2014 was an exciting year for video streaming. The industry showed significant signs of maturity, combined with dynamic consumer energy and technological advances.
The year featured never-before-seen traffic with blockbuster series and events such as the World Cup. Traditional television channels joined the online arena and influential companies announced compatibility with new internet technologies. The increasing popularity of online content brought the net neutrality debate to a head.
Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights from 2014 and what trends will shape the industry in the coming year.
Live events and online games drive the market
Live streams of sporting events continued to see exponential growth and drive the market for online video as a whole. According to RapidTVNews and an Adobe study, sports streams grew 640% year-on-year. The first weekend of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament clocked in more individual live streams than the entire 2013 tournament. The World cup broke several records and attracted tens of millions of online viewers. Media companies are now looking not only towards live streams of events but also to the opportunities presented by video-on-demand, sports news and post-game coverage.
Alongside live sporting events, online games and game streaming – e-sports, Minecraft – boomed this year. The game streaming site Twitch, which allows players to broadcast the game they are playing live to millions of viewers, generated more video traffic than HBO Go and was acquired by Amazon for a whopping $970 million in August. Online game streaming attracts an increasingly large and engaged audience, and will be an interesting segment to follow in 2015.
Above all, live sporting events and game streaming will present potential for growth as well as infrastructure challenges as more and more consumers tune in to these streams.
Premium OTT brings promise for 2015
Premium OTT also received a lot of attention at the end of the year. As Netflix demonstrated the viability of SVOD services, pay-TV heavyweights such as HBO, Showtime and CBS broke into the world of OTT, announcing their intentions of offering stand-alone streaming services. ABC, FOX, NBC and others will likely follow suit in 2015.
As more and more companies enter this playing field, premium OTT with personalized and paid 4K, premium content and SVOD will be important levers for differentiation and value creation.
4K gains traction
4K technologies piqued interest this year, and sales of 4K television sets are poised to grow significantly in 2015. If price points can align with consumer expectations, many believe that this technology could be a disruptive force. Deals between content owners and television manufacturers already speak to many players’ stances.
4K offers a host of opportunities for the coming year such as more content options for viewers and ultra-high definition live streams, which have hitherto been tested on only a limited basis.
Improved broadband speeds, next-generation codecs and more effective streaming technologies are already helping make 4K a reality. Such high resolution, however, comes with its share of challenges. Shoring up the streaming infrastructure will be critical if the industry hope to handle the colossal amounts of data involved in delivering this technology. Those able to eliminate buffering and offer a TV-grade viewer experience will have an edge.
Microsoft adopts WebRTC
This Fall, Microsoft made several important announcements regarding its adoption of the web-based real-time communications standard WebRTC, indicating that it would use the tool in both Internet Explorer and Skype. This was big news for the industry, as another one of the world’s largest browsers would support real-time communications between browsers that are entirely plug-in free. With Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera and now Internet Explorer, 85% of Internet users will soon have access to the technology.
This news came as Google announced that it would phase out support for certain plugins such as Microsoft’s Silverlight in 2015. Platforms will thus have to migrate to HTML5- and DASH-based streaming technologies. In addition to providing a more fluid viewing experience for end users, web-based video sharing and online game streaming should benefit greatly from this increased compatibility and ease of use.
Net neutrality takes center stage
Lastly, the net neutrality debate intensified in 2014. It began last January, when courts called into question the power of the Federal Communications Commission to prevent ISPs from blocking online content. It then escalated when the FCC considered the merits of a two-tiered content delivery system, with “fast lanes” for companies willing to pay for faster delivery.
These issues solicited a variety of responses from industry players as well as millions of citizens. President Obama recently spoke out in favor of net neutrality and suggested that the FCC classify broadband as a utility, which would allow the Commission to more effectively regulate this service.
This year, the FCC has a number of issues on its plate: how to classify and regulate online broadcasters and broadband services as a whole; if ISPs should be allowed to block certain content, throttle internet connections or offer faster delivery to broadcasters willing to pay extra. A vote on net neutrality questions is set for February.
StreamRoot is looking forward to another fruitful year in the streaming media industry.
As viewer numbers increase, technologies improve, new players enter the market, and consumers demand better quality on all types of screens, it is clear that many infrastructure challenges – and opportunities – lie ahead. We are eager to help our current and future clients better manage video traffic flows with our peer-to-peer streaming solution. Large-scale rollouts and new compatibilities await as we continue to improve our technology.
We also hope that 2015 will see decisive actions from our leaders to ensure a free, open and neutral internet for companies and consumers alike.
Let’s make this year a great one.
Wishing you all a safe and prosperous 2015.
For more information:
– Troy Dreier, “2015 OTT Video Predictions From the Experts.” 23 December 2014. Streamingmedia.com
– Samantha Bookman, “Online video market surges forward as streaming options grow in 2014: Year in Review. » 24 December 2014. Fierceonlinevideo.
– J.J. Smith, “FCC Proposes Changing MVPD Definition. » 22 December 2014. Streamingmedia.com
– Chris Tribbey, “Piracy, Cutting the Cord and Early Digital: M&E 2014 in Review.” 23 December 2014. MESalliance.
– Steve McCaffery, “The future of TV hinges on one device.” 15 December 2014. RapidTVnews.