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Making streaming content enjoyable for everyone

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These days no matter where you go, people have the habit of streaming movies, TV shows, videos and other content over high-speed wired and wireless connections.

For the people who distribute news and entertainment, this is a challenge as streaming is quickly becoming the way content is bought and consumed. It also determines who reaps the profit and how much so while indie filmmakers, networks, stations and studios see it as a way to expand their audience, others see it as a rip-off scheme.

Two years ago, Nielsen surveyed people in 61 countries and found two-thirds of people streamed video. To keep up with this video hunger, streaming TV programs have more than doubled and live video streams are being introduced in crazy numbers for news, concerts and sporting events.

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ShiftingAlthough viewing of traditional TV with prearranged schedules has been slipping and over the top (OTT) has been increasing, the demise of scheduled TV is a long way off.  Instead, people will just view more content in different ways, on more devices.

The Nielsen survey found 18- to 34-year-olds don’t bother with traditional cable satellite packages and watch half as much live TV as people in the 35-59 age bracket.

Millennials have taken to the idea of cord-cutting, dropping their cable service and going OTT or cord-shaving (cutting back on cable bundles), and using any of the growing number of OTT services.

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Time Extensions – Whether it’s over the TV or a device, people are watching content their way and always seem to be looking for more quantity and variety.

It still looks like plain old TV but is delivered over the internet instead of the cable.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, PlayStation Vue, YouTube Red, Rogers, Sky, Canal, Cox and Alibaba all offer an OTT bundle.

It provides a bunch of channels/content for a monthly fee that you can watch anytime, anywhere and on any device. In addition to the companies above, Roku, Apple, Google, Hulu, AT&T, Verizon, NTT, BT Group, China Telecom and Deutsche Telekom also offer this solution.


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Biggest IrritantDownloading content quickly is the best way to keep a customer, which means slow downloads are OTT providers’ biggest challenge beyond finding content to deliver.

While consumers may not care about techie issues, the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) and several other standards groups have real skin in the game.

They need to ensure buffer-proof distribution of content to consumers’ living rooms and mobile devices over broadband, WiFi, mobile and other new technologies.

Two areas getting the most attention are Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) 3.0 and 5G.

Both are going to be critical to streaming 4K HDR content to devices, especially as consumers experience more of the virtual world on screens with Ultra HD resolutions or 3840 pixels × 2160 lines (8.3 megapixels) with an eye on 120fps (frames per second).

By the committee’s definition, ATSC 3.0 is the next-generation broadcast standard using advanced transmission and video/audio coding techniques to keep consumers hooked on content.

Since ATSC 3.0 will require a major investment in new systems, the standards groups have set up major goals for performance, functionality and efficiency so providers will be compelled to invest in new non-backward-compatible systems.

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Standard DeliveryTo provide viewers with the best content possible, members of SMPTE have developed standards for 4K HDR content as well as wide colour gamut (WCG) and high frame rate (HFR).  Content looks great but it does require a little added bandwidth.

It’s necessary because:

  • Spectrum is getting scarce
  • Major improvements in codec (encode-decode video) efficiency
  • Enables higher-resolution imagery
  • Provides more efficient, immersive audio
  • Delivers content over more than just broadcast
  • Interactive content can be enabled
  • Increased mobile device viewing

Handy Screen

While people still watch more content streamed to their TV, industry players also want to ensure they capture the maximum number of eyeballs possible. Since we can’t seem to live without our smart phone, according to global research by AOL providers want to ensure we stay connected to great video when we want it.

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Shift HappensWhile boomers and boomers plus may be comfortable with plain old TV, millennials will shift, cable shave or cable cut.  But it is the up-and-coming generation that content owners and advertisers have their eyes on winning over and they pay close attention to how they view content.  Tomorrow, they will be the major content consumers.

It seems like only yesterday that the mobile industry was hyping 4G content delivery and then they were bragging about beefing things up with LTE.

4G LTE allows consumers to download more pictures faster and watch movies on devices anytime. It has a while to go before it is universally available but that didn’t stop exhibitors at the World Mobile Congress from telling attendees how awesome 5G is going to be when it arrives.

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Really Fast SoonWhile wireless service providers talk about 5G bandwidth and their delivery of LTE, most of the time you’re lucky if you get 4G speeds for video downloads.  But soon…

While the industry is increasing fixed broadband bandwidth, it’s mobile that needs the lower latency and speed to meet the content industry’s and consumers’ requirements.

Cisco projects that mobile IP traffic will increase three times faster than fixed traffic and will represent 16% of all IP traffic by 2020.

The added bandwidth is vital because Akamai, a leading content delivery network, reported that data traffic has grown by 1,600% over the past five years and the move to streaming video has only just begun.

With more phones being used and more content being expected, the industry is making a major push to meet consumer demands.

Theoretically, 5G will deliver content at 100Mbps but in the real-world speeds are closer to 12Mbps, though they’re hoping to get performance up to 225-300Mbps.

There is an urgency to develop new universal standards to meet the growing demand for live IP production and live event streaming the content.

“Facebook live and Snapchat captured a significant share of the live video market very quickly. There’s a need to provide new overall standards so that new entries can help expand the category and be competitive versus being currently expensive and not as efficient for the consumer. Most of the participants in the industry want to avoid the introduction of competing, non-compatible standards and protocols such as those we saw in the past with VHS/Beta and DVD standards,” said PADEM Group president Allan McLennan.

Since voice service has remained relatively flat in recent years, wireless carriers have made a major switch to unlimited data plans to gain market share.  These all-you-can-eat plans encourage consumers to remain on their networks rather than switching to WiFi networks to avoid costly data overage charges.

The move could result in savings for public spaces such as airports, stadiums and other businesses because the need to continually upgrade systems and services would be reduced.

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Video GrowthVideo content is here today and the available news/entertainment rich content will continue to grow and so will the demand.

At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), there will be a strong mixture of broadband, satellite and wireless services being advanced as the media and entertainment industry begins to adopt the new reality of content anywhere, anytime, on any device.

After the industry has left the bubble of NAB, vendors, technologists and broadcasters will come together for the Connected Age (ETCA) conference on May 8-9, at the Microsoft Silicon Valley Campus to redefine the entertainment experience.

Open to engineers, creatives and researchers interested in the future of connected entertainment, conference attendees will explore the convergence of connectivity, bandwidth and technology.

It will be revolutionary if they can come out of the conference with a clear direction for the industry that everyone can implement and profit from.

Attendees have to remember Lewis’ observation, “Sometimes you have to lose yourself ‘fore you can find anything.”

This article first appeared on VizWorld by Andy Marken

About Adelle King

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