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Infographic: The OTT Takeover
Why the move to HDR matters for more than just 4K—and why OTT services and devices are going to lead the way
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A few months back, the Streaming Media and Unisphere Research teams released a report on the current state of over-the-top (OTT) video. The report, "OTT Video Services—Innovation, Opportunity, Maturation & Technology Trends in OTT Delivery," generated significant press around the idea that OTT viewing would exceed traditional broadcast TV viewing within the next five years.

While that projection was certainly interesting, what may have been missed in all the coverage of the report, which was sponsored by Level 3 Communications, is the fact that OTT viewing has moved from an also-ran position to one that arguably offers higher quality and more consistent delivery than traditional over-the-air (OTA) broadcast or even cable distribution.

This week, we're presenting an updated version of the same report, as well as an accompanying infographic (see below or open in a separate window here) that illustrates a few of the key points about OTT's hearts-and-minds campaign to displace tradition OTA and cable delivery.

The infographic highlights a few key differentiators between the nimbleness of OTT delivery options. One such point centers on the delivery of high-dynamic range (HDR) content: More than two-thirds of the respondents that offer OTT services signaled an intent to deliver in either deeper color depth (HDR) or higher frame rates (HFR).

While traditional broadcast is also moving towards 10-bit color depths, allowing for deeper blacks and brighter whites, the cost of implementing OTA broadcast gear is daunting—although, perhaps, not as daunting as the challenge of doing the same thing in cable distribution, since 10-bit delivery would require an update to infrastructure and cable set-top boxes

A few pieces of the HDR puzzle are falling into place, thanks to impending mass adoption of HEVC through operating systems—Apple's macOS 10.13, also known as High Sierra, will support HEVC in its fall 2017 release—and upgraded internet streaming boxes such as the Chromecast Ultra.

A recent firmware update for a prototype Apple product, inadvertently released by the company on a public server, shows that an upcoming Apple TV product will support both 4K and HDR.

What's interesting about the HDR options, as pointed out by iOS developer Gulherme Rambo in tweets about the new firmware's references to the upcoming Apple TV device, is that multiple standards have emerged for HDR. The industry standard is HDR10 (for 10-bit delivery), but Dolby has also released Dolby Vision. In addition, it appears the upcoming device will also support Hybrid Log-Gamma, a royalty-free HDR standard developed jointly by the BBC and NHK as part of the advanced television standard (ATSC 3.0). (For a look at the competing HDR formats, see "The State of 4K and HDR 2017.")

The fact that a relatively inexpensive internet streaming box can add in not just one but three HDR options should drive the point home clearly: OTT delivery is now the place to innovate, rather than relying on OTA innovation as had been done in years past.

Another trend the infographic highlights is a move towards multi-region delivery of OTT. While responses in past years had tended to balance between an equal number of survey respondents offering single-country OTT delivery versus regional or global delivery, this year's responses show a marked shift away from single-country OTT offerings.

To handle this shift, there's also a shift in content delivery network (CDN) approaches. A significant shift towards a multi-CDN strategy and away from a single CDN vendor was also apparent in the 2017 survey responses, and this trend is in keeping with Cisco's recently updated Visual Networking Index report, which not only predicts that "70 percent of all internet traffic will cross CDNs by 2021, up from 52 percent in 2016" but that the video portion of CDN traffic will account for almost 80% of all content delivered by CDNs.

The infographic is below and can be seen full-size (and downloaded) here, and you can download the updated OTT report here.

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