Video: State of the Streaming Market 2021

Streaming Media is back to take the pulse of the Streaming market following on from their recent, mid-year survey measuring the impact of the pandemic. This is the third annual snapshot of the state of the streaming market which will be published by Streaming Media in March. To give us this sneak peak, Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen is joined by colleague Tim Siglin and Harmonic Inc.’s Robert Gambino,

They start off with a look at the demographics of the respondents. It’s no surprise that North America is well represented as Streaming Media is US-based and both the USA and Canada have very strong broadcast markets in terms of publishers and vendors. Europe is represented to the tune of 14% and South America’s representation has doubled which is in line with other trends showing notable growth in the South American market. In terms of individuals, exec-level and ‘engineering’ respondents were equally balanced with a few changes in the types of institutions represented. Education and houses of worship have both grown in representation since the last survey.

Of responding companies, 66% said that they both create and distribute content, a percentage that continues to grow. This is indicative, the panel says, of the barrier to entry of distribution continuing to fall. CDNs are relatively low cost and the time to market can be measured in weeks. Answering which type of streaming they are involved in, live and on-demand were almost equal for the first time in this survey’s history. Robert says that he’s seen a lot of companies taking to using the cloud to deliver popups but also that streaming ecosystems are better attuned to live video than they used to be.

Reading the news, it seems that there’s a large migration into the cloud, but is that shown in the data? When asked about their plans to move to the cloud, around a third had already moved but only a quarter said they had no plans. This means there is plenty of room for growth for both cloud platforms and vendors. In terms of the service itself, video quality was the top ‘challenge’ identified followed by latency, scalability and buffering respectively. Robert points out better codecs delivering lower bitrates helps alleviate all of these problems as well as time to play, bandwidth and storage costs.

There have been a lot of talks on dynamic server-side ad insertion in 2020 including for use with targetted advertising, but who’s actually adopting it. Over half of respondents indicated they weren’t going to move into that sphere and that’s likely because many governmental and educational services don’t need advertising to start with. But 10% are planning to implement it within the next 12 months which represents a doubling of adoption, so growth is not slow. Robert’s experience is that many people in ad sales are still used to selling on aggregate and don’t understand the power of targetted advertising and, indeed, how it works. Education, he feels, is key to continuing growth.

The panel finishes by discussing what companies hope to get out of the move to virtualised or cloud infrastructure. Flexibility comes in just above reliability with cost savings only being third. Robert comes back to pop-up channels which, based on the release of a new film or a sports event, have proved popular and are a good example of the flexibility that companies can easily access and monetise. There are a number of companies that are heavily investing in private cloud as well those who are migrating to public cloud. Either way, these benefits are available to companies who invest and, as we’re seeing in South America, cloud can offer an easy on-ramp to expanding both scale and feature-set of your infrastructure without large Capex projects. Thus it’s the flexibility of the solution which is driving expansion and improvements in quality and production values.

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Speakers

Tim Siglin Tim Siglin
Contributing Editor, Streaming Media Magazine
Founding Executive Director, HelpMeStream
Robert Gambino Robert Gambino
Director of Solutions,
Harmonic Inc.
Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen Moderator: Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen
Editor, Streaming Media

Video: Managing Unplanned Media Transitions in DASH Live Streaming

In live sports, a cut to or from ads can happen at a moment’s notice. Whilst not an issue for over-the-air broadcast, when you’re streaming it can be tough to get the ‘switch’ message out to the client in time. Server-side ad insertion is usually achieved by manipulating a manifest for a customer. This allows insertion of ads without having to encode the video into the programme video and allows for personalisation.

David Romrell from CommScope starts by giving an overview of how SSAI works and where players can get tripped up by going a little ahead. This talk looks at how to deal with unexpected breaks, for instance when play finishes abruptly, and for early recalls where, say, something interesting happens on pitch and the break is abandoned. There is in-band signalling of events possible within MPEG dash, but this will only work when the player hasn’t gone ahead of time so it’s not to be relied upon in this scenario.

Players can ‘go ahead’ because of the MPD (Media Presentation Description). David walks us through the anatomy of an MPD showing how it lays out a template for extrapolating the chunk name for future chunks. It also provides a heartbeat for how often the client needs to check for an updated playlist known as the MUP. This minimum update period needs to be set to balance between allowing the client some autonomy and being able to make moment-to-moment changes.

David walks through a scenario with an early return showing how a player may get confused and, at best, cause a bandwidth spike and a double hit on the CDN. At worst, the stream will rebuffer and jump. To avoid this, we see 4 options offered by David. One is to issue new periods the moment they’re known about. Even if the media list is empty, this at least signals that there’s a change coming up. This method works but the less warning there is, the less effective it is. A second idea is to ensure that ads aren’t advertised ahead of the packager which stops the player going ahead and downloading content early. The last two, we look at in more detail.

Using and @availabilityStartTime (AST) are looked at in a little more detail. The UTCTiming technique adapts the to the timing presented by the packager and pauses the ads clock which works well other than for clients which ignore this indicator. Lastly, adjusting the AST shifts the downloading times is a simplistic constant shift which doesn’t adapt to the packager rate.

David concludes saying there is plenty of flexibility for implementation in DASH, that UTCTiming or AST shift can deliver the consistent client experience we are looking for but that the lower the latency, the more severe the trade-offs in these unplanned scenarios.

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Download the presentation
Speaker

Dave Romrell David Romrell
Engineering Fellow,
Advance Research Group,
CommScope

Video: The Future of SSAI on OTT Devices

Server-Side AD Insertion sounds like a sure-fire way to insert ads without ad-blockers noticing, but it’s not without problems ā€“ particularly on OTT devices plugged into the living room TV. As people are used to watching broadcast television on the TV, some of those expectations of broadcast TV are associated with whatever they watch on TV. The quick channel changing, low latency and constant quality are expected even if the viewer is watching a mini OTT streaming device plugged into HDMI input 2.

Phil Cluff from Mux looks at the challenges that devices other than computers throw up when using SSAI at this talk from Mile High Video. In general, OTT devices don’t have much memory or CPU power which renders Client-Side ad insertion impractical. SSAI can be achieved by manipulating the manifest or by rewriting timestamps on video segments. The latter damages the ability to cache chunks, so Phil explores the challenges of the former technique. On the surface, just swapping out some chunks by changing the manifest sounds simple looking at games consoles, smart TVs, streaming boxes and set-top boxes. Unsurprisingly streaming boxes like Apple TV and Roku boxes support the features needed to pull off SSAI fairly well. TVs fair less well, but those relying on Android tend to have workable solutions, explains Phil. The biggest hurdle is getting things working on set-top boxes of which there are thousands of variations, few of which support DRM and DASH well.

Phil examines the rollout of smart TVs finding that most are more than 3 years old which typically means they are on old firmware supporting features that existed when the TV was released but nothing more recent…such as supporting manifest manipulation. With this bleak picture, Phil attempts to ground us saying that we don’t need to deliver ads on all devices. Most services are able to find a core set of devices which form 80% or more of their viewership which means that supporting ads on devices outside of that core is unlikely ever to be profitable. And if it’s not profitable, is there any need to ever show ads on that device? Initially, it doesn’t feel right to deliver without ads to some devices, but if you look at the numbers, you may well find that your development time will never be paid back. An alternative solution is to deliver ads to these people by getting them to watch on Chromecasts you provide instead of on their STB which is a more common option than you may expect.

Phil finishes his talk looking at the future which includes a HbbTV spec specifically aimed around SSAI and a continued battle to find a reliable way to delivering and recording beacons for SSAI.

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Speaker

Phil Cluff Phil Cluff
Streaming Architect,
Mux

Video: OTT Workflow Integration Best Practices

Streaming can seem deceptively simple and a simple HLS workflow can be, but to deliver a monetised service to a wide range of devices, with a mix of live and on-demand assets, with advertising and DRM where needed is far from trivial. In this video, we hear from several companies on how they manage the complexity which allows their service to thrive.

Nadine Krefetz from streaming media asks the questions as we hear from Sinclair, Eyevinn Technology, fuboTV, FandangoNOW and Verizon Media. Firstly they introduce us to their services and the types of workflows that they are maintaining day in, day out.

Companies like Sinclair are frequently adding new channels through market acquisitions. Those companies that don’t grow through acquisition will, similarly, find themselves looking at their own legacy workflows as they look to modernise and improve their offering. Our panel gives their thoughts on tackling this situation. Magnus Svensson and Michael E. Bouchard both talk about having a blueprint, in essence, a generic workflow which contains all the functional blocks needed for a streaming service. You can then map the old and new workflows to the blueprint and plan migration and integration points around that.

The panel covers questions about how smaller services can address Roku and Amazon Fire devices, what to ask when launching a new service and which parts of their services would they never want to buy in or outsource.

Ad insertion is a topic which is essential and complex. Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI) is seen as an essential technology for many services as it provides protection against adblockers and can offer more tight management of how and when viewers see ads. But the panel has seen that ad revenues are lower for SSAI since there are fewer analytics data points returned although VAST 4.0 is addressing this problem. This has led to one of the panel members going back to client-side ads for some of their workflows simply due to revenue. Magnus Svensson points out that preparation is key for advertising: Ensuring all adverts are in the correct formats and have the right markers, having slides ready and pre-loading to reduce peaks during live transmissions.

The panel closes looking at their biggest challenges, often in adapting to the pandemic, and the ever-evolving landscape of transport formats.
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Speakers

Michael E. Bouchard Michael E. Bouchard
Vice President of Technology Strategy,
ONE Media, Sinclair Broadcast Group
Magnus Svensson Magnus Svensson
Media Solution Specialist,
Eyevinn Technology
Geir Magnusson Geir Magnusson
Jr. CTO
fuboTV
Rema Morgan-Aluko Rema Morgan-Aluko
Director, Software Engineering,
FandangoNOW
Darren Lepke Darren Lepke
Head of Video Product Management,
Verizon Media
Nadine Krefetz Nadine Krefetz
Consultant, Reality Software
Contributing Editor, Streaming Media