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SME '19: Tim Siglin Recaps Highlights of Streaming Media East

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Read the complete transcript of this interview:

Tim Siglin: Hi, this is Tim Siglin. We're here at Streaming Media East 2019. I'm a contributing editor for Streaming Media Magazine and the founding executive director of Help Me! Stream, which is a not-for-profit focused on working with NGOs to get critical messaging out. I'm going to do a bit of a recap here.

We're down toward the end of the show and just wanted to sort of touch base on a few of the things that I've heard this year at the show.

Multiple Codecs

One of the first things I'll talk about is multiple codecs. I hosted a panel yesterday with a number of people, one from Mozilla, one from Twitch, one from Vimeo, one from Ellation or Crunchyroll. And there were engineers, and one of the things that we talked about was the move back toward multiple codecs.

The feeling in the industry is that AVC is here to stay and obviously AVC has been here for quite some time, but that with the advent of things like HDR, and especially 4K content with HDR, that AVC is a bit long in the tooth. Now, clearly HEVC, or H.265 which is the successor to AVC H.264 is around, but what we've also found, and especially on the panel, is companies talking about having implemented VP9, which was part of the VPX series that Google acquired from On2.

Beyond VP9, there's a new codec which you might've thought would be called VP10 but now, because of the Alliance for Open Media, is actually called AV1. AV1 inherits a number of things from VP9 and one of the things we heard yesterday in that panel was that companies that have actually chosen to implement VP9, even late in the game like this, are doing so in some small part because it makes it easier when AV1 is ready for Prime Time to integrate that encoder, or that codec into their solutions.

HEVC clearly continues to get market traction, what I sense is that AV1, as it moves closer and closer and especially as there's optimization and some of the announcements that were made at NAB with intel and others being able to do realtime encoding, that AV1 has a shot at actually usurping HEVC.

On the flip side, there's also VVC and EVC, which are two other potential codec implementations that one which will be ready in 2020. And so the point of all this is, if you go back 15 years ago or even 20 years ago when I first started in this industry, we had a fairly significant codec war between Real, Microsoft, and Apple with QuickTime.

That all got sorted out with H.264, or AVC, and we've had a Pax Romana for probably the last 10 years. We're entering a stage where, given the lifecycle of AVC and given the need to deliver 4K content, HDR content, that there is a need to have a replacement codec, and that potential to enter into a second codec war disturbs me a little bit, but I understand that it's necessary for innovation as we go forward.

Hopefully we can get a definitive winner in a fairly short period of time and not revert back to having to support multiple codecs continuously for every single end user. There are benefits obviously to having multiple codecs and those were some of the things we talked about yesterday.


A few other topics that have come up: SSAI, Server-Side Ad Insertion, continues to make progress going forward. I did an interview with Geir from fuboTV and he talked about how server-side ad insertion and personalization is actually moving along quite nicely. That obviously allows the elimination of client-side ad blockers, but even more, it allows the personalization of content to end users regardless of the device they're on.

A/V and Streaming: Merging, Clashing, or Both?

A few other things come to mind from the interviews that I've done. this morning I did an interview with a gentleman who actually has a company that does A/V integration for education and government, and he said that streaming and A/V is merging to a certain extent, but also clashing because you have IT departments that don't fully understand streaming still.

That sort of surprises me, because I assumed we'd taken care of that issue four or five years ago, but indeed that continues to be an issue where the network administrators, the IT administrators still feel that streaming could somehow damage their networks if it's put on with content like email, FTP, et cetera.


And then, finally, one of the things that is consistently playing throughout most of the interviews we did yesterday and today, is that OTT, the quality expectation for OTT now is just the same as it was for broadcast. Back in the day, I think with our first interviewee yesterday, Liz, she mentioned that you would have a production truck, there would be the full broadcast production and then they'd just give a feed to a TriCaster and say, "Here, you push this out to the web."

Scott Grizzle, who's with IBM now, and had been with a number of companies that did early web production, and he said the same thing: now the expectation is, that it is broadcast quality on OTT. And that makes sense, because OTT continues to rise in terms of usage as cord-cutting also rises, and so the question now becomes, what are the learnings that OTT can get, or streaming can get from the broadcast space, especially with things like ATSC 3.0 coming down the pipe with IP multicast? What are the things that streaming can learn from broadcast, and what are the things that broadcast has learned from streaming?

I say all that to say that within the next year, we need to really start paying attention to the trend of those two merging. We say OTT, essentially to differentiate from over-the-air or cable, but in the end I think we're going to need to come up with a common terminology that describes broadcast of any kind, whether it's multicast over OTA, multiple unicast over OTT, or a cable plant.

At the end of the day, we have to figure out some way to get it back to a term like "broadcast" that we understand means live, whether it's to a phone, whether it's to a set-top box, whether it's to a television through over-the-air, or through cable infrastructure.

Join us at Streaming Media West in November!

So, we'll be joining you again in November in Los Angeles this time. We're actually moving from Huntington Beach to Los Angeles for Streaming Media West, and I look forward to talking to all of you again at that point.

Have a good day. This is Tim Siglin, and we'll talk to you next time.

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