nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

The good, the bad, and the future of video streaming

infrastructure panel at TVOT 2018 SF

With the World Cup finally underway in Russia, the amount of live streaming is sure to increase worldwide. The streaming experience for most will be pretty good, according to a panel of experts. However, there are still big challenges, some of which will be solved by 2022.

At the TV of Tomorrow Show in San Francisco last week, I moderated a panel entitled Understanding the Multiplatform Video Infrastructure. I asked panelists what is working with online streaming delivery today, what is not, and what we will be talking about on the same panel in 2022. Here’s what they had to say:

What’s working with multiplatform video today

Multiscreen delivery works

All the panelists agreed that the infrastructure for the delivery of premium video online mostly works today. Jason Thibeault, Executive Director of the Streaming Video Alliance, summed up the situation like this:

Jason Thibeault SVA

Jason Thibeault, SVA

“What’s working today is HTTP. It’s really homogenized multiplatform delivery, so for the first time you can send out a single stream of content chunked in HTTP video – whether it’s in DASH or HLS or CMAF – and that can be consumed on any device.”

He went on to say that HTTP streaming has its problems, though he is seeing new protocols coming to market that should rectify them.

OTT data is illuminating the viewer

With Disney’s announcement that it will deliver a direct-to-consumer (DTC) service next year, many other broadcasters are likely evaluating similar options. Dan Finch, Chief Commercial Officer at Simplestream, singled out how OTT data can provide broadcasters new benefits:

Dan Finch, Simplestream

“What the OTT infrastructure has done…You have the ability actually to understand the customer. If you are a broadcaster, you perhaps have not been in a position to do that before.”

What’s not working

Discovery challenges remain

Bill Scott, COO of Easel TV, focused on a topic that is consuming the attention of many DTC service providers: how to ensure a video service is found by the audience.

Bill Scott - Easel TV

Bill Scott, Easel TV

“The challenge is much more about marketing. There’s marketing to get new customers. There’s marketing to existing customers while they’re using the service. There’s marketing to existing customers to get them to come back to the service. It’s the first one that is the hardest.”

Kai-Christian Borchers, Managing Director of 3 Screen Solutions, highlighted another aspect of discoverability. He said many consumers use services scattered over smart TVs, operator set-top boxes, and streaming media players. Such fragmented viewing led him to comment:

Kai-Christian Borchers - 3SS

Kai-Christian Borchers, 3SS

“What I am missing is an over-arching service that makes it easy to find content which is relevant to me.”

Wasteful use of streaming bandwidth

Stefan Lederer, CEO of Bitmovin, recognized that streaming worked well but he says there is plenty of room to optimize the delivery of streaming video:

Stefan Lederer - bitmovin

Stefan Lederer, bitmovin

“Many services are not delivering at the optimal resolution for the device that they are streaming to.”

Delivering at too high a resolution costs the service provider more in bandwidth with no discernable improvement in the experience for the viewer.

Hot topics in 2022

It’s all about scale

Mr. Thibeault and Mr. Lederer both that streaming video will be watched by far more people simultaneously than it is today. Mr. Lederer forecast a ten-times increase in online viewers which, in turn, will drive a ten-times increase in revenue. I agreed with them, saying I think that 30 million simultaneous video streamers will watch the 2022 Super Bowl.

Custom linear channels

Mr. Borchers believes that premium providers will be delivering VOD assets in on-demand channels, effectively creating custom programmed linear TV channels. Mr. Scott says the technology for this already exists, and nScreenMedia has reported on two companies taking this approach; Rheo TV, and Zone TV. However, TV channel providers are still a long way away from abandoning programmed channels. Perhaps by 2022, they will be much closer.

Why it matters

The infrastructure of the delivery of quality streamed video experiences fundamentally works today.

Challenges remain. Discoverability, wasteful use of bandwidth, and HTTP scaling problems are among them.

By 2022, video streaming will scale to TV audience size and linear TV broadcasters will be taking advantage of technology to provide fully addressable linear experiences.

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