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Video: Do We Still Need Adaptive Bitrate Streaming?

As codecs get more efficient and general throughput grows, is adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming not the necessity it once was to guarantee a successful stream to a broad base of end users? Streaming Media West panelists Will Law of Akamai, Omer Luzzatti of Yahoo, and Mark Arana weigh in on where, when, and why ABR still matters.

Learn more about streaming delivery at Streaming Media East.

Will Law: Why do we need ABR? It's an artifact of two things. We're delivering over the general internet, which doesn't have a fixed quality of service--it does vary. Also, the codecs we're using are lossless. We can't degrade the quality dynamically to accommodate a fluctuation in through port, and therefore we have to change the quality level completely. That's the definition of adaptive delivery. It's an artifact of using a general internet where you don't control all the delivery components. I think it's here to stay for a while. I do expect, as we get tighter control over delivery, we'll expect the number of bitrates that we might have to contract a little bit. We won't get the variation in throughput that we have to deal with today.

Omer Luzzatti:
Adaptive delivery started around 2009, mainly by Apple. HTTP protocol with adaptive on top of it. The idea was that you can improve quality or reduce quality according to the network behavior. Adaptive bitrate has been used in almost everywhere; obviously, we use HLS. We improve adaptive bitrate, algorithms, and so on. It is not the case that adaptive bitrate should be used always. Again, I'm going back to the examples of short formats, especially below 30 seconds, one could use MPEG-4, one could try and analyze the network condition beforehand, and use only one of three or four qualities of MPEG-4 that the content owner provides. A way for longer than 30 seconds adaptive bitrate is required and is very much recommended.

Mark Arana:
When you're looking at a worldwide audience, constrained bandwidth still is one of those key issues to overcome. Not everybody has Google Fibre going to their home or certainly over wireless networks, and so adaptive bitrate is a key component to a great user experience. For our long filmed content, our content is anywhere from 70 to 120 minutes for our feature films. That is a key component. We have a lot of people that are viewing our movies on one of our applications. Disney movies, anywhere, have 18 different profiles that we use for three different resolutions. That is and a good compression scheme are one of the key ways to making sure we maintain that great user experience. We get very excited about having fewer files. Something like CMAF is very, very attractive to us so that we can start to consolidate the number of files that we have on our CDN.

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