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Streaming New Year’s Resolutions for 2014

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Making New Year’s resolutions before Thanksgiving, the time I’m writing this column, feels akin to planning to buy Christmas gifts on Halloween, which will fall on a Friday in 2014, giving retailers an excuse for a pre-Black-Friday Black-Friday sale.

Still, when it comes to streaming, it’s worth making a few New Year’s resolutions, so here goes:

1. Increase the volume.

By volume I mean provide more helpful content for Streaming Media readers. This one’s a given, as Streaming Media magazine is moving to nine issues per year in 2014. Let’s hear it for more (random or focused) Streams of Thought!

2. Hold a wake for VP6/7/8 and RealMedia.

I’m not one to wish ill on any codec, but the time has come and gone -- long gone -- for non-standards-based codecs that seem intent on disrupting the market in a negative way. Time to get Google, the free and open source software (FOSS), and other laggards on the standards-based bandwagon.

This is equally important on the desktop via browsers (Chrome and Firefox) and on the myriad mobile devices that use non-H.264 codecs. The FOSS argument is valid for many solutions, including media servers, but in the case of video streaming codecs, it’s a stance that’s holding back adoption for no valid reason.

3. Work to save analog.

Maybe this should be stated as “analogue,” since the vast majority of television and media consumption still occurring in analog can be found in phase alternating line (PAL)-based countries. Analog is by no means dead, as one finds out by reading the quarterly “Digital TV Research” reports put out by Simon Murray or by talking to the NewTek team, which sees its TriCaster analog-only product being sold into a number of emerging markets.

4. Don’t hold my breath for H.265 (HEVC).

If there’s anything we’ve learned about standards adoption in 2013, it’s the fact that politics and technology are strange bedfellows. One need only look at Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) to see that adoption of standards with clear-cut benefits are being slow-walked in some circles.

Many will argue that HEVC and DASH adoption should occur simultaneously, at the time when 4K emerges for online video delivery, but my prediction is that DASH has a higher chance of being relegated to the dustbin if it waits around for HEVC.

5. Expect at least one major multicast innovation in 2014.

The rapid growth of Netflix in North America, which is repeating itself in European markets, will put additional pressure on the company and its Tier 1 rivals-cum-providers to figure out a multicast model for mobile and set-top box (STB) delivery.

The argument so far has been that on-demand content doesn’t require multicast, as not everyone is watching the content at the same time. Yet the advent of HTTP streaming, via delivery of multiple small segments -- in essence massive small-file delivery -- brings with it the potential that rapidly growing on-demand content viewing audiences could result in overlapping requests for the same content at the same time.

In other words, we might just have a live-stream equivalent audience on our hands when it comes to on-demand content. As such, there’s a technology need beyond real-time transparent caching that might lead to an innovation or two around P2P or multicasting.

6. Prepare for the rise of eMBMS and LTE in the United States.

In our post-PC world, there’s another need for multicast, this time in the mobile environment. Fortunately, there’s a move afoot to put eMBMS (evolved multimedia broadcast multicast service) into LTE (long-term evolution) -- perhaps more easily described as multicasting into the next generation of GSM (Groupe Spécial Mobile) -- that is rolling out across Europe and the rest of the world.

2014 will hopefully see adoption of this technology in the United States so that mobile viewing of live events, such as big-league sports, can be a thing of beauty and delivery consistency compared to what we’ve faced in the recent past.

This article appears in the January/February 2013 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Streaming New Year’s Resolutions."

2014 image via Shutterstock.

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