Live OTT Warrants Advertising Premium, Says Massive CTO

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Massive is one of the leading OTT video app and UI developers, and its work with a variety of content publishers gives it unique insights into the state of over-the-top video as we wrap up 2016 and move into 2017. We spoke with Massive CTO Max Ramsay to get his views on the growth of live streaming and the implications of 360° video, 4K, and HDR, among other trends.

What would you identify as the major trends, technologies or events in live video during 2016?

2016 has seen an explosion of live video in social platforms such as Facebook Live, along with the continued presence of dedicated platforms like Periscope. We also saw news reports in October 2016 of Instagram testing live streaming functionality. Live has made its way into social media such that anyone can now broadcast themselves anywhere, anytime.

The major OTT services are also embracing live delivery by introducing more live streaming channels to expand their reach beyond televisions into internet-enabled devices. Audiences are getting used to live video being easy to both create and view.

Advancing technology is improving the usability and accessibility of live or pseudo-live, which is now being truly integrated into the user experience of applications rather than being treated as a standalone area or section.

Why is live appointment to view seems still the most prized content?

The lifeblood of live has traditionally been advertising. With so much choice available and the ability for audiences with personal video recorders to skip over ads, live content—especially content with intense online social engagement—ensures that audiences watch every second, including any advertising. If you have engaging, high-quality live content, you can still charge a premium for advertising.

Is OTT now a better way of serving live than traditional broadcast?

Broadcast technology cannot move fast enough to keep up with online. While a broadcast standards might take over a decade to go from idea to ratification and then mass-market penetration, the same can happen in a few years in the OTT world. It used to be that live broadcast television provided the best quality video experience, but that changed as soon as Netflix and YouTube started streaming 4K.

At Massive, we are privileged to have had front-row seats for the last twenty years watching the story of live streaming and OTT unfold. Over this period we have invested heavily in R&D across areas ranging from the psychology of interface usability to efficient application delivery. Our experience tells us that this next phase of the story is only just beginning.

At the moment, we see many exciting technologies on the horizon – particularly emerging standards that allow services to be even more decentralised, and video and player applications delivered even more efficiently.

Even with the current state of technology, audiences are getting used to live streaming with its existing quirks and the trend is clearly towards a constant improvement in the user experience.  This is just as much a question about content availability. As long as the content is compelling and the technology does not detract from the experience, usage and audiences will grow.

We believe we will see the technology and audience expectations meeting in the middle. So much more can be done for online streaming and applications to truly interact with audiences compared to traditional broadcast. As an industry, we have hardly scratched the surface.

What non-sports content do consumers want live streamed and where’s the evidence for this?

The demand for live OTT now extends beyond sports into all content genres. Audiences today feel compelled to experience everything as it happens—either to not feel left behind or be involved with an online community through social media. Reality television, music gigs, theatre, e-sports, and other events are well positioned to take advantage of this.

Just this year, Massive launched Comic-Con HQ for Lionsgate. Lionsgate partnered with Comic-Con International on the new service that includes live coverage from the Comic-Con events alongside a catalogue of other original short-form content, movies and TV series from Lionsgate and other studios. It enhances the experience for fans not able to attend any or all of the Comic-Con events. There are so many live activities happening simultaneously that it’s impossible to see everything in person. The service added over 100 panels shortly after they finished the San Diego event.

What will be the impact of Facebook’s live strategy?

Facebook and other social networks have turned anyone into a live broadcaster. There may be something unpredictable about how "being there" creates a visceral experience for audiences. New media has a long tradition of changing the rules of politics. We could be in for some exciting times – or, like 90s VR and 3D TV it could amount to absolutely nothing.

How do you see the evolution of live streaming in 2017?

2017 is going to see consolidation and improvement of existing technologies. As for future trends in the long to medium-term, the elephant in the room is 360° video enabled by the inexpensive VR headsets that will soon be widely available.

This is an emerging medium and traditional filmmakers are enthusiastic to become the discoverers of the necessary new techniques required to make this a mass-market art form. They have an opportunity to emulate their pioneering heroes from the golden age of cinematography. Tracking alongside this is 360° video’s ability to place someone at a live event.

One thing is for sure, 360° video, 4K, 8K and HDR’s increased colour depth and brightness are going to increase demand for bandwidth, and this is just the uses we can imagine now. High-speed connections to the home are going to be needed and any government or operator not imagining this far ahead is limiting their future options and our potential as an industry.

It is worth nothing that within the user interface field that Massive operates, we are less concerned with the type 4K, 8K and 360 etcetera, and more fixated on the effective management and scheduling of live events and blending them with a catalogue to create unified experiences.

How much 4K live or on-demand content is being streamed? What will make the dial turn upwards on this?

Netflix, Sony, and Amazon are flying the flag for 4K together with other streaming services from major broadcasters, content owners and operators – such as Massive’s client Bell Media through their Discovery Go service on Samsung UHD TVs. That being said, the industry is on track to move swiftly past 4K, to 8K, with 16K appearing as codec efficiency increases imminently.

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