August 1, 2017
There’s no denying that streaming and digital media have been enjoying a meteoric rise in popularity over the past few years. We can expect to see the continuous growth of these segments, as more consumers are favoring streaming options instead of traditional physical media (i.e. Cable TV services).
Just as video killed the radio star and DVD replaced VHS, we see streaming services kill off DVD, Blu-ray and Cable TV during our lifetimes. In the past, HBO disrupted the TV industry by offering premium content for an additional subscription fee. And now, Netflix, another industry disruptor, is the #1 video subscription service by subscribers, surpassing the top 3 U.S. MVPDs – Directv, Comcast, and Charter.
Contrary to popular belief, online streaming is not a new technology. Services such as Hulu and Netflix may have risen in prominence over the past couple of years, but similar services have existed before.
Back in 1995, ESPN streamed a radio broadcast of a baseball game live to their worldwide subscribers. This broadcast was the world’s first live streaming event, but it took a while for streaming to gain significant market hold due to the limits of 56k modem lines. Nowadays, broadband is widely adopted making global streaming easy for HD video, and even 4K UHD (Ultra-High Definition).
Twenty-years later, the NFL and Yahoo delivered the first global live stream event of the International Series game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. And last year, our client, CBS Sports, announced that its live stream of Super Bowl 50 broke all previous streaming records at 3.96 million viewers while traditional broadcast TV ratings dropped.
Digital media ecosystems consist of an encoding and transcoding component, an online advertisement API, a content management system, and online video and social media platforms that work in tandem with the content delivery network. This example is a basic outline of a typical digital media ecosystem. Some networks may deliver other content such as music, games, and VR (Virtual Reality) that will require them to implement configurations that are different or more complex.
Many leading companies such as Adobe, Apple, Verizon, and Microsoft are offering solutions that facilitate the live-streaming process. Adobe developed HDS, or HTTP Dynamic Streaming, as an alternative to their RTMP protocol for the Flash player, which is declining in use. Designed for iOS devices and Quicktime movie players, Apple is responsible for the pervasive HLS, or HTTP Live Streaming formats. Microsoft offers HSS, or HTTP Smooth Streaming, a technology that runs on their IIS web server and Silverlight player. These solutions allow broadcasters to reach their consumers in real time, as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
Broadcasters may scale their live-streams to cater for a small or large audience and target their specific devices. The content management is handled through a cloud-based framework, which provides broadcasters with extensive analytics on how well their content is performing. Furthermore, through the implementation of multi-DRM (Digital Rights Management) and key encryption video content is protected from piracy. Consumers access content through a client player application or the content delivery network itself.
Streaming and digital media are, still new and their respective ecosystems are in flux. They’ve managed to disrupt traditional film distribution channels, but they still need to establish themselves further to, reach a certain level of market maturity.
The software industry has been releasing its products as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which has revolutionized the marketing, distribution, and use of its software. Likewise, a Platform-as-a-Service (Paas) model is shaping the digital media space, whereby platform holders are becoming one-stop-shops for digital media content. These platform holders offer a comprehensive cloud service where consumers can conveniently access a range of content for a monthly fee, instead of purchasing standalone media.
We currently stand at the forefront of a revolution in the way media is created, distributed, and consumed. The streaming media industry is the wild-west right now. Even though there are big players jumping into the fray, it is truly anyone’s game.