In 10 years there may be no satellite TV - so what's your streaming strategy?
Video streaming is more than replacing traditional linear playout with an IP infrastructure. Dan Castles, Telestream CEO and co-founder, says streaming offers a new set of opportunities – and challenges – for broadcasters who want to stay relevant in the next decade
This year, the availability of television quality content, and especially live content, over the internet proved disruptive to many traditional broadcast business models. Streaming is available to the person on the street with a smartphone almost as easily as it is to a TV broadcaster. 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 being used. 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.
For broadcasters worldwide, streaming is one of the most critical issues that will impact on their investment plans in the medium and long-term. According to the 2016 Big Broadcast Survey Global Trend Index from Devoncroft, the most commercially important issue over the next 2-3 years is multi-platform content delivery (broadcast, web, mobile, etc.). 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 progressively migrate from linear television channels to OTT. The critical issues are access and convenience for the consumer balanced with the monetisation 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 such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube allows access to a huge audience using a medium that broadcasters are expert in.
There are considerable commercial opportunities available to broadcasters that can harness this technical evolution. How many are using Facebook and Twitter as a means to promote their linear TV broadcasts and attract new viewers? 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 then social networks can be used to provide essential value-added entertainment content and build viewing audiences as well as viewer loyalty. Applications can vary from additional camera angles to discrete broadcasts of team training sessions and interviews with players and coaches.
The number of organisations that are harnessing video streaming is growing steadily and it is these that stand to gain the most moving forward. For there is no doubt that OTT will supersede linear TV – it is just a question of how long is it before that happens. In the same way that the telephone landline network has been revolutionised by mobile technology, we will see a progressive merging of streaming and live linear TV channels. The $64 million question facing the broadcast community is what is the most expeditious and low-risk means of achieving this migration and which companies represent the most reliable partners in this journey?
Within ten years there will be no satellite television - it will all be HTTP-based
IP streaming specialists
For broadcasters to make the migration what they need first and foremost is the technical infrastructure to support their commercial operations. The latest buzzword in the industry is ‘IP’, but what they are actually talking about is a replacing 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 based on traditional broadcast hardware have, overnight so 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 organisations develop their streaming architecture.
Today, mainstream media & entertainment content can be routinely streamed to audiences but in reality, it is still secondary to the primary linear channel. As OTT evolves to replace linear TV broadcasts as the platform of choice for consumers to access their desired content, so consumer expectations will rise as they demand better quality and more reliable HTTP delivery options.
In the meantime, I caution organisations to look carefully under the bonnet before selecting their 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. We live on the cusp of the most dramatic technological changes the broadcast industry has ever experienced. Broadcasters’ challenge is, as far as possible, to make that change in an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary one. Never before has specialist knowledge, experience and a track record of proven results been so important.