Video: Digital Media Trends of 2020

Research from before and during the pandemic paints a clear picture of how streaming has changed. This Deloitte research looked at ad-supported and subscription VOD across demographics as well as looking at how the film industry has faired as cinemas have remained closed in most places.

Jeff Loucks presents the results of surveys taken in the United States before the lockdown and then again in May and October 2020. The youngest demographic tracked is Gen Z born between 1997 and 2006, the oldest being ‘matures’ who are older than 73. The most critical measurement is the amount of money people have in their pocket. Around half said their finances were unchanged, up to 39% said their pay packet had reduced either somewhat or significantly, though this reduced to only 29% in October.

When including streaming music, video games audiobooks, US consumers had an average of 12 entertainment subscriptions which reduced to 11 by October. Concentrating on paid video subscriptions only, the average grew from 3 to 5 over the period of the research, with millennials leading the charge up to 7 services. However, churn also increased. Jeff explains that this is partly because free trials come to an end but also because people are judging services as too expensive. It seems that there is a certain amount of experimentation going on with people testing new combinations of services to find the mix that suits them.



Jeff makes the point that there are around 300 paid streaming services in the US market which is ‘too many to stick around’. Whilst it’s clear that streaming providers are giving consumers the types of services they’ve been wanting from cable providers for years, they are bringing a burden of complexity with them, too.

Hulu and YouTube are two services that give the flexibility of watching an ad-supported version or an ad-free version of the service. Across the market, 60% of people use at least one free ad-supported service. Whilst Hulu’s ad-supported service isn’t free, giving these options is a great way to cater to different tastes. the Deloitte research showed that whilst Gen Z and Millenials would prefer to pay for an ad-free service, older ‘boomers and ‘matures’ would rather use an ad-supported service. Furthermore, when given the option to pay a little for half the ads, customers prefer the extremes rather than the halfway house. Overall, 7 minutes of ads an hour is the number which people say is the right balance, with 14 being too many,

Films have been hit hard by the pandemic, but by the end of the pandemic, 35% of people said they had paid to watch a new release on a streaming platform up 13% from May and 90% said they would likely do it again. Theatrical release windows have been under examination for many years now, but the pandemic really forced the subject. The percentage of revenue made during the ‘DVD release’ period has gone down over the decades. Nowadays, a film makes most of its money, 45%, during its theatrical release window with the ‘TV’ revenue being squeezed down 10% to 18% of the overall revenue. It’s clear then, that studios will be careful with that 45% share to ensure it’s suitably replaced as they move ahead with their 2022 plans.

Each genre has its own fingerprint with comedy and dramas making less money in the box office, proportionally than animations and action movies, for instance. So whilst we may see notable changes in distribution windows, they may be more aggressive for some releases than others when the pandemic has less of a say in studios’ plans.

This video is based on research that can be read in much more detail here:

Digital Media Trends Consumption Habits Survey

Future of the Movie Industry

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Jeff Loucks Dr. Jeff Loucks
Executive Director,
Deloitte Center for Technology, Media & Telecommunications

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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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: Optimal Design of Encoding Profiles for Web Streaming

With us since 1998, ABR (Adaptive Bitrate) has been allowing streaming players to select a stream appropriate for their computer and bandwidth. But in this video, we hear that over 20 years on, we’re still developing ways to understand and optimise the performance of ABRs for delivery, finding the best balance of size and quality.

Brightcove’s Yuriy Reznik takes us deep into the theory, but start at the basics of what ABR is and why we. use it. He covers how it delivers a whole series os separate streams at different resolutions and bitrates. Whilst that works well, he quickly starts to show the downsides of ‘static’ ABR profiles. These are where a provider decides that all assets will be encoded at the same set bitrate of 6 or 7 bitrates even though some titles such as cartoons will require less bandwidth than sports programmes. This is where per-title and other encoding techniques come in.

Netflix coined the term ‘per-title encoding’ which has since been called content-aware encoding. This takes in to consideration the content itself when determining the bitrate to encode at. Using automatic processes to determine objective quality of a sample encode, it is able to determine the optimum bitrate.

Content & network-aware encoding takes into account the network delivery as part of the optimisation as well as the quality of the final video itself. It’s able to estimate the likelihood of a stream being selected for playback based upon its bitrate. The trick is combining these two factors simultaneously to find the optimum bitrate vs quality.

The last element to add in order to make this ABR optimisation as realistic as practical is to take into account the way people actually view the content. Looking at a real example from the US open, we see how on PCs, the viewing window can be many different sizes and you can calculate the probability of the different sizes being used. Furthermore we know there is some intelligence in the players where they won’t take in a stream with a resolution which is much bigger than the browser viewport.

Yuriy brings starts the final section of his talk by explaining that he brought in another quality metric from Westerink & Roufs which allows him to estimate how people see video which has been encoded at a certain resolution which is then scaled to a fixed interim resolution for decoding and then to the correct size for the browser windows.

The result of adding in this further check shows that fewer points on the ladder tend to be better, giving an overall higher quality value. Going much beyond 3 is typically not useful for the website. Shows only a few resolutions needed to get good average quality. Adding more isn’t so useful.

Yuriy finishes by introducing SSIM modeling of the noise of an encoder at different bitrates. Bringing together all of these factors, modelled as equations, allows him to suggest optimal ABR ladders.

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Yuriy Reznik Yuriy Reznik
Technology Fellow and Head of Research,

Video: CMAF And The Future Of OTT

Why is CMAF still ‘the future’ of OTT? Published in 2018, CMAF’s been around for a while now so what are the challenges and hurdles holding up implementation? Are there reasons not to use it at all? CMAF is a way of encoding and packaging media which then can be sent using MPEG DASH and HLS, the latter being the path Disney+ has chosen, for instance.

This panel from Streaming Media West Connect, moderated by Jan Ozer, discusses CMAF use within Akami, Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu. Peter Chave from Akamai starts off making the point that CMAF is important to CDNs because if companies are able to use just one CMAF file as the source for different delivery formats, this reduces storage costs for consumers and makes each individual file more popular thus increasing the chance of having a file available in the CDN (particularly at the edge) and reducing cache misses. They’ve had to do some work to ensure that CMAF is carried throughout the CDN efficiently and ensuring the manifests are correctly checked.

Disney+, explains Bill Zurat, is 100% HLS CMAF. Benefiting from the long experience of the Disney Streaming Services teams (formerly BAMTECH), but also from setting up a new service, Disney were able to bring in CMAF from the start. There are issues ensuring end-device support, but as part of the launch, a number were sunsetted which didn’t have the requirements necessary to support either the protocol or the DRM needed.

Hulu is an aggregator so they have strong motivation to normalise inputs, we hear from Hulu’s Nick Brookins. But they also originate programming along with live streaming so CMAF has an important to play on the way in and the way out. Hulu dynamically regenerates their manifests so can iterate as they roll out easily. They are currently part the way through the rollout and will achieve full CMAF compatibility within the next 18 months.

The conversation turns to DRM. CMAF supports two methods of DRM known as CTR (adopted by Apple) and CBC (also known as CBCS) which has been adopted by others. AV1 supports both, but the recommendation has been to use CBC which appears have been universally followed to date explains Netflix’s Cyril Concolato. Netflix have been using AV1 since it was finalised and are aiming to have most titles transitioned by 2021 to CMAF.

Peter comments from Akamai’s position that they see a number of customers who, like Disney+ and Peacock, have been able to enter the market recently and move straight into CMAF, but there is a whole continuum of companies who are restricted by their workflows and viewer’s devices in moving to CMAF.

Low latency streaming is one topic which invigorates minds and debates for many in the industry. Netflix, being purely video on demand, they are not interested in low-latency streaming. However, Hulu is as is Disney Streaming Services, but Bill cautions us on rushing to the bottom in terms of latency. Quality of experience is improved with extra latency both in terms of reduced rebuffering and, in some cases, picture quality. Much of Disney Streaming Services’ output needs to match cable, rather than meeting over-the-air latencies or less.

The panel session finishes with a quick-fire round of questions from Jan and the audience covering codec strategy, whether their workflows have changed to incorporate CMAF, just-in-time vs static packaging, and what customers get out of CMAF.

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Cyril Concolato Cyril Concolato
Senior Software Engineer,
Peter Chave Peter Chave
Principal Architect,
Nick Brookins Nick Brookins
VP, Platform Services Group,
Bill Zurat Bill Zurat
VP, Core Technology
Disney Streaming Services
Jan Ozer Moderator: Jan Ozer
Contributing Editor, Streaming Media