S02E01: Game of Streams (Change must come, change is coming)

Our Media Solution Consultant, Magnus Svensson, is sharing his reflections from the online streaming industry in this post. This is part of a monthly series so make sure to follow us here if you don’t want to miss an episode.

The year of 2018 started with a small, but very interesting, change on the website of Alliance for Open Media. Apple was suddenly listed at as a founding member. So, Apple silently joined, as a founding member, the group that is working on AV1.

As late as at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC17) Apple announced support of HEVC in macOS and iOS. In a report by Jan Ozer, produced by Streaming Media magazine and Unisphere Research, 25.1% of the respondents reported that they are currently distributing video encoded with HEVC. The survey also stated that for 66.2%, Apple’s announcement of HEVC support had a significant influence, and up to 62.5% may add HEVC to HLS by the end of 2018.

According to the same survey, interest in AV1 is strong, but not a straightforward road. Respondents indicated concerns about quality, playback performance, and encoding time.

What are the reasons for Apple’s participation in AV1?

My take is that AV1 will guarantee their reach to other devices than their own as well as the ability to provide high-quality content from other streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix.

Regardless, this could become a big step towards a common streaming format which would simplify online streaming a lot. But I believe that we will see a market with both HEVC and AV1 in the future.

A final note on the topic of codecs and standardization, In a blog post from Leonardo Chiariglione, the founder and chairman of MPEG (“A Crisis, the Causes, and a Solution”). In that post, Chiariglione states that “the old MPEG business model is now broke” and that “Alliance for Open Media (AOM) has occupied the void created by MPEG’s outdated video compression standard (AVC), absence of competitive Options 1 standards (IVC) and unusable modern standard (HEVC)”.

I think that the codec “crisis” is just one example of the extremely complex environment we have within the streaming world. Working with media customers every day you realize that creating a streaming solution is not easy. In each and every part of the system, we have competing standards and solutions, making the end to end flow more or less impossible to understand and to implement.

Change must come…

Mergers and consolidation

Mid-January, the Swedish telco Tele2 announced the merge with the local cable operator Com Hem that will establish the new Tele2 as a major integrated mobile and fixed-line operator in Sweden. This is in line with the trend we’ve seen for some time now, where media companies try to own as big part of the value chain as possible and access all platforms.

And just hours before this episode of ”Game of Streams” was posted TDC Group and MTG announced a merger. The combined networks and products of the two firms will reach ten million households in the Nordic region bringing together TDC direct to consumer offerings in mobile, broadband and TV distribution with MTG Nordics’ content production, broadcasting, and streaming services. The new firm will have 2.8 million TV subscribers in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we in the future will see an even bigger merge of the above two mergers. And we will for sure see other mergers in the Nordic market.

Change is coming…

To watch out for the coming months…

The Premier League TV rights bidding is ongoing, and the winner will be announced in February. As I have reported before, this time we will most likely see new players fighting for these rights and my prediction is that Amazon will end up winning. But Facebook is also a top contender. Facebook appointed Eurosport’s chief executive, Peter Hutton to lead its drive to secure streaming rights for live sport. His appointment comes just before the deadline for Premier League TV rights bids.

Coming up in February we have two big TV events, Olympics, and Super Bowl LII. Both these events will put streaming solutions to a real test. Let’s hope that we don’t see any major failures during these events.

Magnus Svensson is a Media Solution Consultant and partner at Eyevinn Technology. Eyevinn Technology is the leading independent consultant firm specializing in video technology and media distribution.

Follow me on Twitter (@svensson00) for regular updates and news.

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