What Yahoo! Needs to Know About OTT Before Jumping Into Streaming

August 31, 2015

Last week, an interesting article was published on Forbes, examining the future of Yahoo!. The author, Eric Jackson suggests that “Yahoo! Needs To Turn Itself In To An OTT Play To Save Itself.”

It’s a compelling argument, as more online content companies are turning to OTT apps to provide enhanced consumer engagement. The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post and TechCrunch created their own streaming media channels that provide news, commentary and introductions to new products while other content distributors like Netflix and Amazon have jumped into the publishing business by creating their own original streaming content.

For Yahoo!, who has notable broadcast veterans on its staff, a news channel isn’t that far of a stretch. Also, there existing partnerships with AT&T to be the homepage and email provider for broadband subscribers proves there is already a captive audience.

But if Yahoo! jumps into the OTT game, there are some serious considerations:

Bandwidth will always be an issue

The largest complaint (as mentioned in a Streaming Media study) shows that bandwidth constraints are the biggest headache for consumers. While more people are on DSL or cable modems instead of dial-up, the total download speeds across North America and Europe are barely fast enough to support Ultra-HD content. If consumers want to get the highest image quality, they’ll need to pay for a bigger pipe.

TVs, mobile devices and routers are bottlenecks

We work with TV manufacturers to fix their side of the problem and Google just announced their new smart router, which optimizes bandwidth for streaming. This is an awesome start to get technology manufacturers to realize the major shift in making streaming media an even bigger priority. The lion-share of consumer tech out there isn’t smart enough to optimize quality or routing. While at the same time, these concerns continue to grow as streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix offer increasing amounts of high-quality exclusive content that consumers clamor for.

UHD 4K content is fat

Cord-cutters want more content that works on UHD 4K TVs – but that means larger file sizes. A larger file size needs to be transferred to the consumer’s device, which requires a bigger pipe to get it to load faster. Otherwise you’re stuck buffering, or having resolution shifts… and that, my friends, is where we continue to return to issues of bandwidth.

If Yahoo! would want to provide content to mobile devices, TVs, computers, they’re not only going to need to realize consumer constraints, but should demand that the entire distance to the consumer is accelerated. This could be executed a number of ways: naming supported devices, working with an acceleration partner, or offering content in multiple streaming qualities that offer the best experience in varying environments.

It’s not impossible for Yahoo! to get into the OTT game, and we look forward to seeing how the giant chooses to navigate the current realities of the streaming game.  In the meantime, at Giraffic we will continue to improve AVA in a variety of ways in order to stay ahead of the changing video standards, content distribution strategies and bandwidth limitations, while offering consumers the highest quality streaming possible, from any device.

 

Video Technology Cage Match: Which will win?

August 19, 2015

The recent rumblings over HDR vs. 4K remind me of standards wars that came before, and about flash-113311_1280 (2)the rules of technology adoption.

Back when digital audio was emerging, and people raced to upgrade their systems with the latest high priced gear, I asked my friend where this was all going. Wasn’t the current generation good enough? After all, our ears were not getting any better.

He very astutely noted that as long as you can hear the difference between a live vs. recorded performance, or an analog and a digital recording, there was room for improvement. Similarly, I wrote in my post about 4K video that watching even the most advanced TVs was still not yet the same as looking out your window at the real world.

If the times have changed, one thing is the same: the march of technology continues.  Consumers want better experiences, vendors want to sell this year’s latest and greatest model , the media and entertainment businesses want to thrill audiences, and all need to place bets on the tech that they think will deliver.

It is not just the sizzle or specs that determine the winners. Recall that VHS beat Sony Betamax, arguably the better tech.  Yet 3D TV never really took off.  Additionally, it is about how consumers experience tech, and the dynamics of the competitive playing field.

For example, , it is easy fall in love with the 4000 pixels of UHD 4K. But, as I wrote in the above-mentioned post, it is not the only (or even the most important) spec.  Truly getting the best experience requires the right screen size and viewing perspective.  Otherwise, you won’t see the difference between 4K and 1080p.

The following chart (from Rtings) illustrates the value of 4K depending on your screen size and viewing distance:

resolution-4k-ultra-hd-chart

And there are other important factors, like HDR, HFR, and color gamut.

In this Videonet article, Matthew Goldman of Ericsson says pretty much the same thing:

[Goldman says] three other factors besides extra pixels that are equally immersive and do not require that viewers sit at the ‘proper’ viewing distance. These work best in combination and include HDR, a wider colour gamut, and ten-bit sample precision, a bundle of features Goldman dubs ‘HDR+’. Ideally, these would run on 1080p HD displays using 50 or 60 fps instead of standard 1080i ones.

Many video technologies start out in movie theaters, and then migrate to cable TV, and finally wind up online.  This has not happened for 4K yet. While device manufacturers are promoting 4K, the content producers and video technology vendors might not be putting the same marketing muscle behind it, as there are no apparent viewing criteria that the consumer might notice, or much unique intellectual property or licensing benefits that go along with 4K.

Dolby and Technicolor, on the other hand, do have an interest in promoting HDR, and have invested much in related technology and intellectual property. Amazon and Netflix have also started promoting HD, and recently we hear more about HDR in those services.

Is HDR running on high definition TV sets adequate, or will the mass market adopt 4K? Experts claim HDR benefits are more visible to the human eye than the higher resolution of 4K. With the incentive of influential companies such as Dolby and Technicolor to promote their own HDR IP, it appears that the market is shifting gradually to HDR.

Also, please see my post on Streaming Media about the Great UHD Debate.

Both technologies provide higher quality, which in turn demands that more bits are sent over the network. So, either way, we are headed towards a very bandwidth intensive future. Luckily, our AVA video acceleration technology is here to help.

JSBC Chinese TV Visits Giraffic

August 3, 2015

Earlier this week, Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation (one of the top networks in China) visited Giraffic to discuss our ongoing collaboration with Nanli, one of the most innovative companies in the VOD market.  They offer advanced Android set-top box pico projectors that are a quality alternative to smart TVs.JSBC1I shared our excitement that Giraffic AVA is included in Nanli’s new projector. The device connects over WiFi and broadcasts video content via OTT applications anywhere there is a projector screen or a white wall. We also discussed the importance of our work together, as the interest in watching broadcast television over the Internet is increasing at rapid rate globally. Working with Chinese OEMs such as Nanli is a great experience, and we appreciate the chance to address the needs of their market.

JSBC2Previously, we worked with their development team to integrate our AVA technology in their set-top box, giving users much better performance for OTT apps and access to HD video streaming even over poor Internet connections.

Our ongoing collaboration with Nanli has also been the subject of importance for the Chief Scientist of Israel, Avi Hasson, who visited Nanli headquarters as an example of the Israel-Jiangsu cooperation project.

Israel-Jiangsu

Cloud DVR: Challenges and Solutions

June 30, 2015

Here on this blog, we generally write about topics such as streaming video performance, VoD, OTT DVRincloudand consumer electronics devices. That is because Adaptive Video Acceleration (AVA), our core technology, has obvious applications and benefits for these areas.

There is, however, another growing trend that you might assume falls outside our wheelhouse. Many say that cloud DVRs, the topic of a recent Parks Associates webinar, will become increasingly important, as operators seek to reduce support needs and deliver a seamless, location independent experience across devices.

That is the vision. But it is no small task to store and deliver these large files from a cloud, in a way that doesn’t compromise the existing DVR user experience; much easier and faster to watch recorded movies and shows from the hard drive in the DVR box to the TV, or zip them across a home network to another TV.

As it turns out, AVA can improve cloud DVR performance and user experience because the software runs in a growing number of smart TVs and other media streaming devices.

How, exactly, can home-based technology improve how large video files are delivered from the cloud? And what are other cloud DVR challenges and solutions? I answer these questions in a post on the Parks’ Connections blog. Please take a look, and let us know what you think!

CONNECTIONS Wrap: How will we control streaming media in the future?

June 2, 2015

 

CONNUS 1

Source: Twitter

Last week I spoke at Parks Associates’ CONNECTIONS Conference, in the session “Streaming as Standard: The New User Experience.” Our panel, moderated by Parks Associates Director, Barbara Kraus, discussed the technology that can improve the video streaming experience. It started off with introductions that led into a discussion with influencers such as Rick Herman, Chief Strategy Officer of MobiTV, Tom Lattie, VP of Market Management & Development for Video Products at Harmonic , and Ali Vassigh, Director of User Experience at Roku.

The session was lively, informative and even hit some controversial areas. Barbara Kraus recently wrote, “…the lines between device makers, network operators and content providers are blurring” and that “[t]he user experience is becoming more critical – navigation and search, picture quality, broadband performance” are becoming the most important components of user interface (UI).

I shared my position about device manufacturers having an important role to play in improving delivery of the content to their devices. In the past it was entirely up to content providers and network operators to assure smooth broadband delivery. Now technologies are available on the device to improve such performances: by supporting and enhancing performances of Adaptive Streaming, such as MPEG-DASH, by employing HTTP throughput optimization technologies such as AVA, and by providing a better native video player on their platforms.

Roku’s Ali Vassigh and I had a harmless debate on the consumer’s rising need and addiction to cell phones, and which device will be the favored tool to search, discover and control your TV streaming experience. To prove my point, I asked the audience to see how many of them were currently messing around with their phones, and sure enough, many embarrassed heads looked up from the audience. Ali shared that most Roku users still use the Roku remote control, with the Roku mobile app hardly being used. My claim was that while the remote is certainly the most intuitive and common user interface for TVs, it hasn’t changed in decades. For more complex OTT content – search, discovery, personalization – more comprehensive UI’s such as gesture control and voice have failed irreparably. Additionally, since users are already addicted to their smartphones, they should continue to add on anything related to controlling their TV streaming experience to mobile devices.

This discussion transitioned perfectly into the poll that was taken during the panel, with a surprising result from one question asking:

In three years, what will be the most prevalent method of controlling streaming media?

  1. Voice
  2. Gesture
  3. Remote Control
  4. Smartphone
  5. Other

After everyone texted their answers, the winners came out more or less equally to be voice, smartphone and remote control, with each taking almost a third of the votes.

Source: Twitter

Let us know what your answer was and any other thoughts you may have on streaming technology by tweeting us @GirafficAVA, or by leaving a comment below.

CONNUS15 2Source: http://www.parksassociates.com/events/connections-us