May 24, 2021
3 min read time

The state of streaming and the five-year future: OTT, 5G and video ubiquity

Video streaming has overtaken all other use cases in its digital dominance, accelerated by the challenges of stay-at-home orders in 2020. By 2022, about 79% of all mobile network traffic will be video, and the number of devices globally continues to proliferate. There’s no doubt that consumer habits and behaviors have shifted in the past five years to:

  • streaming-first thinking and consumption
  • multi-device video viewing
  • cord-cutting: getting desired content wherever it’s available, moving away from traditional broadcast, whether by streaming subscription or YouTube
  • streaming as the primary form of entertainment (especially true during COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020, as global streaming subscriptions exceeded one billion)

With the adoption of the streaming-first mentality, it’s worth asking the question: will these newly formed habits endure when lockdowns end? Most technology at least is moving toward, and betting on, a complete shift in the direction of ubiquitous, multi-platform, 5G-powered streaming.




Streaming in the next five years: Consumer drift, technology shift 

As consumer behavior changes and reflects an always-on, on-demand model, the technology and platforms powering their choices are shifting as well. The first hurdle for OTT streaming and other technology providers will be the continued ramp-up of consumer expectation.

Each player in the streaming space is engaged with the technology shifts that will enable latency-free, ultra-reliable streaming experiences, across every device and at massive scale. For example:

  • 5G rollouts and uptake are changing OTT behaviors and altering consumer expectations for performance, latency and cross-device availability.
  • Traditional broadcast isn’t the preferred means of content consumption any more, leading broadcasters to create their own streaming platforms, on their own or in partnership with other content owners or producers.
  • Content owners are joining the growing field of OTT content providers. 
  • Network operators are in the mix as well, able to offer new delivery means, particularly in the 5G space, creating a more competitive environment, particularly where they can open up their networks by using software-defined architectures. 
  • New monetization opportunities exist for networks, and OTT service providers can reap the benefits of performance boosts and cost reductions.

Always-on 5G-powered experiences: From straight streaming to immersive virtual reality

There are, of course, immediate streaming challenges that clever architecture and better infrastructure have begun to tackle. And the low-latency possibilities of 5G may render some of these hacks unnecessary. With video streaming demand only increasing, tapping into 5G’s high capacity, low latency and high throughput will handle current and future streaming demand. 5G can get rid of the streaming delays that end up plaguing consumers with things like spoilers, particularly in live sporting events, and can also remove the delays that make real-time streaming that much closer to real time, such that interactive events, games, or betting, can be managed with the split-second action.

But the future is not only about handling streaming demand right now, but about the new digital experiences that 5G makes possible. Some of the near-term, typical use cases are those listed: real-time, consistent, low-latency streaming for gaming and betting, for example.

If network operators build services that unlock the low latency, high capacity offered by 5G, OTT providers and broadcasters have the chance to offer their viewers services ranging from live sports in 4K and beyond, to 360 video, headcam footage, virtual reality and other immersive experiences. 5G, for a variety of reasons, is expected to transform the entertainment business, both by what the next-gen network makes possible and by enabling companies within the media and entertainment ecosystem to forge partnerships to capitalize on these possibilities. 


What will the next five years look like for OTT products and tech stacks?
That’s the subject of The Future of Streaming Technologies: The Next 5 Years, a panel discussion, hosted by Varnish Software and VOD Professional.

Join Nehal Mehta from Intel, Matt Westrup from A+E Networks, Joakim Berg from Varnish Software and Kauser Kanji from VOD Professional, as we explore what the future holds👇