August 16, 2018
4 min read time

Streaming video is the new normal


The entertainment - and particularly television - landscape was undoubtedly ripe for disruption before streaming video became a fact of life. A number of consumer surveys from the last 20 years concur: Americans (in particular) hate their TV subscriptions, and moreover, hate the cable companies that offer them. Across multiple industries, year after year, cable TV and internet providers rank near the bottom of customer satisfaction polls.

As cable grows more expensive and less flexible, consumers have wholeheartedly embraced streaming video. Companies like Netflix and Hulu have finally given viewers the ability to cut the cord, and at the same time have launched opportunities for technology companies that enable OTT video streaming services. Streaming is near-ubiquitous now across devices (many use mobile for general/short video streaming and connected TVs for longer-form programs), with 70% of adults over the age of 18 streaming video daily, with 67% of these having streamed live video, according to an Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) survey. And these numbers continue to grow. Parks Associates research asserts that almost 40% of US households subscribe to more than one OTT streaming service, and predicts that by 2022, more than 265 million households globally will subscribe to OTT services, with many subscribing to multiple services, leading to over 400 million potential OTT subscriptions.

It’s no surprise - as the technology has allowed such growth and differentiation, many companies - both traditional television networks and non-broadcast streaming content providers - have developed sophisticated video-on-demand (VoD) streaming services, leading to tremendous choice and competition. As video streaming has become the new normal - whether VoD or live - user expectation has moved beyond convenience to also demand quality and the user’s quality of experience (QoE).

TV is dead - long live TV - long live choice

Part of delivering QoE is offering choice - and that’s really what’s on offer for consumers today. They aren’t all giving up TV, but they are augmenting it.

Linear TV isn’t necessarily going to die - not soon, and certainly not without a fight. Traditional business models (especially advertising) still bolster traditional TV. And as much as people embrace alternatives, often these are additional services, not instead-of services. Still, it’s an interesting balance to strike: for all companies offering streaming services, their technological barriers to entry are disappearing while the barriers to entry put up by the sheer scope and expense of building a service that can compete on quality with broadcast networks and cable companies - without the advertising revenue available through these traditional channels - is virtually insurmountable.

Yet, the shift to more online streaming video is taking center stage; in the lead-up to the World Cup in 2018, for example, potential viewers in the US and China indicated that they planned to watch matches via live-streamed video instead of cable or satellite television. With each successive Olympic Games, as another example, there is an increase in online viewership. These kinds of shifts show incremental streaming adoption - either because the desired content isn’t available through traditional channels, because it’s more convenient, because it’s accessible - whatever the reasons, video consumption models are changing to accommodate multiple delivery models.

Keep the video stream flowing

With the growth of streaming capacity and the ease of creating streaming services, everyone is forging ahead with streaming platforms and offerings, which for the time being, live alongside more traditional content programming. Streaming is the new normal, and consumers are always on the lookout for better, more convenient, higher quality ways to watch.

And this, of course is where the consumer doesn’t see the magic that happens behind the curtain - the technology that ensures that they press play and immediately get exactly what they want on whatever screen they want. An end-user isn’t really concerned about unexpected traffic peaks or technical snafus like failing to employ cache replication or a lack of origin shielding. These can be major roadblocks - but they don’t have to be. With more players in the streaming space, though, there’s probably a greater need for education and guidance about how exactly one can create a robust streaming platform.

How can you build the streaming service your customers want to use in any increasingly crowded and competitive space? Are you looking to offer a VoD service, live video or a combination of both? What would that architecture look like? Can you scale up for unpredictable audiences? Can you safeguard availability? These are questions you’ve probably already asked yourself and started to plan for if you’re building a streaming solution.

We’ve written a lot about streaming over the last few years to help you sort through what is required and have also developed the Varnish Streaming Server solution specifically to help companies develop and deploy exactly what they need. From figuring out how to size your live streaming platform to answering FAQs about using Varnish for VoD and live streaming, and explaining more in-depth the answers to questions specifically about live streaming - which got so detailed we split it into two parts (read part one here, and part two here), there’s a lot of information out there.

And, of course, we’ll be at IBC in Amsterdam in September and would love to be able to discuss the streaming media landscape and your immediate and future streaming media needs with you. Sign up to book a time!