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Streaming Threats and Opportunities

Video streaming is more than simply replacing linear playout with an IP infrastructure.

The availability of quality content, and especially live content, over the internet is proving disruptive to many traditional business models. Streaming is available to the filmmaker with a phone almost as easily as it is to a TV studio. Anyone can become a professional broadcaster in minutes. But there’s more to it than just pressing record on a smartphone.

To maintain tight control over the viewer experience, there are decisions to be made regarding the cost of distribution, video quality and reliability of systems. Having these controls and building viewership of their own website and app are the keys to profitability in streaming video for broadcasters and content owners.

According to the 2016 Big Broadcast Survey Global Trend Index from Devoncroft, the most commercially important issue over the next few years is multi-platform content delivery. The truth is that we are seeing an inevitable transition from linear transmission to streaming to the extent that within ten years there will be no satellite television – it will all be HTTP-based.

The challenge facing the industry is how to keep pace with changes in consumer preferences as they migrate from linear television channels to OTT. The critical issues are access and convenience for the consumer, balanced with the monetization of content by broadcasters, content owners and aggregators.

Facebook Live: Threat or Opportunity?

From my perspective, one of the most significant recent developments in video streaming came when Facebook Live was introduced. The integration of live video on social platforms allows access to a huge audience using a medium that broadcasters are experts in.

Facebook Live can become a second screen for forward-thinking broadcasters. Once they have paid the big bucks for the right to televise a sporting event, social networks can be used to provide essential value-added content and build audiences and viewer loyalty. Applications can vary from additional camera angles to discrete broadcasts of training sessions or interviews with players.

There is no doubt that OTT will supersede linear TV – it is just a question of when. In the same way that the telephone landline network has been revolutionized by mobile technology, we will see a merging of streaming and live linear TV channels.

IP Streaming Specialists

For broadcasters to make the migration, what they need first is the technical infrastructure to support their commercial operations. The latest buzzword is “IP,” but what they are actually talking about is a swap of current SDI infrastructures with essentially SDI over Ethernet. That does not translate into an expertise in IP streaming to the consumer.

Many companies that have built an enviable heritage in traditional broadcast hardware have, overnight it seems, become specialists in IP-based broadcast environments. Sadly, this cannot be the case. It just is not possible to acquire that knowledge and experience that quickly. What works in other industries does not necessarily work in broadcast. I believe that there is only a small and select group of technology vendors in the market today that possess the resources, products and support systems to help organizations develop their streaming architecture.

Today, mainstream media content can be routinely streamed to audiences, but it is still secondary to the primary linear channel. But as OTT evolves to replace linear TV broadcasts as the platform of choice for consumers to access their desired content, consumer expectations will rise as they demand better quality and more reliable HTTP delivery options.

In the meantime, I caution organizations to look carefully under the bonnet before selecting a streaming technology partner. Just because a company makes an encoder which provides content that is subsequently streamed, this does not make that encoder manufacturer a streaming expert.

Dan Castles is the CEO and co-founder of Telestream.

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