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CES 2017: Cisco Looks at Challenges Facing Streaming Providers
The future of living room video includes conversational interfaces and TV sets that know who's in the room and what they want to watch. But will viewers feel comfortable with that level of intelligence?
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"At Cisco we believe you should have a better quality of experience over the internet," said James Field, product manager for cloud apps and solutions at Cisco, speaking at CES 2017. However, several obstacles remain on all sides in providing that level of quality.

For viewers, the challenge is providing a faster experience than they can get with pay TV with no delay for channel changes. Getting content to scale, safeguarding it with digital rights management (DRM), and reducing latency for live events also remain challenges.

"As a consumer you just want your content to be everywhere," Field noted. Viewers are frustrated when the content they want isn't available on the viewing platform they choose. Windowed releases are common, but they're a continued frustration for viewers. On the flip side, content owners still struggle to monetize their content.

For advertisers, click-fraud is a growing challenge. Perhaps 50 percent of ads are fraudulent, Field said. However, thanks to targeting publishers are getting more money for fewer ads. Publishers are able to see who's watching their content and how much they've watched, data that can be tied back to show the effectiveness of social campaigns. Small brands especially should use highly targeted buys to grow adoption, he said.

The business of buying ads is still largely presold for premium content, which is true for both OTT and broadcast television. Programmatic sales are rising, but presold is still the norm. "We've seen the broadcast ad space is all presold and upfront. It's slowly changing," Field said.

DirecTV Now's high profile launch was riddled with delivery issues, which Field attributes to the services unexpected level of popularity. "It's the nature of a new service," Field said, pointing out that it can be difficult to get all the parts working together. People treat TV as a lifeline, and they expect to be able to turn it on and have it just work. When it doesn't, they get frustrated, he said.

Streaming issues are almost always with the CDN, Field said, not the point of origination. What can providers do? "Choose the right technology provider," he advised.

The future of TV is about personalization and intelligence, Field added. TVs will know who's in the room and will make recommendations appropriately. Viewers will be able to have natural language conversations with their sets, and those sets will learn over time what viewers prefer. Interfaces will become more conversational. The end result is that viewers will find content they want to watch sooner. The challenge for engineers and designers is to make this new experience feel cool, not creepy.

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