By Richard Mansfield, Director Streaming & Delivery, MediaKind
Last week, MediaKind launched the first in a series of three application papers that will explore the current state of play across the streaming market. Our latest paper tackles the impact and role of the operator landscape and some of the underlying challenges that still stand in consumers’ way of truly ‘living the stream.’ Overcoming these challenges will offer a plethora of opportunities for operators. Indeed, many are already benefitting from the increasing availability of streaming-based solutions, ranging from the content’s processing to the end-user experience itself.
A new streaming landscape
The obvious advantages to these new streaming-based solutions center around increasing the agility and flexibility of enabling video services and enhancing the reach and cost-efficiency of delivering the content. Another more understated benefit lies in creating a one-stop-shop for media. The panacea for all content providers is to become the super-aggregator – combining an operator’s service alongside those from an OTT provider. As my colleague Damien Montessuit mentioned in a recent blog post, the ability to pay through just one bill is a critical yet straightforward value-add for consumers. For operators, it’s an opportunity to position themselves as the orchestrator of live and on-demand TV, video, and gaming platforms.
But the events of last year have hyper-accelerated demands on the streaming landscape; the stay-at-home culture instigated a rapid migration towards a streaming-first environment that has impacted everything from the way we socialize and the way we work and our sources of entertainment. The influx of competition from new players in this space is intense, driven by booming consumer demand for access to content on all devices and compelling, personalized viewing experiences that can replicate traditional broadcast delivery. Further developments and technological advancements in streaming technologies are now required to realize this demand. Broadband capabilities will also need significant investment to cope with the diverse requirements of the streaming ecosystem.
Shaping the high-quality streaming experience
So how do we get there? It begins by defining the core tenants of a great streaming experience, which applies to both on-demand or live content, and across all delivery infrastructure forms (whether broadcast, cable, or satellite). We believe at MediaKind that the principal characteristics of a streaming AV chain must offer the highest reliability, the lowest possible latency, and providing a high quality of experience whilst being able to scale effectively with this increasing consumption.
First, consumers expect services to simply work – irrespective of the device they’re watching it on. Particularly in terms of live content, they no longer accept lag-time as standard. In the age of social media, any lag in the delivery risks spoiling the all-important moments – no one wants to hear the sounds of uncontextualized cheers from a nearby household, nor a notification from a friend or family member providing commentary for the yet-to-be-seen action on screen. Quality has always been an important differentiator for service providers and a key driver of innovation for the wider industry. It’s why we’ve evolved from the days of black and white through to the pervasiveness of UHD 4K TV sets. But optimizing content for delivery in the lowest bitrate is a perennial challenge – and there are associated costs to factor in, despite improved compression effectiveness or the arrival of new codecs.
Meanwhile, scalability and connectivity remain two of the biggest challenges in the evolution of the streaming space. High-profile live events can manage the capacity levels of large-scale audiences. But what happens when spikes in traffic occur – particularly at a time when the peaks for OTT-delivered traffic are continuously increasing? In terms of connectivity, the service must reach the end-user seamlessly. Typically, operators have had dedicated QAM or IPTV delivery chains, but streamed content is mainly delivered using shared capacity with internet traffic. How will operators provide the high-speed connectivity today’s streaming experiences demand in the long term?
The impact of the cloud on the streaming future
Cloud technology will play a significant role in meeting the challenges of delivering reliability, low latency, quality, scalability, and connectivity. In the short term, that means transforming fixed-function infrastructure and enjoying the flexibility of hybrid approaches. As my colleague Tony Jones referenced in his recent blog post, the media industry has been relatively slow to embrace the public cloud. Still, operators are increasingly making the shift towards cloud technology. By doing so, it’s ultimately how they will future-proof their business – Tony lists several use cases here.
By embracing the opportunity enabled by cloud-based technologies, we can realize innovations faster and deliver the streaming experiences that today’s consumers are craving.
To learn more, download the new MediaKind application paper ‘Living the Stream: A Multi-Channel Distributor’s Journey to Streaming.’