2020 video streaming outlook

2020 Video Streaming Outlook: Our Experts Weigh In

What can we expect from video streaming technology in 2020? 2019 brought new streaming services like Disney+ for consumers, and new, faster and better tools for video streaming engineers. As the video streaming world continues to become more important, it seems like the possibilities are almost endless.

To get a more focused view, I sat down with five of Haivision’s video streaming experts to ask about their outlook on the year and listen to their insights on what we can expect from the video streaming world in 2020.

Adam Yellen: Creating Better Solutions for Video Streamers

I started by speaking with Adam Yellen, Haivision’s VP of Engineering. He addressed one of last year’s predictions – the so-called “war of the codecs” – by noting that in 2019, the video streaming world finally got over the HEVC hump. With the codec wars over, Adam sees 2020 as a year where we’ll be seeing small tweaks made to codecs and workflows to suit specific industries.

According to Adam, something to look for in 2020 is the industry-specific value add of video streaming, especially in different sectors like broadcast sports or broadcast news. For example, in the broadcast news space, the emergence of the “newsroom in the cloud” is a very exciting concept. Of course, as these are refinements, don’t expect dramatic changes overnight, but each of these improvements will have a significant, cumulative effect over the year.

And these small refinements won’t simply be limited to the different components of video streaming. As Adam pointed out, video encoders and video decoders are no longer being seen in the video streaming world so much as stand-alone appliances, but as a part of a larger video streaming solution (somewhat like how a video card and a motherboard are generally considered components of a computer.) With this shift in thinking, Adam sees a rise in interest in automation and resiliency. He also sees that 2020 will see more users in video streaming looking for centralized tools to manage the components of their video streaming solutions.

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Marcus Schioler: Remote Production and a Shift to the Cloud

Marcus Schioler, VP of Product Marketing, agrees with Adam that the changes he expects to see in 2020 won’t be instantaneous nor dramatic, but more gradual and long-lasting. Marcus sees more in the video streaming world embracing cloud technologies over the year, but does not expect it to be a quick switchover. He noted that this shift to the cloud will be fueled by the surge in popularity that the open-source SRT streaming protocol saw in 2019.

An important part of this shift, for broadcasters, is the increase in popularity of remote production. As consumer demand for live content continues to grow, Marcus predicts that broadcasters will continue to look for cost-effective ways to ensure they can meet this demand. Major sports events, like the Olympics, will continue to drive the adoption of newer technologies. Marcus pointed out that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is set to be broadcast in 8K – and while 8K may not be in the cards for many broadcasters, he believes this will continue to inspire the adoption of 4K workflows. 

On the note of consumer demand, there is also the question of supply. With the proliferation of so many on demand video streaming options, such as Netflix, Disney+, and others yet to come, Marcus expects to see an increase in the number of free, ad-supported OTT channels.

Another trend that Marcus thinks will help to boost remote production in 2020 is the rise of artificial intelligence in video streaming. Artificial intelligence offers new optimization abilities, like content-aware video encoding, that can ensure that video streams are always being encoded and routed in the best way possible to optimize latency, quality, and bitrate.

Mahmoud Al-Daccak: Interconnectivity is the Puzzle to Solve

According to Mahmoud Al-Daccak, Chief Technology Officer of Haivision, cloud-based workflows are starting to come to maturity, but there has been a thorn in the side of these workflows: interconnectivity. And for Mahmoud, interconnectivity is the puzzle that needs to be solved in 2020 for cloud-based workflows to thrive. 

Connecting between different technologies and vendors at different stages of video streaming workflows can be a rather complex process at this point – however, Mahmoud sees SRT, and SRT Hub, as possible solutions to these challenges.

Mahmoud gave me the analogy of SRT Hub as a network of highways. SRT is the pavement upon which the streams are running, and artificial intelligence is the traffic application (like Waze) that directs each stream in the most efficient manner. Vendors would have their service stations or distribution centers across the highway network.

He also sees an important role for artificial intelligence to play at the edge of the cloud. Like Marcus, he believes that content-aware encoding can be an incredibly valuable tool in a streamer’s kit. If AI can do better at understanding the content at the edge, it will optimize the processing of the content in question. With AI, we can move some of the processing upstream, which will mean that the AI catch things that might have been missed downstream after compression – this is especially valuable in broadcast and government applications.

Miguel Serrano: Artificial Intelligence is the Smart Option

In our call, Miguel, Haivision’s VP of Cloud, explained to me that even though the technology behind artificial intelligence has been around for a while, he expects that 2020 will finally be the tipping point that advocates for the use of AI in video streaming have been waiting for. And he believes that this adoption will become quickly widespread.

Miguel gave me two main reasons for why he believes that the adoption of AI in video streaming is going to grow so significantly in 2020. The first is that the technology is finally mature enough. While AI frameworks have been pervasive for years, AI applications to optimize video streaming quality are now providing tangible benefits. The second, which is arguably more important, is that there is a higher level of trust in the technology, and no risk involved. As Miguel explained to me, the functions that AI will be performing for streaming video are not functions that are currently being done by a person – they’re not being done at all. The benefit is immediate, and there isn’t a downside job replacement or any other ethical debates. 

AI will be adding something new to the video streaming mix, which is the optimization of video streaming workflows in terms of bandwidth, quality, latency, network, and protocol, based on content, playback conditions, and devices. This optimization simply cannot be calculated manually for each stream that is being sent through, as network conditions over IP are in continual flux. This also opens the door for content-aware video encoding to take into account the particularities of different video content (such as a quick-moving sports match, or a static “talking head” in a news broadcast.)

Of course, Miguel agrees with Marcus and Adam that these changes won’t be made overnight. In fact, there is still one factor remaining to push the level of adoption within the video streaming world – vendors need to make AI easy to implement, and to connect to existing video streaming solutions.

Peter Maag: Interactivity is the New Way to Connect

Peter Maag, CCO & EVP Strategic Partnerships, at Haivision, started our conversation with a familiar buzzword: latency. He noted how the last few years in broadcast have been characterized by a dedication to bringing down latency. In particular, trying to reduce OTT latency levels to the same ones seen in terrestrial connections. Going forward into 2020, Peter has an idea of what broadcasters want to do with such reduced latency – interactivity. 

As Peter reminded me, interactivity in broadcast isn’t an entirely new concept. Shows like American Idol have been around since 2002, which means that the lion’s share of the broadcast market has grown accustomed to some interactivity in broadcast. And as mobile applications like HQ Trivia showed, there is an appetite for a more interactive experience among consumers.

One of the best places to see how interactivity promoting engagement and viewership is Twitch, which is especially popular in video games and eSports. With its chat function, viewers can interact with the live streamer, and each other, in real-time. And the viewers keep coming back – in 2018, Twitch viewers watch 9.36 billion hours of content, and continues to account for more than 70% of the live-streaming market, which is heavily fueled by the dedication of the eSports community.

And while traditional OTT content, like Netflix, (which saw roughly 60 billion hours of views in 2018,) may still be dominant, Peter believes that as viewers become more interested in interactivity, the proportion of live content in video streaming will continue to climb. And, considering that Twitch saw a 25% growth in viewing hours between 2017 and 2018, it seems like the interest is there. which means traditional broadcasters will start looking toward Twitch and other growing eSports platforms for inspiration.

eSports and the Future of Remote Production

Learn how Riot Games, creators of League of Legends, are leading the way in broadcast with their innovative remote production workflows.

The outlook for 2020 is certainly an exciting one, as video streaming technologies and tools continue to evolve and become more widespread. I know that two of the things that I’ll be keeping my eye on are the progress of AI within video streaming, and how streaming is going to continue to shape the broadcast world.

Do you think our experts got it right? Is there something that you’re particularly excited about or that they completely missed? We’ll be following up and exploring these topics throughout the year. Sign up to our blog today to be the first to find out more.

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