Live streaming is bigger than ever at NAB 2022 after three years absence as a physical event, but with greater emphasis on the need for services to differentiate themselves on curation, content, search and general quality of experience than ever before.
The glut of streaming services, both live and on demand, has created a buyers’ market where consumers have great freedom of choice, even if major content houses such as Disney have pared their content back to their own platforms. Partly as a result of this proliferation, another notable trend has been growth in advertising supported streaming services, widening choice of supply for consumers without having to spend more money, while giving service providers an additional revenue source.
There are several vendors attending NAB 2022 presenting products or technologies for differentiating streaming services in various ways, for example through curation.
“Streaming services need to find new ways to engage their audiences and monetize their content,” said a spokesperson for Edgecast Networks, formerly Verizon Digital Media Services, a subsidiary of Yahoo and provider of content delivery network (CDN) services. The firm does not have a stand at NAB 2022 but is highlighting its scheduling and syndication tools that facilitate creation of curated channels to launch within its customers’ apps. “This enables distribution of these channels to third party platforms to reach bigger audiences,” said the spokesperson.
Another vendor underlining the importance of the overall viewing experience at NAB 2022 is the USA’s cloud video platform and services vendor The Switch, which does have a stand. The company is debuting its expanded cloud video services platform, MIMiC, highlighting two aspects of engagement , ability to access content anywhere on any device, and to enjoy an integrated experience across different content display platforms such as live and social media.
On the content anywhere front, The Switch is featuring distributed IP video production, clipping, editing, and transmission. “MIMiC empowers broadcasters and content owners to cost-effectively produce and deliver broadcast-quality live programming to and from anywhere in the world through the cloud – including real-time social media highlights,” said Kevin O’Meara, VP Marketing, The Switch.
This leads on to the related platform integration aspect. “As consumer viewing habits evolve beyond traditional linear TV viewing, we are seeing the emergence of a new ‘content continuum’ that spans live, social, replay, shoulder and on-demand elements of sports, news and entertainment industry properties across all forms,” said O’Meara. “This reflects the multiplatform, multidevice way consumers now view video programming. Content owners, broadcasters and other rights holders are increasingly depending on cloud-based services to provide such ubiquitous access to content as affordably and conveniently as possible, onto streaming platforms almost instantaneously.”
Videon is promoting edge compute for low latency streaming at NAB 2022, according to its President Todd Erdley.
Cloud-based production tools and workflows also greatly accelerated and expedited the process of getting clips onto streaming platforms quickly, meeting consumer demands for access to breaking news, sports or entertainment stories as close to live as possible, O’Meara added.
MediaKind, the video technology platform company rebranded from Ericsson Media Solutions in 2018, is also hammering home how cloud distribution can boost engagement for streaming service providers at NAB 2022. “It's an exciting time for media and entertainment, especially as cloud migration accelerates and media corporations ramp up their efforts to establish D2C (Direct to Consumer) streaming services,” said Stuart Boorn, Vice President of Marketing and Sales Engineering, MediaKind. “The public cloud has progressed beyond its early stages of experimentation, and it now plays a central role in media companies' service deployment and future strategies. There is now a huge opportunity for all broadcasters, TV operators, and content owners to engage fans in new ways, increase monetization and directly address the challenges in live video streaming associated with operations, latency, and scalability.”
MediaKind is also flagging up a common theme for NAB 2022, the idea that although three years have passed since the event’s last physical presence in 2019 during which much has changed for the industry over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the same old challenges remain. ”Much has changed in the world since MediaKind’s last visit to NAB Show in 2019,” Boorn agreed. ”But many of the core challenges facing broadcasters, service providers, operators, and content owners remain the same, whether they’re around bandwidth efficiency, running data centres, or achieving video at scale. MediaKind wants to help the industry realize a streaming world where live content is delivered without limits. Three core pillars define success in the streaming world - quality, scalability, and reliability.”
This idea that underlying challenges are enduring is also underscored at NAB 2022 by pay TV software and devices company Amino, along with its online video subsidiary 24i.
“While our world has changed considerably since Amino and 24i last headed to NAB Show, many of the challenges our customers face remains the same – having access to flexible, modular, and disruptive solutions that enable them to deliver fantastic media services,” said Madelon Olsthoorn, CMO for 24i and Amino.
Furthermore, the current nature or status of the challenges differed between service providers. “The broadcast and online video market is undergoing a rapid change, but not every media business is at the same place on the disruption curve taking the industry from broadcast and hardware to streaming and cloud hosted video platforms,” Olsthoorn added.
The upshot is that as media companies embrace new cloud-based systems and services, they will address specific parts of the media delivery pipeline depending on their exact situation, to ensure they can deliver disruptive media services that excite and engage audiences, Olsthoorn suggested.
The company is exhibiting its latest end-to-end streaming platform 24i Mod Studio at the show, which Olsthoorn described as a “flexible and modular solution for OTT, Pay TV, and broadcast customers.” It unites 24i’s existing components within the middleware and systems integration capabilities added through its acquisition of Danish Pay TV specialists Nordija. “Visitors to our suite at the Wynn will learn how OTT platforms and broadcasters are already utilizing the platform to deliver exceptional media services, including the new OTT platform dedicated to French film, Cinessance,” said Olsthoorn. That is another example of differentiation by shoehorning streaming to a particular content genre or audience.
Latency is another facet of streaming that affects the experience for live content especially. This was on the radar at NAB 2019, but one difference this time is a greater emphasis on the scope of edge compute to reduce delay in various ways. It is true that edge compute does not change the laws of physics so that content originating on one side of the world will always take a few seconds to reach the other side after taking account of the speed of signal transmission and switching. But distributing computation and video storage closer to the point of distribution improves ability to cope with high demand and also to serve ancillary content effectively alongside a live stream. For example, statistics of a baseball game can be retrieved and processed faster if they are located closer to the viewers concerned.
This growth in demand for edge compute has drawn Videon, a specialist in that field, to exhibit at NAB 2022. “Edge computing is powering a new era of ultra-low latency live streaming enabling a unique opportunity to monetize more due to the growing need for gamification and fan engagement,” said Todd Erdley, President, and Founder, Videon. “As live video grows exponentially, the industry can leverage a video edge computing platform to power more automated, intelligent, flexible, and better-controlled workflows that deliver new viewing opportunities that seemed impossible before. By giving companies the ability to easily manage, augment, and extend live video workflows, new business models can be created and applied rapidly.”
Harmonic Senior Manager, OTT Solutions, Alain Pellen, highlighted growing demand for low latency from sports betting apps.
Videon is showing its LiveEdge Compute developer toolkit, based on the Docker platform for delivering software in interoperable packages called containers. “This makes it easy to quickly deploy apps that bring the power and flexibility of the cloud to the live video origin,” said Erdley. “We will also offer attendees an exclusive first-look at LiveEdge Cloud,. This, our new at-scale management and control platform, enables operators to manage effectively, monitor, and control individual and fleets of video edge computing platforms globally.”
Harmonic is another NAB 2022 exhibitor with a focus on edge compute, although as part of an all-round video technology portfolio. The company has developed edge compute modules in partnership with Intel for example. At NAB 2022, Harmonic will be discussing trends that will benefit from the lower latency facilitated by edge compute, one example cited by its Senior Manager, OTT Solutions, Alain Pellen, being sports betting, where rapid interaction is crucial to ensure users do not experience delay viewing events on which they may wish to gamble.
Harmonic’s prize exhibit is its VOS360 Cloud Streaming Platform, a managed package running on public clouds as an end-to-end SaaS platform, designed to simplify all stages of media processing and delivery. “The VOS360 platform speeds up the creation of linear channels, live events and streams, direct to consumers or syndication partners. Using the platform, operators have creative control over content ingest, scheduling, playout, encoding, monetization and the creation of channel variants, with real-time agility. Harmonic’s worldwide DevOps team provides 24/7 monitoring and assistance to ensure the highest service availability,” said Pellen.
Harmonic is also featuring its XOS advanced media processor, which combines software processing and edge delivery technologies to streamline media workflows, with the claim to save bandwidth by up to 50% through use of AI algorithms. This will be a key part of the portfolio designed to help service providers evolve from traditional linear channels, where one type of content fits all viewers, to personalized content, as well as more live events. “Video service providers will also be looking to increase monetization with targeted advertising,” said Pellen.
Advertising support is the other major streaming theme at NAB 2022. Edgecast predicted that ad-supported services would proliferate in the coming year. “Consumers have a seemingly endless choice of streaming services but a finite amount of money to spend on them, leading to subscription fatigue,” said the company’s spokesperson. “As a result, companies like Pluto TV and Tubi are winning subscribers over with ad-based services. Hulu already offers both ad-based and paid subscriptions, a business model that is likely to become more popular.”
Then MediaKind is demonstrating at NAB 2022 how its Prisma system unifies advertising and linear rights across broadcast and IP delivery chains through a targeted advertising on-booth ‘Track the Ads’ challenge. “Visitors who stream the MediaKind race car demo to their smart devices will receive personalized ads based on their viewing and search preferences and be in with a chance to receive a daily prize,” said Boorn.
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