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Player analytics, an Azure solution for AMP

Posted on 19 april, 2016

Program Manager, Azure Media Services

Analytics allow you to see how users are engaged with your products and services. Player analytics can provide insights into how viewers are consuming content and what they find most engaging. Whether you use video as your primary business or to support your business, player analytics allow you to see how users interact with your product or service, and can be used to grow your user base.

Azure Media Player (AMP) is a free player built to playback content from Microsoft Azure Media Services. AMP reaches a wide variety of browsers and devices with simple HTML and JavaScript. It is easy to set up and use. Try the demo now!

AMP is agnostic to a backend analytics service and works with various services. It supports a simple plugin model, outlined in our documentation, which can extend the player. This, in conjunction with the event model used in AMP, makes it easy to capture and send playback information to an analytics backend. This solution includes a Azure Media Player plugin for Application Insights, with data export to Azure Storage (optional) and dashboard visualization with Power BI (optional). To jump right to the solution, follow the setup guide.

Key metrics

When thinking about player analytics, most people jump directly into the how before asking what and why.

Data collection is an important step, but it is even more important to understand what the data will do for you. Every business has different interpretations of what data is important. Take a step back and try to understand what data matters to your business and why. Arbitrarily collecting data can negatively affect data collection, increase cost and make analysis less efficient. It’s just as important to understand what you can do with that data after you collect it.

I like to think of player analytics in three high level buckets:

  • Demographics: Understand who your users are and where they come from ex. target audience
  • Engagement: Understand what is your most popular content and how long people are watching it
  • Quality of Experience (QoE): Shows the streaming experience of viewers, determining abandonment rates due to poor quality

For example, you notice that in a particular region of the world, geographically far from the streaming origin, mobile users abandon your video within one minute. Filtering shows you that most experienced high rebuffering. The data shows that to serve these customers it would be beneficial to use a CDN to prevent high latency network traffic. Your business needs may drive you to ask different questions and collect additional data points.

Proposed solution

This solution uses a plugin to connect AMP to Application Insights to capture diagnose and track usage. Application Insights allows you to drill down into details and view the data in the new Azure portal. If you wish, you can just use these two components and use the Azure portal to view your data.

I recommend integrating Power BI and Azure Storage. Power BI transforms the data into rich visuals with easy to organize dashboards. This allows you to focus on the data that matters. The Application Insights Content Pack for Power BI automatically creates a simple dashboard with non-custom Application Insights data for the last 30 days. Application Insights also allows you continuously export (requires Standard or Premium) your data to Azure Storage for a longer retention period. Combining this with Power BI, you can create custom dashboards with data from Azure Blob Storage (requires Power BI Desktop App available for free).

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Component Reference* Limits* Data Retention*
Azure Media Player AMP Docs N/A N/A
Application Insights Pricing, Usage and Features

AI Docs
Free: 5M data points
Standard: 15M data points
Premium: 50M data points
Raw Data: 7 Days
Aggregate Data: 90 Days
Azure Storage Pricing, Usage and Features

Storage Docs
N/A (pricing based on storage size and redundancy plan) N/A (pricing based on storage size and redundancy plan)
Power BI Pricing, Usage and Features

Power BI Docs
Free: 1 GB, daily refresh
Pro: 10 GB, 8 refreshes per day

From App Insights connector: 30 Days
From Azure Storage: N/A

*At the time this post was published.

Getting started

The plugin code and full setup guide is available on the Azure-Samples GitHub page.

Extending the plugin

By default, the plugin tracks errors and a playback summary data for distribution, watch time, and quality. The plugin already has several other events integrated, which can be enabled though the metricsToTrack option when initializing the plugin. For a full list of APIs and metrics to track, check out the plugin documentation.

The plugin code provided is licensed as MIT. Your business needs might extend beyond the current plugin code. As such, you can add additional scenarios that you wish to track. You can submit new features or bug fixes for the plugin through a GitHub pull request.

As a note, Application Insights is available cross-platform allowing you to connect your native mobile applications (if applicable) for iOS, Android or Windows 10 UWP apps. By formatting the data in the same way as the provided plugin, you can easily integrate and to get a full view of your product across a wide variety of platforms.

Other alternatives

Since AMP is agnostic to the backend analytics service, it also works well with various services. An alternative solution, for basic scenarios with simple dashboards, is our Google Analytics plugin for Azure Media Player.

If you create or modify a plugin, you can share it with us and request to include it in the Azure Media Player plugin gallery. Simply click the submit button to share your plugin with us.

Providing feedback

Azure Media Player will continue to grow and evolve, adding additional features and enabling new scenarios. You can request new features, provide ideas or feedback via UserVoice. If you have and specific issues, questions or find any bugs, drop us a line at ampinfo@microsoft.com.

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