

These rich data sets are wrapped around interfaces that allow applications to provide an IP address, and have it translated to the data set demonstrated earlier. By using IP-address translation services, we can achieve almost the same results as we’d get with a GPS receiver, but without the pinpoint accuracy. In fact, for a video operator or service provider, a city or country is often only needed to be able to enforce these commercial and legal rules.

IP-Based Data Is Useful Beyond Geographic Rights Management

We’ve covered the why and the how, but what else can we do with geolocation data? Alongside its most frequently found use case, location information can serve us well in the wider context of the video distribution platform―when used to provide services, features or capabilities that are tailored to regions or markets. With that in mind, here are five other things that your location data can do for you on a day-to-day basis:

  1. Control Service Access

In many services, users are able to access the applications, even registering for accounts or perhaps in the worst cases, creating subscriptions, only to discover that at the point of playback, content-rights restrictions prevent playback. This can be hugely frustrating for consumers. Location data can be leveraged way before the entitlements check to verify that your users are in the right place to begin their journey with you.

  1. Personalize Catalogs

Finding a piece of content in catalogs―usually after a good old search―only to discover that your location prevents access is one of the most frustrating things consumers often encounter. We’d think in today’s age, that this shouldn’t be happening, but it still does. Location data can be queried and used at the point of catalog presentation―ensuring that only the video assets your users can view are presented before your carousels (or pages) are rendered. This is a great way to present country- or region-specific catalogs.

  1. Localize Messaging

The success of deploying and operating a truly international service involves meeting the needs of consumers wherever they may be. Location data can be used to tailor the application or portal to local requirements. It can be used to present translated text or information tables and localized offers or content, as well as player or play-back messaging. This is a refreshing approach to hard coding applications and portals in a handful of languages.

  1. Control Features

It’s not uncommon to want to control features or capabilities by territory. In the case of large multi-national events, features in the service such as download to play offline, instant restart or DVR may be subject to international restrictions as a result of licensing or partnership deals. Use location data to restrict capabilities based on location. When coupled with device-management platform technologies, the ability to enable or disable features based on location or other defined parameters requires no more than a simple change of a toggle in a console―not distribution of territory-version-specific applications.

  1. Build Reports

Location data can also be used to help build detailed reports, for example, where you might see the most activity in your service. By collating city or country codes and feeding these into analytics tools or proprietary interfaces, you can build accurate heat maps of where requests originate. If you’re looking for a way to determine the next hot territory that’s desperate to use your service, this could be it. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, use the data to spot abnormal traffic patterns―comparing this to volumes of requests or data hitting your APIs and interfaces. You’ll soon spot spammers or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) wannabe hackers.

The real-life applications don’t stop here. There is a lot you can do with geolocation data when you understand how to tie it to core services and functions inside of your video service or platform. Used correctly, it can be an incredibly powerful tool to enable true personalization and regionalization of services, as well as support the enforcement of rights.

Guest Author: Chris Wood, Chief Technology Officer, Spicy Mango

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