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Online Video Industry Forecast 2012: An Introduction
Innovation with a Chance of Standards

[This is Streaming Media publisher Joel Unickow's introduction to "Executive Predictions: Online Video Industry Forecast 2012," a collection of sponsored articles appearing in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Streaming Media magazine. All of those sponsored articles are listed at the bottom of this page.]

We've got a pretty good thing going on in our industry, and we always have. There's no other industry I can think of that continues to innovate like ours. And innovation drives investment, which drives more innovation. Look at the technology for delivering broadcast video to TV: Everything is based on MPEG-2 Transport Streams (M2TS), which haven't changed in more than a decade. Compare that to the number of changes-in just 1 year of online video-in formats, protocols, containers, and codecs.

Hard to keep up? Well, the whole game of delivering video in a one-consumer,many-device environment-i.e.,computers, mobiles, and living room devices-is going to continue to be a moving target for a very long time. New devices mean new video players (and even new networks, as we've seen with 3G, WiMax, and LTE in the last few years), which means we'll need to continue to find further efficiencies and ways of compressing and delivering video to meet those devices' abilities.

Would standards solve that? Sure, but they would also stagnate innovation. I don't think we'll all be using the iPad 2 for decades, like we have the TV, unless it becomes the de facto standard. Even then, Apple would be looking to sell us the new and improved model, and it has the right to jettison any "legacy" technologies just like it did with desktop computers. Remember the massive Centronics 25-pin printer connector before USB came along?

As an industry, we may agree to collaborate on some level of "standards" pushed by market-driven forces such as the iPad, but I doubt we'll ever see a single, universal way of delivering video over the internet. It would put too many great minds out of work! However, in 2012 there will be a lot of technical advances to keep on top of, especially if you are publishing massive libraries of video. Are you ready to re-encode, yet again? What's that going to cost you?

One of the most thought-provoking technical white papers that I've recently read is "Unifying Global Video Strategies: MP4 File Fragmentation for Broadcast, Mobile and Web Delivery" by Tim Siglin, co-founder of Transitions, Inc. and a Streaming Media contributing editor. It speaks to the mechanics and technical issues of delivering online video, from both a current and historical perspective, with a slant toward standardization around plain-vanilla HTTP servers and interoperable video players. My takeaway from the paper is like a summary of the industry-standards for online video are an oxymoron, but they're a necessary evil to entice consumer electronics companies to mass-produce devices that are easy to use and that protect the premium content delivered to them. In 2012 we may get closer to standards than ever before-i.e., HTML5, HTTP delivery, fMP4, MPEG-DASH-and we may even see common file formats (CFF) and common encryption (CENC). My guess, though, is that we'll continue to hone these tools and create even better ways of getting the "Ultimate Dog Tease" video to the masses on their device of choice, securely, with better quality long after even 2013 has arrived.

Join the conversation on these kinds of technologies and delivery issues by signing up for our free live Roundtable Web Events as they are posted on our site. We'll deep-dive into these and other technical issues all though 2012. I'm sure they'll feature many of the companies that are making their predictions in this section. Have a prediction for 2012 or questions you'd like to have answered? We'd love to hear them. Feel free to email me at joel@streamingmedia.com. I'll make sure they get the attention they deserve.

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