S02E04: Game of Streams (The new wave of television)
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.
Online streaming is growing and is slowly becoming the main TV distribution model. It was clear at NAB, see more details later, and more and more reports points in the same direction.
According to the Swedish measurement institute MMS, the number of online starts has doubled in the last year, from 6 million March 2017 to 13,5 million March 2018. SVT Play is still the big contributor to these figures, but Discovery is one of the broadcasters in Sweden that sees the biggest increase of online streaming. Dplay increased the number of starts with 83 percent. TV4 Play recorded 3.8 million users and C More has more than doubled its subscriber base.
Online streaming is on the roll. As an example, Swedish cable operator Com Hem sees online TV as a “natural next step” to extend its reach and are now launching a box-less SVOD offering in April. In the US, AT&T announced that they will launch a new skinny bundle online TV offering called AT&T Watch that will be available for US$15 a month.
Another trend in the lights of online streaming is direct-to-consumer services. One interesting example is ESPN+, the first direct-to-consumer service from Disney. The subscription fee is set to $4.99 Per Month will feature over 10,000 live events annually, including daily soccer and baseball games. Launching direct-to-consumer services is the new wave of television.
A couple of weeks NAB was held in Las Vegas. The general feeling was that the market is stabilizing around streaming. The focus is more on scaling and stability than features. It’s more important that it works well than adding more functionality.
Some trends and buzzwords observed at the exhibition:
- Machine learning / AI: Machine learning is advancing within video production, both in the “early phases” with for example metadata enhancement and automation and in the “late phases” where machine learning is used to extract clips and highlights. Machine learning could also be used during encoding to find the best profiles and settings for the codec of choice.
- Personalization: The technology used for online streaming is very well suited for personalization. In most cases, you could add personalization without extra cost for production and distribution. One example is personal linear channels that we at Eyevinn have been experimenting with. This concept was seen from a couple of vendors at the show.
- More efficient use of the H.264 codec: Most encoder and transcoder vendor present more efficient use of H.264. Call it content aware encoding, quality-based encoding, per title encoding or per scene encoding, the concept is the same. You use some kind of pre-processing to determine the best possible encoder settings for the specific content. The trick moving forward would be to make this pre-processing step as slim as possible, and also encoder agnostic.
- Cloud is no longer a selling point, it’s commodity and taken for a fact. At the last few shows (NAB or IBC), cloud has been a feature that was marketed by the vendors. This year cloud was replaced by software-based, agnostic to cloud or own datacenter. Personally, I believe that on-premise will still be around, and the most suitable deployment option for the specific usage will be chosen.
- VR is more or less gone from the show when it comes to video. I believe that VR will be big in gaming and other areas, but for video, it seems to have left the building.
To watch out for the coming months…
Streaming Media East will be held in New York the second week of May, where I will be part of a panel of industry experts discussing strategies for how new and existing players can best reach more viewers. The panel topic will be direct-to-consumer and the future of video distribution.
End of May we have Northern Waves in Oslo, a one-day conference that will attract most Scandinavian broadcasters and pay-tv operators. At Northern Waves, I will talk about the technical specification for Server-Side Ad Insertion that was developed between the Swedish Broadcasters and Operators (“Digital Ads in an Operator’s TVE Service”). I will quickly cover the background to this and then focus on the technical aspects and implementation of the specification.
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.