Video: How Can Online Video Achieve Parity With Broadcast TV?

In this excerpt from a panel at Streaming Media East 2017, Akamai CTO, Media Division John Bishop assesses the question of how online video is stacking up against traditional broadcast based on five criteria: scale, fidelity, operation, and monetization.

Read the complete transcript of this clip:

John Bishop: We differentiate between live events being something that's happening now, think of it more news and sports, and linear being a 24/7 365 playout service, so linear may be live events, but it also may made to look like live, so when we talk about that, that's how we use those two terms. And they are slightly nuanced to be different, but linear is something that's relatively new in the online space, and when you look at the challenges, I think it all starts with the fact that it is 24/7 365. It's always going, and where you look at how the internet grew up and the technologies associated with it, internet always for a long time equaled best effort, and best effort is not what's associated with television. When you turn it onto a television channel on your pay TV service, you have expectation, and you expect that thing to work on whatever display device you go to, whatever room you're in, every single time, and the internet didn't align there.

And so I think it's one of the things, when I look at the last three years of the journey that we've been on at Akamai, it's really recognizing that we have to get parity in the digital space with legacy pay TV services, or else digital's not going to go, there's a natural headroom. It's just not going to go beyond that natural plateau. At Akamai historically, we focused on scale, because without audience, without eyeballs, nobody cares. If I can only get out to 1,000 people or 10,000 people or a million people, it's not a big enough number out there, so historically, we focused on can we get to enough eyeballs? Can we scale whatever media it is, if it's a sporting event, if it's episodic, can we get it to enough people? And by and large, I think we're largely there, a line of sight to there, with the exception of something like the Super Bowl, which is an anomaly event in and of itself in that it drives over 100 million concurrent viewers on a television platform. But tens of millions, single digit, high, single-digit millions, is an attainable number now online, so scale, I can kind of say, "Yep, we checked the box."

The next is fidelity. How does it look? How does it sound? I think we've checked the box there. We started off 20 years ago in digital doing little things, little postage stamp images, and maybe it was red, green, or blue. You couldn't quite tell if it was a moving picture or what it was, but it was there. It was a little square. And now, it's very common to see HD and p50 and p60 experiences out there and even 4K experiences, so in many ways, I think the digital platform has gone beyond television and fidelity. Some of the areas where it continues to be challenged is on the operational side, and I'm sure my colleagues can speak to what they see on the outside. How do we have invisibility into what happens at every stage at the supply chain in digital? Broadcast is very, very regimented. There tends to always be a path A and a path B, and things are run in a hot, hot, redundant environment. You know you have heart beating telemetry on every single moving part. Online is maturing quickly in that space. We've done a lot of investments on our side there, but the operations side is one that there's still work to be done. I think it's a gap in getting parity there, and then last is monetization.

So scale, I think we're kind of there. Fidelity, we're probably past television. We're probably better then television in many ways. Operation, still some work to be done, and monetization, the great thing about digital is it's direct addressability. It's possible, but that's not the way that ads are sold often on television. Television's largely about an aggregation of a large audience. There's a lot of potential there, but in those four dimensions, I think that's the measuring stick by which I look at how we're doing there, scale, fidelity, ops, and monetization.

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