Live Multiscreen TV on Top of the Swiss Alps
These days, it seems everyone is glued to their smartphones and tablets. Yet television remains as popular as ever. The amount of quality content available for both mass and niche audiences continues to grow. Internet and mobile network technologies are providing more ways to watch TV, further increasing consumer choice. As an alternative to cable and satellite television, over-the-top (OTT) video streaming is becoming a popular option for viewers who want to watch TV on any type of Internet connected screen.
With the goal of becoming Switzerland’s leading OTT and multiscreen TV service provider, Wilmaa decided to offer a wide selection of live broadcast channels available from web browsers, smartphones and tablets. To succeed in a market with four official languages and a large international community, the company needed to offer consumers as much live content as possible. How was Wilmaa able to deliver live TV to so many different types of audiences and devices while continuing to expand its user base?
Background: Live TV Anywhere at Any Time
Wilmaa was founded in 2008 with the goal of becoming Switzerland’s foremost web-based TV service. The Wilmaa live TV streaming service launched in 2010 and immediately drew praise from consumers and critics for the innovation and usability of its interface. Today, Wilmaa has over 250,000 unique users per month for both its Wilmaa Free and Wilmaa Premium services.
Wilmaa Free currently offers more than 70 free-to-air channels to consumers across Switzerland with revenues generated by targeted advertising. Starting at 5.50 CHF per month, Wilmaa Premium includes eight additional HD channels as well as a replay TV solution, Wilmaa Time Machine. Wilmaa Premium also includes Live Pausing, Fast Forward, and Rewind functionalities alongside an interactive TV guide from the leading Swiss television review, TELE. The service also offers a video ondemand streaming for movies and TV shows.
Initially positioned as a second screen solution for watching live TV from mobile devices, Wilmaa now competes head-to-head with cable and satellite operators by offering hundreds of free-to-air and pay TV channels. The company recently introduced its own set-top-box and plans to support connected TVs through the MPEG-DASH format.
Challenge: Multiple Screens, Bitrates and Languages
To appeal to audiences across Switzerland, Wilmaa streams all available national free-to-air channels plus a broad selection of international channels, with support for multi-language audio streaming and subtitles, to as many devices as possible. The company required a video processing solution that could support RTMP, HLS and HDS video formats at multiple resolutions and bitrates simultaneously. Support for MPEG-DASH and other video formats was also required for future service expansion.
Wilmaa’s main objective was to offer a high quality TV experience through any Internet connected device over any network. However, a key challenge was how to continually find the right balance between picture quality and streaming bitrate for each and every device it supported, and for each and every channel. Wilmaa also needed to address 3G mobile networks and the fact that bandwidth availability can vary greatly from one moment to the next.
In order to provide an optimal viewing experience, Wilmaa wanted to ensure that its live TV service was available 24/7 with no interruptions. This meant avoiding frozen frames and drop-offs through real-time adaptive bitrate streaming. High availability was also critical. In the case of a system failure, the encoder needed to be able to immediately switch to a backup unit to maintain a seamless experience for the viewer.
For its business model to succeed, it was extremely important that Wilmaa keep its operational expenses to a minimum. To achieve this, it needed a video processing solution that could be centrally managed using standard IT protocols. Floor-space and energy consumption also had to be kept low to control costs and to leave room for system expansion. With demand expected to ramp quickly, Wilmaa needed to be able to scale its deployment to meet business growth.
- Stream multiple live linear channels 24/7
- Deliver the highest possible video quality
- Plan for future expansion
- Implement software-defined video processing
- Output multiple adaptive bitrate formats
- Leverage a flexible and easy-to-use platform
- Stream live TV to a multi-lingual audience
- Rapidly expand channel lineup
- Offer an optimal viewer experience
Solution: Scalability and Flexibility
Before launching its OTT service, Wilmaa decided to test and compare results from seven different encoding vendors. Some hardware-based encoders provided reasonable picture quality, but were not flexible enough to meet Wilmaa’s growth strategy. CPU-based software encoders provided flexibility, but lacked the performance required to deliver multiple live streams and took up too much valuable rack space.
However, overall picture quality remained Wilmaa’s primary decision criteria. Its tests demonstrated excellent results from Elemental® Live, even at very low bitrates. The fact that Elemental Live combined the flexibility of a software encoder with powerful general-purpose processors further confirmed Wilmaa’s decision. “We chose Elemental for the high quality of its video processing, the superior support of the Elemental team and low cost of ownership compared to other solutions,” said Laurent Potesta, CEO of AIP Sàrl, which built out Wilmaa’s full spectrum of services.
Today, Wilmaa is using Elemental Live to capture, encode and stream live satellite television feeds over an IP network. Live content, encoded within the RTMP adaptive bitrate format, is repackaged into HLS and HDS streams for delivery over a third-party Content Distribution Network (CDN). Elemental® Conductor provides centralized system visibility and management as well as backup and redundancy.
The high efficiency video processing capabilities of Elemental Live provides Wilmaa with plenty of room for future expansion. The flexibility of Elemental’s software-defined architecture will allow Wilmaa to easily upgrade and scale up its deployment to support new devices and meet business growth. The company has recently released its own set-top box and plans to add support for hundreds of additional channels with software-defined video from Elemental as its platform of choice.
Benefit: Continuous Innovation
Wilmaa is currently streaming 82 live TV channels, including eight HD channels, across Switzerland. The service has been an overwhelming success, with new users registering every day. The ability to watch a variety of live channels from any type of device, through a clean and easy-to-use web-based interface as well as via Wilmaa’s custom Android and iOS apps, has proven to be a real hit with Swiss viewers. According to Wilmaa CEO, Kolja Wehleit, “The encoding density, picture quality and software flexibility available with Elemental systems is vital to our ability to delight viewers and broadcasters alike.”
Wilmaa plans to continue to serve its Swiss customers with an increased channel lineup, innovative new features and support for additional devices. Thanks to Elemental, Wilmaa can build upon a high performance and high quality video platform that is flexible, scalable and future-proof.
“The encoding density, picture quality and software flexibility available with Elemental systems is vital to our ability to delight viewers and broadcasters alike.”Kolja Wehleit