Giraffic speaks at the 2016 SMPTE Annual Technical Conference

November 2, 2016

Yoel Zanger, CEO Giraffic

Last week the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) had its Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition in Hollywood, CA. Giraffic was invited to speak at the event and share the expertise in streaming video technologies.

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Yoel Zanger, CEO Giraffic. 2016 SMPTE Annual Technical Conference

I was presenting our findings and best practices based on extensive research in the field of UHD 4K streaming video delivery, that we summarized in our paper “Challenges of Delivering Superb Viewing Experience while Streaming UHD 4K and HDR  Content in the Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) Era”. We examined the impact of ABR protocols implementation on user experience in light of constantly growing adoption of UHD 4K and HDR in the OTT space, discussed its challenges and presented recommendations for delivery of greater viewing experience within the current network infrastructure.

In general, OTT was one of the biggest topics in the conference, with a lot of discussions on compression and ABR technologies in particular, that were starring not only in our presentation but also in ones by Dolby and MediaMelon to name a few.

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Norm Hurst, SRI Sarnoff Corp. 2016 SMPTE Annual Technical Conference

Indeed the new developments in streaming video raised additional challenges and the industry is putting a lot of emphasis on achieving best possible viewing experience alongside the advancements in imaging standards. From all the UHD features, the HDR and WCG (wide color gamut) features were the ones that gained the most traction and not the 4K resolution. It seemed that unlike three years ago, when the entire industry was pushing for more pixels, this year the experts are focusing their efforts on the image enhancements that will deliver greater color depth, contrast, broader spectrum etc.

In terms of predictions, it was really amazing to see the consensus around OTT & cloud being identified as the main forces to drive the consumption growth, while viewer analytics and perfecting the content discovery play a huge role in the advancement of connected experience.

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SMPTE 2016. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)

SMPTE is celebrating its 100th anniversary. For the past century, the society has been supporting the advancements in the entertainment technology, by developing thousands of standards, guidelines and best practices, advancing motion imaging from the its dawn in sound cinema introduction all the way to HD and UHD television. It is amazing to see how the SMPTE Annual TechCon’s have developed over time and takes an active role in supporting industry migration into new formats of our digital and well connected world.

It’s been a pleasure and an honor being part of this insightful and inspiring conference.

Long Live Streaming Video: 3 Observations from IBC 2016

September 22, 2016

Inna Zagrebelny, Marketing Manager, Giraffic

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The International Broadcast Conference (IBC) broke the records this year, with over 55,000 people visiting the RAI exhibition center in Amsterdam. Over the past few years the companies unveil and showcase the plethora of innovations, solutions and new products, influencing the way service providers, broadcasters and content creators reach their audiences and essentially shaping the way viewers consume  content.

The show got an extensive media coverage, featuring a multitude of major announcements across many verticals.  Rovi’s acquisition of TiVo and  launch of the new TiVo interface that supports SmartTV and mobile devices adds another proof that viewing habit migration can no longer be ignored. Ericsson’s MediaFirst platform integration into Android TV OS, following the earlier announcement of their integration within set-top-box RDK, shows that open source STB software is gaining traction. Heavy promotion of 4K content was present at the conference, supported by the UHD Forum’s release of industry guidelines for UHD delivery. The formation of  VR Alliance aimed to promote the new medium within the OTT space.

With all of industry shifting announcements collecting attendee mindshare, here are the main takeaways from IBC worth paying attention to.

There is no denying streaming is king at IBC this year. There was not a single booth that didn’t have language around “OTT”, “SVOD” and “Streaming” on its walls. Yes, consumers stream more with every year, but the traditional broadcast industry is often keeping the “business as usual” countenance. It was clear this started to change.

OTT delivery platforms are everywhere

Only a short while ago, streaming video was considered a complimentary service. Focused mainly on user generated content (UGC) and free content, the OTT offering was not perceived as an additional revenue generator for broadcasters, and only served as an answer to viewing migration on connected devices.  Bundles of traditional subscription package and “TV Everywhere” started to gain traction.

Nowadays, almost every major broadcaster and content service provider offers an OTT experience, not only as a complimentary service, but also as a stand-alone subscription service. From the “TV Everywhere” offering to skinny OTT bundles, the entire industry is looking to attract new audiences while providing a variety of subscription packages to fit any individual’s particular needs and budget.  To name a few, Sky launched its contract-free Now TV combo, Disney announced the future availability of ESPN for cord-cutters that will not require a cable subscription, and HBO has been offering both HBO Go! and HBO Now! for OTT-only users for some time now.

Based on these trends, it’s clear that streaming services are now considered to be future revenue growth engines for those companies, meaning that their streaming platforms need to be wrapped-up and fast. While having a broad expertise in content creation, traditional distribution and monetization, a lot of content service providers lack the resources or the knowledge to build and operate their OTT platforms in-house.

This creates a tremendous opportunity for streaming platform developers. Almost half of the IBC exhibition halls were packed with companies that provide solutions for OTT delivery. From mobile apps developers, cloud-based management services, infrastructure solutions, media players, ad insertion and management, online portals, optimization tools,  complete end-to-end solutions, out-of-the-box or customized- they were all there.

At Giraffic, we’ve been seeing a great interest from content service providers to improve the overall quality of experience of their OTT services. After all, as streaming business became a billions of dollars market, online viewing experience is not a subject to take lightly any longer. This is why at  IBC we  announced the availability of our Adaptive Video Acceleration (AVA) technology for content service providers and OTT delivery platform developers. By integrating the new AVA SDK into their apps they will be able to improve live and VOD streaming quality and thus achieve better engagement and higher subscribers retention.

Live streaming is the new king, in 4K VR

The way live events are delivered to consumers’ screens is changing. What is surprising though, is not that live streaming gains momentum among consumers for their social interactions, but rather how quickly it is being adopted as a broadcast alternative. Despite several aspects of the technology being immature for mainstream adoption, as the industry experts claim, the chances of coming across a major event without live streaming capabilities are low. Live streaming adoption by broadcasters is definitely changing viewing habits. As an example, the Rio Olympics live stream made records, while TV ratings dropped.

All the companies we met with, including platform developers, infrastructure suppliers and analytics vendors, presented solutions to support live streaming, positioning it as ‘the next big thing’. The live stream momentum wasn’t limited to a standard format, but was also combined with 4K VR capabilities. However, in the near future, most companies are prioritizing live streaming capabilities across mobile and connected devices over VR. The reason being, is 4K delivery remains constrained by bandwidth limitations, despite proliferation of broadband networks and adaptive bitrate streaming adoption. We created the AVA SDK to remove these limitations, in order to accelerate live and 4K streams across all mobile and connected devices and enable them to achieve the desired streaming quality.

Everyone has a dashboard- so what?  

Analytics capabilities are crucial for monitoring customer engagement and trends within the streaming business. A lot of dedicated companies showcased their intelligence tools during the IBC, while almost every streaming platform company or media player developer had some kind of dashboard included in the service as well. The operational analytics are mostly done on the network side, examining the infrastructure performance in various locations across the video delivery chain. But it is a very crowded space, similar to the OTT platform vendors, and lacks differentiation.

The comprehensive engagement analytics, however, is still a tough nut to crack. There are multiple solutions tracking what users are streaming and for how long, when the viewer abandoned the stream, and what are the potential operational reasons for that occurrence. These reasons can include start-up time, buffering, low quality-of-experience/low quality-of-service and more. However, very few provide a true insight on the content itself. The analytics tools track the engagement with content owned only by a certain service provider, but for obvious reasons, the competing service provider’s data cannot be disclosed. Basically, each provider gets to see each own performance and engagement data.

The most interesting unsolved mystery in consumer streaming habits is where the viewers go after they finish watching your content.  Are they turning to alternative streaming services? Reading an article online, or turn to social media? As it appears, the industry still lacks the comprehensive tool to gain deeper and personal understanding of streaming audience, in order to be able offer consumers more personalized experiences. Although such ability is highly valued by the content creators, as we wrote in our wrap blog post of our Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) roundtable with Hollywood executives.

Seeing the evolution of IBC over the years from traditional broadcast to such a strong emphasis on streaming video is largely indicative of how different content consumption will be in the near future. Only time will tell what the themes and innovations dominate the conversation at next year’s conference, but it definitely will be around the fascinating world of streaming.

#LivestreamCheck- Industry Twitter Roundtable Wrap

August 11, 2016

Inna Zagrebelny
Marketing Manager, Giraffic 

 

This week we had a pleasure of hosting our third Twitter roundtable. There’ve been many developments in in live streaming recently, and we tackled some of the opportunities and #livestreamcheckshort_runner_summarychallenges in the one hour chat. Streaming media experts joined the discussion, including Ren Bond from Parks Associates, Troy Dreier of of StreamingMedia.com, Samantha Bookman from FierceOnlineVideo, James Jackson and Chris Michaels of of Wowza, Alex Stanley from SportTechie and Giraffic CEO and founder, Yoel Zanger.

Despite the growing buzz around the live streaming phenomena, the consensus was that it is still not mature enough for the mainstream. This was attributed to several factors. Even though it may seem like live streaming has conquered every aspect of the media (news, sports and live events, eSports/gaming and social), not all the sectors embrace it to its fullest. Moreover, the complexity of the technology as well as the difficulty to grow beyond the early adopters put a spoke in live streaming wheels, on the way to prime-time capabilities.

When it comes to streaming, it is clear that bandwidth

affects every single aspect of the viewing experience, but when live, scalability, latency and consistent quality were identified as the key challenges, due to users’ expectations and the high standards of broadcast. Quality-of-Service impacts the viewership, as users will not tolerate a sub-par experience, may abandon the stream and not use the service again.

The availability of free options with moderate ad insertion as well as reduced content restrictions will definitely drive more viewers to live streamed content.

It is unclear whereas live streaming will thrive in sports, news, and social or all of these, but eSports which kicked off live streaming is definitely on industry’s watch list.

Immersive real-time experiences such as live virtual reality (VR) and 360 video, despite the uniqueness and personalization they provide users, are still in the way too early stages of live streaming evolution and we may see augmented reality (AR) getting adopted sooner (without mentioning PokemonGo) as a gateway to VR.

Indeed it was a fascinating and insightful discussion and there is still a lot to be said (and done) on the subject. Check out the full stream below for more valuable takeaways. We welcome you to continue contributing to the conversation using the #LivestreamCheck hashtag.

For more updates, our next Twitter roundtable chats and streaming updates, follow us @GirafficAVA.

Live streaming: Ready for Prime Time?

July 26, 2016

Yoel Zanger, CEO Giraffic

 

Hand pressing Live Stream on blurred cityscape background

 

2016 is shaping to be the year of live streaming.  It has been embraced by gaming, social media, traditional sports, live events and most recently, even by the news industry.
But can the technology deliver on its promise and scale to meet growing demand? Every aspect of the experience is affected by bandwidth. Especially on mobile, live streaming presents challenges for achieving even a stable standard definition stream.  Content is being created at the moment it’s viewed, which means there are only a few seconds of latency to receive, process, compress, duplicate and display the content.

The Rio Olympics will be the most streamed sports event ever, with 44%rio2016 of the fans planning to watch the live games online. Twitter is shaping to be the go-to free platform for sports fans, with the expansion of its live sports streaming rights to NBA, MLS and recently MLB and NHL, beyond the current NFL and Pac-12 deals.  Viewers will experience massive live streaming traffic and extremely crowded networks during peak hours.  Devoted fans would love to get a broadcast-like experience on their mobile and Connected TV devices. But will service providers deliver?

For Smart TV and media streaming devices, streaming UHD 4K is also becoming a requirement: the FCC recommends 25Mbps speed for 4K streaming, while only 24% of US households have connections that exceed 15Mbps. Knowing this, are the content providers setting fans’ expectations too high by offering the Olympics in 4K?

Facebook and Twitter turn us all into broadcasters, increasing the live streamingCapture23 challenges. With over 1.5 billion users on Facebook, and 320 million on Twitter, we will be facing exabytes of live footage making its way to our mobile screens.

While people might tolerate a less-than perfect experience for user generated content, it is unlikely that this will be the case for news coverage or live sports. The collaboration of major streaming platforms (e.g. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter) with live sports and news broadcasters can give viewers more personalized and engaging experience than on TV, but content delivery platforms and network operators will have to make special enhancements and adjustments in order to avoid failures during the stream.  Live video is a double technical challenge. It is taxing not only the cellular networks but the entire delivery infrastructure.  Can content companies rely on robustness of the social networks to hold up in real time? According to recent events and live streaming hiccups, apparently not. Do they have to create their own safety-nets?
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To find out more and take part in this fascinating discussion, we welcome you to join our upcoming Twitter roundtable, on Tuesday, August 9 at 02:00pm EST

Moderated by Giraffic, this one-hour chat will address the live streaming trend, its challenges, opportunities and impact on the entire ecosystem. A wide range of industry experts along with Giraffic CEO Yoel Zanger will share perspectives on live streaming developments and what is needed to ready the technology for prime time viewing, while meeting users’ expectations.

We hope you can join us for this insightful discussion.

To follow the conversation and participate you can simply use Hootsuite, TweetDeck or TweetChat. Just enter the hashtag #LivestreamCheck a few minutes before the start time and Giraffic moderator will make the introductions and begin the conversation. Please make sure to include the hashtag with every tweet you post during the roundtable. Otherwise, your comment will not be seen by other participants.

Check out the recap of our previous roundtable here:
#SaveOurStreaming roundtable Twitter chat– A Discussion of the Trends and Technologies Impacting Mobile Video Quality and Growth.
 

Giraffic hosts the first Digital Entertainment Group delegation in Israel

July 6, 2016

Yoel Zanger, CEO Giraffic

The explosion of digital entertainment took Hollywood by storm, supported by technology innovations disrupting the way people consume content.  We are facing exciting developments in both entertainment and technology industries, especially when it comes to what happens when those two intersect. Last week, in partnership with AlmaLinks, Giraffic hosted theGrid_small first delegation of The Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) in Israel and I had an opportunity to moderate an intimate round table discussion between the Israeli high-tech and Hollywood executives- Mike Dunn, President, Worldwide, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, John Penney, Chief Strategy Officer, Starz and Amy Jo Smith, President, DEG. A team of promising and innovative companies in the sphere attended the meet up, including Catch Media, eTribez Jinni, Kaltura, LiveU, PlyMedia, RR Media as well as representatives from both corporate and private venture capitals such as Samsung Ventures and TerraLabs Ventures.

We discussed the new technologies within the storytelling context, as 4K and new mediums like VR being embraced by the leading Hollywood studios to provide viewers with more vivid and immersive experiences.
The distribution of the content itself and developing more personal relationships with consumers are definitely the key focus areas right now. Today, content creators are utilizing traditional models of distribution and performing content delivery optimizations that include multiple CDN strategy, Pier-to-Pier technology implementation, as well as investing massively in tracking user experience and the efficiency of their infrastructure. Delivering the content in a proper way as well as being able to track consumer engagement, within traditional methods, becomes very expensive, thus the networks and the  studios are looking into gaining more abilities taking the content to the ‘edge’ and into new solutions that will deliver better experiences in a more cost efficient manner. There is a lot of emphasis put on engaging with consumers and maintaining an on-going and direct conversation with the viewers. The goal, as it seems for now, is to develop personal relevance of the content by gaining deeper understanding of audience habits, how the content being experienced and the correlation with demographic and psychological characteristics. Basically, companies like Fox and STARZ would like to understand their consumers in a very comprehensive way in order to be able offering their viewers only the content that they know will be interesting and valuable to each viewer.
Combining a better understanding of the consumed content (at the point it being consumed by the user) with contextual data available, like time of day, location etc., is a key to shortening the time it takes the user to decide what he prefers to watch; Semantic technology was identified as the best practice to accomplish that goal as opposed to collaborative filtering, that is very successful for e-commerce but lacks the personalization level that is required in the entertainment industry. Semantic technology allows the understanding of content being consumed and does not treats the data as one block, therefore will allow more personal relationship with the viewers, based not only on their interests but on their interests at the certain point of time, thus giving the opportunity to content providers recommending the most relevant content to their viewers.

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From left: Amy Jo Smith, President, DEG; Mike Dunn, President Worldwide, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; Yoel Zanger, CEO, Giraffic; John Penney, Chief Strategy Office ,Starz

The OTT availability of the content is shifting gears in Hollywood and there are a lot of ‘direct to consumer’ initiatives as well. For premium networks in US it is challenging nowadays to expend their OTT subscriber’s base, due to high costs of traditional cable bundles (as the consumers charged extra for premium channels) and the variety of OTT providers like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu that reduce the consumers’ willingness to pay for additional services. However, the regions with less OTT alternatives, expensive satellite/cable bundles and less expensive content rights are more attractive for streaming services development investments, despite the content delivery infrastructure challenges.  The US is just getting too crowded.

What was very clear is the interest of major content creators to set their sights on the next evolution of entertainment and consumer engagement by pro-actively developing tech relationships to support their activities. There is a big interest in locating new technologies that will be able to provide innovative solutions to industry’s challenges/problems- due to the large scale of the industry and its complexity, even a small improvement in content delivery process or in understanding consumers can be translated into millions of dollars. Hollywood industry has very limited visibility to the start-up community in Israel. We discussed several ideas on tightening the collaboration between the Israeli tech and Hollywood. It will be really exciting to see where this path will take us and I am looking forward for all the great things that can be accomplished by those two industries working together.

I would like to take this opportunity to also thank GHK Law, Tel Aviv for hosting us in their amazing offices with a spectacular view.

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