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Three Streaming Video Challenges We Still Face Today, and How to Solve Them
Bandwidth limitations, device compatibility, and latency and reliability issues still hold the online video industry back. Here's a look at how to overcome those challenges.

Streaming video has come a long way since the days of RealPlayer and 25Kbps video. However, despite massive advancements over the past two decades, there are specific hurdles that the industry continues to face. In particular, bandwidth limitations, latency issues, and device compatibility challenges prevent viewers from experiencing seamless video streaming.

The good news is that today's technology has made it possible to overcome these issues and deliver high-quality streaming video to users anytime, anywhere. By utilizing newer codecs, leveraging a multi-CDN or SD-CDN, and transcoding video streams, providers can improve the user experience and keep viewers engaged.

Bandwidth Limitations

The industry has experienced major advancements in broadband, video resolutions, and streaming. However, higher resolution videos and larger bandwidth capabilities present new challenges, as networks are more likely to experience a bandwidth crunch.

For example, it's common for a 720p video to be streamed at 2.5-5Mbps, or for a 1080p video to be streamed at 5-10Mbps. However, with 4K resolutions and beyond, that ratio doesn't scale. If video providers are using H.264 AVC, they need the capacity to stream 40Mbps. As a result, the newer HEVC, VP9, and AV1 codecs are critically important in today's streaming video landscape, since they can compress to half of H.264 AVC. 

As the number of cord cutters and consumers watching online video continues to increase, these bandwidth limitations will be exacerbated. Viewers have come to expect high-quality video streams, and they will want watch their content of choice in the highest resolution available.

In order to guarantee that the highest video quality is available to viewers, providers must have very tight lossless compression. A two-pass compression—one that has an overall package compression along with a secondary compression—can solve for this. It transfers video by removing similar information so that it only needs to be transmitted once instead of multiple times for every frame.

Latency and Reliability Issues

With higher resolutions and bitrates, massive amounts of data are being delivered—and this volume of activity can result in latency and reliability issues. As viewers, we've all experienced that all-too-familiar scenario where the video stream lags or completely drops out at a crucial moment. And as video professionals, we've been on the other side, having seen firsthand how difficult it is to deliver high-quality video to viewers at scale.

The solution to preventing latency lies in using a multi-CDN or SD-CDN approach. By tapping into more than one content delivery network, streaming providers can access the best network with the shortest video packet times when they need it most. This solution allows for intelligent players that can analyze user activity and determine when switching networks will improve the viewing experience.

Device Compatibility Challenges

Lastly, ensuring that video streams are able to reach viewers everywhere they are is another challenge that providers still face. Today, fully adaptive streams can adjust to any bitrate and resolution, making it easier to deliver the right stream to every screen. But video providers still need to decide whether to distribute multiple streams to a service provider, or whether to send one stream and transcode it.

To effectively deliver the highest quality video to multiple devices, the best solution is to send one stream to a service provider and have them transcode it for the devices needed. This enables the video distributor to save bandwidth and prevent overall latency.

In today's crowded media landscape, technology challenges must be addressed in order to retain viewers and drive profitability. While we all know that creating high-quality content is a key differentiator for streaming video providers, that content is worthless if viewers can't watch it. Ensuring that massive video files can be delivered quickly—without lags—and viewed anytime, anywhere is paramount to a streaming provider's success.