Streaming Forum Preview: OTT An "Unstoppable" Force
Dan Finch of TVPlayer and Simplestream will present one of the Streaming Forum keynotes, and here he offers his take on the state of OTT as we head into 2017
Streaming Forum returns to London in February, and this year will focus on OTT. You can find the full program online now, where you'll see that we've gathered some of the leaders in the world of OTT to talk about technical and business trends and challenges. Among those speakers is Dan Finch, the Commercial Director of Simplestream and Co-Founder of TVPlayer, who will be keynoting on day 2 of Streaming Forum. We sat down with Dan recently to ask him about his predictions for OTT in 2017, and the conversation quickly turned to live video, which is driving OTT adoption across multiple devices. What follows is a lightly edited version of that discussion.
What would you identify as the major trends, technologies or events in live video during 2016?
OTT has been an unstoppable force this year and is on par to continue a strong growth trajectory. The projected four-fold market increase to $32 billion by 2019 helps exemplify how improvements in user interface and bandwidth infrastructure flexibility have encouraged consumers to steer away from traditional DTT content delivery. The demand for live video content over multiple devices has grown and the social media giants have been swift to feed this hunger. With Facebook, Twitter and Instagram growing in popularity as live streaming end points, it is important for content players to syndicate to them in order to extend their consumer reach. This will be particularly applicable for sports content in the next few years, as 63 percent of sports fans have expressed willingness to pay for an OTT subscription to watch their favourite teams and players.
Have we reached a tipping point where OTT is simply the best way of serving live video?
Live video over OTT platforms is definitely at a tipping point. Consumption of this content is evolving due to the very nature of the OTT market, which, compared to linear content delivery, has a low cost-of-entry and offers a rapid time to market. As a result, more niche content providers and broadcasters can, and have, entered the market using the cloud without the large-scale, high-cost overheads and infrastructure typically incurred with traditional linear content delivery. At Simplestream, we're also driving up the quality of video delivery by ingesting assets directly before they're played out over traditional linear platforms, providing better audience targeting and improved monetization opportunity. Through our flexible, end-to-end Media Manager technology, we are helping this shift over to live OTT video by reducing costs and simplifying the syndication of content that works with current workflows.
Sports aside, what other types of content do consumers want live streamed and where's the evidence for this?
Viewer hunger for live streaming content is abundant beyond sports. GlobalWebIndex found that live funny/entertaining videos rank the highest in viewer popularity (53%)—followed by breaking news stories (41%), music/concerts (38%), educational talks (29%), brands/commercial videos (26%), celebrity videos (22%) and vlogging (19%). As live OTT video continues to expand into more of these areas, the need for these content players to optimize with a unified workflow that reduces costs and increases the quality of live content delivery is more crucial than ever.
How you would assess the growth in interest and ability among consumers to live stream video to social media?
We expect Facebook Live to grow in the coming years. We are seeing a lot of interest in using it as an avenue to build awareness, driven by Facebook's established market position and ability to help content owners reach niche audiences through its rich data on user needs and wants. There is an OTT opportunity to effectively harness this platform, but it has to be part of a larger strategy to deliver in ways that provide better direct monetisation.
This is where Simplestream comes into the fold by providing established syndication services that act as a bolt-on to having a direct-to-consumer service. Delivering a seamless UX that is compatible with multiple devices, monetizing the service effectively, and providing high quality streams that can be delivered with a short turnaround time to the viewer are among the end-to-end offerings that help content players of all sizes optimize their live video delivery. Time will tell on the true market impact that live OTT video will bring next year, however, with big players increasingly and effectively optimizing with streaming, the potential is vast.
What are your predications for the evolution of live streaming?
Live streaming will boom as a result of impactful technological advancements in multi-platform delivery, coupled with a growing consumer hunger for live content regardless of location. We therefore anticipate the introduction of more streaming services available on more devices with more diverse content for viewers.
Live sports streaming, specifically, is unquestionably on the rise, as the 2016 European Championship saw record views over OTT platforms. England's 2-1 win over Wales attracted 2.3 million viewers to the BBC Sport website—more than doubling the broadcaster's previous highest live OTT viewing figure. This change in the way people watch their favourite sports will ultimately help open up the market to increased diversification, allowing more niche markets to develop more readily—think skateboarding, surfing and darts as promising examples.
The relationship between viewer and broadcaster will also become more intimate. As the financial cost and turnaround time in delivering content reduces, more specialized and niche broadcasters can harness the means to effectively engage with their audiences. Facebook Live is a prime example of simplified content delivery: All content players need is a good-quality smartphone with an internet connection, and suddenly thousands can tune in. Monetisation, however, remains a crucial piece of the puzzle. With platforms like Facebook Live generating and delivering live content to a plethora of socially-syndicated devices, the need to ensure effective delivery to drive monetisation efforts is important – especially to mobile. A recent report from Ooyala found that 51 percent of video is now viewed over mobile devices, illustrating a clear need for effective multi-platform content delivery.
Multi-device delivery, however, can still be a challenge for many broadcasters and content providers. By efficiently plugging into current workflows, Simplestream can help reduce the turnaround time and overall costs of streamlining content to its audiences across multiple devices – and can even get the break-even point down to as low as 2,000 subscribers.
How much 4K live or recorded content is being streamed ? What will make the dial turn upwards on this?
4K live content will continue to grow as the demand for 4K TVs increases. Unsurprisingly, the availability of UHD channels is concurrently increasing—from 50 in 2015 to a projected 237 by 2020, according to a recent SNL Kagan report. The predominance of 4K video content delivery is inevitable given the ongoing expansion of OTT platform options. In order for live 4K/UHD streaming to continue succeeding, however, delivery must be effectively managed and monetised. As the costs incurred to create and deliver this pixel-rich content are naturally higher, however, the availability of cost-effective solutions is paramount to the success of UHD content creation for content players, and its concurrent adoption by consumers.
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