Last week I joined my MediaKind colleague Carl Furgusson and TVBEurope editor, Jenny Priestly, to discuss some of the consumer shifts that we’ve seen in live streaming – and where it’s all likely to head in the second half of the year. It was a highly engaging and topical hour of conversation, including a number of thought-provoking questions for Carl and I to tackle in the subsequent Q&A! Subjects ranged from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on sports broadcasting (particularly in terms of remote production); the hurdles that service providers face when starting event-based streaming services; and whether there will be an acceleration towards HEVC in 2021 to help improve bandwidth utilization.
If you’d like to watch the webinar again, you can do so on-demand by clicking here.
TVBEurope/MediaKind Poll findings: Broadcast quality is most important when delivering future streaming services
Watching live content typically relies on dedicated broadcast chains leveraging high quality infrastructures (broadcast, cable, satellite, etc). However, changing user behavior, faster and more reliable internet access, and the desire for more flexible viewing experiences are helping to diversify the chain. New live services that leverage internet based adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming are enabling broadcasters and operators to reach an extended number of devices both in and out of the home, as well as reducing the barriers for new players to enter.
During last week’s webinar, a poll was carried out which asked attendees to decide what they thought was the most important element for an operator delivering a streaming service. The results were very conclusive!
- Consistent Broadcast Quality (65.8%)
- Bandwidth and Storage Optimization (18.4%)
- Per user Targeted Audience (10.5%)
- QoE Monitoring and Analytics (5.3%)
For me, it came as little surprise – live content is still one of the biggest draws to any TV service, driven primarily from live sports content. While the rise in ABR streaming has helped to drive the amount of both live and on demand streamed content watched on large screen TVs, this is of course also increasing consumer expectations and the technical requirements on the media chain. Delivering live broadcast quality video experiences across all screens is undoubtedly the toughest challenge.
Innovative developments in streaming technologies, along with significant investments into broadband capabilities, have set the industry standard for the modern TV experience. Immersive and compelling content is now expected for most live and on-demand events; consumers want the same high quality of experience on OTT services as they are used to on broadcast channels. For media operators, this means there is a real need for a consistent level of user experience delivered across all devices, with a fast time to market to address rapidly evolving consumer needs. When it comes to streaming, ‘just good enough’ just doesn’t cut it anymore!
What does broadcast quality streaming entail?
We believe there are three key elements to enable broadcast quality streaming:
High Picture Quality: Live encoding requires significantly more expertise and optimization than file based non-linear services. This is due to the limited encoding time and temporal information available when compared to an offline solution. The changes in picture quality that are due to the varying network conditions (using ABR concepts) can give the impression that the quality of experience has been reduced. For this reason, they must be managed to achieve high picture quality.
Low Latency: End-to-end video latency needs to be optimized for socially active live content. This is especially true for sports. The first generation of OTT live technologies had delays of up to 60 seconds between the action happening in a game, and its appearance on screen. With social media and new push messaging, this could mean a notification about a goal is displayed up to a full minute before the actual video is viewed. Low latency, therefore, is fundamental.
Scaled Delivery: The delivery to the end user must avoid reductions in the quality of experience (such as rebuffering). Whether the service is provided on-net to an operator’s customer, or over the top using general internet delivery, the variability in network conditions needs to be optimized. The potential for live events to attract a short-term peak in delivery requirements also demands that solutions are in place to deal with this scaling need. Since ABR streamed content is primarily delivered using unicast techniques, the delivery requirements usually increase for every additional end user viewing the stream.
The components are in place to achieve genuine broadcast quality streaming that outperforms what we recognize as current linear standards. However, as consumers demand more dynamic formats for live and on-demand video, broadcasters and service providers must be creative; new methods must be sought to enable these more affordable, scalable streaming services, with faster time to market.
Click here to read MediaKind’s newly launched Application Paper ‘Live Streaming 2020 – Shifting Consumer Habits’, where we discuss the necessary ecosystems for ABR delivery and potential solutions that we believe can resolve today’s streaming and on-demand challenges. Discover how our convergent, cloud native ABR headend solution, Aquila Streaming enables broadcast quality OTT with a high level of experience, driven through picture quality but also optimized delivery costs, which simplifies operations.
If you’d like to learn more, my MediaKind colleague Matthew Goldman, SVP Technology, will be exploring the evolution of ABR technology in a forthcoming webinar on May 27 – click here for further details!