cDVR – What impact will 5G have on the future of Cloud DVR?

November 21, 2019

By Meir Lehrer, Vice President, Portfolio Development, MediaKind

In the second part of my Cloud DVR (cDVR) blog series, I looked at how new technological innovations have helped blur the line between what consumers consider as cDVR functionality and SVoD. The rise of new services that allow content items to be recorded within a cDVR and checked ‘out’ and ‘in’ on mobile devices, has proven a game-changer for the media industry. Given there is never more than one copy available for playback, pay-TV services remain legal within the private copy laws and continue to while meeting consumer demands for flexibility.

But as we look into 2020 and beyond, what will be the next game-changer for cDVR services? In my view, nothing will drive the adoption of cDVR as a mandatory underpinning of media solutions more than 5G.

cDVR: What does a post-5G world look like?

As a starting point, let’s consider the impact of insufficient bandwidth at the consumer side of the media delivery workflow, which has proven to be one of our industry’s biggest challenges to date. This has driven analog reclamation globally in cable TV (taking back 6-8 MHz carrier bands with a single analog TV channel in order to carry 4 HD or 10 SD channels back in the MPEG-2 days) and the evolution of better and more efficient video encoding standards (MPEG-2, h.264, h.265). In a 5G world consumers will be able to view content anywhere, even in non-urban and more remote locations that have always struggled to keep up with bandwidth advancements.

In the post-5G revolution where big data pipes are available to all (assuming the backhaul issues can be addressed), consumers will not tolerate being tied down to any physical media storage device. We’ve already seen the Set-Top Box industry atrophy over the last 10 years in favor of open, often white label, consumer devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV and others. These open Android or iOS platforms will continue to march forward as the preferred hardware conduit for large-screen TVs that require robust decoder chips to support huge 4K or better displays. cDVR will become 100% mandatory to enable content portability and single recording management between such in-home devices and mobile devices of all types and sizes.

This momentum will also introduce challenges to the cDVR model since consumers will have upstream bandwidth as well as downstream. Solution providers need to start planning for consumer upload, management, curation and storage of content just as much as content provider driven media. This will also ensure the foothold of Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) video distribution over Constant Bitrate (CBR) video delivery since mobility and scalability of this type of video curation across consumer bases and device types simply will no longer be able to accommodate the older CBR delivery paradigms. To support the best video consumption experience, ABR streaming protocols and transcoding formats will continue to drive out latency, shrink bitrates and reduce packet-loss anomalies.

2020 and beyond: cDVR moves into adulthood

When I watch my kids as they search and consume content it can often seem frenetic, even quixotic at times, as they bounce all over the place finding short, media and long form content. The paradigms of On Demand versus Streaming Linear Channels versus recorded programs are lost on them quite frankly. In a post-5G world, they will expect to be able to find and mark content to record, alongside the ability to create their own content which they can then upload to the same service where it all resides. This will enable them to avoid storage limitations on their mobile devices, perhaps get better quality via the storage platform (i.e. transcoding on the fly upon upload) and make sharing available on their own devices as well as those of others.

In my opinion, the 5G revolution will deploy faster than the long runway that analog reclamation required due to the latter’s infrastructure upgrade such as fiber digs and massive equipment overhauls in the headend, node and home – for migration to DOCSIS 2.0 & 3.0 or for ADSL 2+ and GPON. So much of the world’s industries and businesses are targeting 5G as the infrastructure for their future success. So, we must be prepared to see a massive uptick in cDVR needs and flexibility commensurate with the speed of the 5G rollouts.

The last decade represented the teenage years of cDVR. While exciting and innovative, those years weren’t definitive enough to compel all media services providers, broadcasters and OTT platforms to embrace cDVR. The speed of change coming at us in the form of 5G telecommunications will not just be definitive for cDVR across the board, it will place a creative challenge before all technology and service providers, and make them adapt to the needs of ever more sophisticated consumers. By embracing the seamless nature of push and pull content business cases, we will quickly see these providers delivering access to more data and media than ever before.

You can read more in the first part of Meir Lehrer’s blog, which looks into the lessons learned in the infant years of cDVR and the second part, which looks at how evolving consumer viewing habits are impacting cDVR business models.

Meir Lehrer is now on Twitter! You can follow him via @MeirLehrer_MK.