S02E07: Game of Streams (Moving forward after a success)

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.

FIFA World Cup has ended and as expected it became a success for TV viewing, both traditional broadcast but maybe even more for online streaming. We have seen headlines every day during the championship with new streaming and online records. It has however been very hard to compare all figures that have been flying around as some are streaming requests, some are peak viewing and some concurrent views. So, I will not be the one that writes about any record figures in this blog post. Regardless, we can conclude that the FIFA World Cup has taken online streaming to the next level.

Even though we have seen streaming records, we still have some challenges ahead of us that needs to be resolved. As an industry, we need to analyze the situation around streaming and make improvements and find solutions, in order to take the next steps.

Stability

It seems that most viewers were able to watch the FIFA World Cup without any problems. We could read about some disturbances for some of the service providers, however, I will not comment any specific event as I don’t have the details needed. Now days streaming is not an extra add-on feature and nice to have. It is for more and more subscribers the only delivery method and it must work, in all circumstances. That a stream doesn’t start or buffering during streaming is not acceptable.

Even though online streaming technology can’t be compared to traditional broadcast when it comes to consistency, you can reach quite far with a solid architecture and careful planning. As I’ve been in the middle of the action the last years I know what it takes to deliver a consistent experience.

Latency

Latency in online streaming has during FIFA World Cup been discovered by the wide audience. While watching a game you could have it spoiled by someone in your surroundings watching with a smaller delay, or through social media. BBC even issued a warning that their BBC iPlayer is up to two minutes behind the actual coverage.

People that work with streaming have known about this latency and solutions are being worked on. But now when the big majority has noticed this I believe that the discussions will intensify. It is possible to be at least on par with traditional broadcast, but it will require some effort. For live events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, it will be needed.

Capacity and scalability

We have seen that when streaming start to scale that we run into new challenges. Internet and HTTP are not optimal when it comes to distributing video to a lot of clients at the same time. All parts of the video workflow must be built for scale. Compression needs to be more efficient and the distribution must be smarter. As stated earlier, streaming will grow, and the systems need to handle scale.

Moving forward after a success

I also believe that we need to see more collaboration between companies. We have today too many standards and protocols that needs to be considered. Cooperation between technology providers could align on fewer choices. Companies with similar challenges could cooperate aligning solutions and even building parts of their infrastructure together. We have seen more and more markets where broadcasters come together to fight Netflix and Youtube.

To take the next step I think that the streaming providers need to move away from legacy and start to build the architecture with streaming in the front seat, not as an add-on to the broadcast infrastructure. I hope that the content owners, broadcasters, and distributors will realize this and start planning.

It’s a complex technology with a lot of choices but expertise exists that could help to guide.

To watch out for the coming months…

Skinny Bundles attracts more and more subscribers, maybe not in the pace that I have earlier predicted. The virtual MVPD’s still don’t make money on their skinny offers, but they slowly gain subscribers. I believe that targeted advertising, using SSAI will make the difference and could turn skinny bundles into a profitable business.

Acquisitions and mergers still fill the news flow. When Comcast withdraw from the fight of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox, Disney is about to close the deal. Viacom is reporting its intention to buy multi-channel network AwesomenessTV

In Sweden, Telia has announced the acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting, including the national TV4, C-More pay TV, and Finnish MTV. Earlier the same week, Telia announced that it is buying Norwegian cable operator GET.

What will be the next, as this is far from over?

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) and LinkedIn for regular updates and news.

We are consultants sharing the passion for the technology for a media consumer of the future.