S07E05: Game of Streams (Reflections of the industry from the eyes of a tech conference)
Our Media Solution Specialist, Magnus Svensson, is sharing his reflections on the online streaming industry in this post. This is part of a monthly series so make sure to follow us here if you do not want to miss an episode.
A few days ago, the 6th edition of Streaming Tech Sweden, an annual event for streaming tech talks in the Nordics, was held. A day filled with educational presentations and interesting discussions. The topics discussed reflected the challenges and opportunities the community finds most important and relevant and included sports, piracy protection, and distribution on a large scale.
Sports streaming and the business around sports might be the topic with the biggest influence on the industry in the coming years. Content rights valuation has been increasing year over year driven by the importance of sports to attract subscribers and ad money. But with the increased cord-cutting, the shift from traditional television distribution towards streaming services, and the increasing range of broadcasted sports have started to shake the foundations.
In many cases, it is very hard to get a return on investment for the rights to a league or sport. Greed and the desire to maximize the value of a right leads to fragmentation and expensive subscription which makes it hard for the viewers and sports fans to access the games. In many cases, you will need to subscribe to several services, pay high subscription fees, or both just to follow your team.
Availability and reach
If the sport is hard to reach behind high paywalls, included in big packages, or fragmented between multiple services, the sport will not reach the causal viewer and the younger audience and fans. This will in the long run lead to less interest in the sport and fewer kids starting to practice the sport. This will first be noticed for the second-tier sports, but eventually also for the first-tier and premium sports.
Another result of the increased difficulty to access sports is piracy. Illegal ways to access sports as well, as other entertainment video, keeps increasing. The illegal sites are as professional as the legal options, sometimes even better, and it is hard to tell the difference. Except for the price and availability.
Only by working together as an industry, do we have a chance to stop the growth and make life for the pirates harder.
Fighting piracy is only possible if the industry works together. As long as each stakeholder works in silos and points to others, or puts their head in the sand, piracy will continue to grow. As an industry, we need to educate the viewers that the use of an illegal service not only reduces the profit for the “rich” service provider or athletes, but also funds a very dark side with drug dealing, trafficking, and criminal groups.
There are technical means to prevent, block and remove the illegal sites. But there are no silver bullets or quick fixes. The service providers and distributors need to actively use several tools to remove the obvious, find the hidden, and block also the more advanced pirates. Only by working together as an industry, do we have a chance to stop the growth and make life for the pirates harder. This includes making a more attractive legal option and offering.
Streaming is hard
Building a streaming solution that scales is hard, specifically for live streaming. Even large services such as YouTube, Apple, and Netflix face technical issues with live events on their platforms. It is more often the surrounding systems that fail than the actual delivery of the video stream. For live events the viewers tend to access the service at the same time, putting extreme pressure on login, authentication, and entitlement systems.
You need to build with the mindset that your service will fail and have mechanisms to handle the failures. And failures and downtime will continue to occur. The way forward is to acknowledge this fact and work to reduce the impact for the viewers when a fault occurs.
To watch out for the coming months…
Google and YouTube push hard to become the leading provider of all content, not only user-generated content. Expanding YouTube TV, YouTube Channels, acquisition of premium sports rights, and building an attractive experience in the service are clear signs that they are in for the business. YouTube will be the service to either be worried about or to partner with, depending on your role in the industry.
Magnus Svensson is a Media Solution Specialist and partner at Eyevinn Technology. Eyevinn Technology is the leading independent consulting company specializing in video technology and media distribution.