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HEVC Will Make Streaming 4K a Reality: SNL Kagan

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We're on the eve of the International CES conference, where one of the big stories this year will be 4K connected TVs and streaming services. At the recent Streaming Media West conference in Huntington Beach, California, Michelle Abraham, senior analyst at SNL Kagan, sat down for a red carpet interview to discuss the future of the HEVC codec and what it will mean to 4K.

"There's several markets where HEVC will be important, certainly in mobile video distribution, because you've got bandwidth limited cellular networks so you're talking about the new LTE broadcast standard and being able to broadcast over mobile, but any mobile distributional over wireless," Abraham explained. "Then there's of course a lot of discussion over 4K. Being able to offer and distribute to the home or to other devices resolution as high as 4K really needs the bandwidth compression of HEVC."

While most people don't yet have 4K televisions or monitors, that isn't stopping content providers. 2014 will be the year that 4K reaches the living room.

"I believe streaming 4K will be a reality," Abraham explained. "Netflix has said they plan to offer it in 2014. Movie content is already filmed, produced in 4K so there's not much of a transition there. It's a matter of having enough bandwidth to the home to be able to stream that. When it comes to live -- producing live 4K -- that's a different matter."

For more on HEVC and 4K video streams, watch the full video below.

 

Troy Dreier: Hi we're coming to you from Streaming Media West in sunny Huntington Beach, California. On the red carpet I'm joined today by Michelle Abraham a Senior Analyst at SNL Kagan. Michelle was on a panel today talking about HEVC (H.265). I thought maybe you could just start us off with an introduction for people who don't know, it's still so new. What is HEVC?

Michelle Abraham: HEVC or H.265 is a new video compression scheme that has been standardized by the IGUT video coding experts group and the moving pictures experts group, or MPEG, earlier this year, the final standard was in April 2013. And the goal was HEVC is to improve the bandwidth efficiency of a video stream and cut the amount of bandwidth that would be needed to transmit video by 50 percent.

Troy Dreier: And so compared to previous video formats it feels like this one is getting a really fast rollout. There's a lot of adoption. Why is that happening? Why is it so speeded up this time?

Michelle Abraham: Part of it is because in today's video infrastructure there's a lot more software being used rather than hardware. So unlike with H.264 where there needed to be the hardware introduced that could handle the H.264 video encoding with the power of Moore's and more powerful processors, HEVC is able to be encoded in software. So of course using software there's not as much-- you don't have to wait for the hardware and the software can be done upgradable kind of on the fly.

Troy Dreier: Nice. Where will HEVC have the greatest impact?

Michelle Abraham: There's several markets where HEVC will be important, certainly in mobile video distribution because you've got bandwidth limited cellular networks so you're talking about the new LTE broadcast standard and being able to broadcast over mobile but any mobile distributional over wireless. Also in over-the-top segment of the market it will both certainly cut distribution costs for over-the-top providers who are sending video streams. And then there's of course a lot of discussion over 4K and being able to offer and distribute to the home or to other devices resolution as high as 4K really needs the bandwidth compression of HEVC.

Troy Dreier: Is the streaming 4K going to be a reality and then what's the timeline on that?

Michelle Abraham: I believe streaming 4K will be a reality. Netflix has said they plan to offer it in 2014. Movie content is already filmed, produced in 4K so there's not much of a transition there. So they-- it's a matter of having enough bandwidth to the home to be able to stream that. When it comes to live-- producing live 4K, that's a different matter.

Troy Dreier: And is streaming 4K going to rely on HEVC or are there other things that can handle it to make it a manageable stream?

Michelle Abraham: I believe that 4-- streaming 4K will use HEVC to make it more manageable because there's really not that many consumers who would have that kind of bandwidth available to the home.

Troy Dreier: And so with HEVC what does that become. What sort of bandwidth does a household need to be able to receive it?

Michelle Abraham: What I've been hearing from some of the vendors is that 4K HEVC stream need around 15 megabits per second, at least as it is today. Now they're going to keep optimizing that encoding technology so that is expected to come down in the future.

Troy Dreier: That sounds pretty doable. So HEVC isn't quite here yet. What barriers are we seeing for adoption?

Michelle Abraham: The only thing-- the biggest barrier and it's not really much of a barrier but right now the licensing terms haven't been decided so there's some kind of holding out waiting for-- just wanting to be safe to make sure that the licensing terms are something that can be-- that they're agreed upon particularly when it comes to decoding because of course you have many more devices on the decode side than you would on the encode side. But I expect that there will be licensing terms becoming available next year and that it will move forward.

Troy Dreier: Michelle thank you very much for joining me. This is Troy Dreier coming to you from the red carpet at Streaming Media West.

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