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H.264 Still Dominates Streaming Industry, According to Bitmovin Report

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During last week's Streaming Media West Connect 2020, I had the opportunity to share a few highlights from the recent State of Streaming 2020 Autumn survey. That report, sponsored by Zixi and highlighting ways that COVID-19 has impacted the streaming media industry over the 6-month period since the last State of Streaming survey, will be published by Streaming Media in late October. In the meantime, the team at Bitmovin has released its annual Video Developer report, which highlights a number of changes that developers have seen in 2020.

Bitmovin CEO Stephen Lederer notes that the Bitmovin survey has been released each year since 2017 at the IBC conference, traditionally held in September in Amsterdam. While that show was cancelled, Lederer noted that the 2020 survey version saw a marked increase in participation, up 46% from 2019 to 792 respondents. "This reflects the industry growth and important role that video streaming plays today," Lederer says.

A few key highlights from the Bitmovin report center on the role of various revenue types, from advertising to subscription.

While the percentage of respondents who said they were using a subscription-based video on-demand (SVOD) business model remained flat at 56% between the 2019 and 2020 reports, there was a significant shift in AVOD, or advertising-based video on-demand business.

In 2019, 48% of respondents used AVOD business models, but in 2020 that fell to 41% even while server-side ad insertion (SSAI) grew in popularity among AVOD businesses at the expense of client-side ad insertion (CSAI), which now accounts for less than half of all ad-driven models. It's not a surprise that SSAI is dominating, given the number of ad blockers—and even full-blown browsers, like Duck Duck Go—has continued to rise.

On the codec front, Bitmovin notes that H.264 continues to be the dominant codec, with a whopping 91% usage rage by participants, almost twice as many as used the next highest codec, H.265 (42%). The report notes that, even though newer codecs such as H.265 and AV1 are more efficient, "browser and device makers are fragmented in their support" which yields overall lower adoption rates for these newer codecs.

Bitmovin asked a specific set of questions around the impact of COVID-19 on business and technology priorities, and respondents prioritized their responses as follows:

  1. Cost reduction
  2. Faster time to market
  3. Changing business models
  4. Reducing size of work teams
  5. Acquiring new content
  6. Other

Still, while the COVD-19 questions generated a high number of responses, the report states that "it's interesting to note that there were a fair number of participants who let us know that, surprisingly, COVID-19 has not impacted their work."

On the HTTP-based video technology front, another interesting note is the continued ascension of MPEG-DASH, or Dynamic Adaptive Streaming via HTTP. While Apple's HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) retains the crown at 79% usage among participants, 65% of participants use DASH.

"Survey participants seem eager to get rid of needing two separate formats to serve the majority of devices," the report notes, "pinning their hopes instead on HLS/DASH CMAF with fMP4 streaming as a combined delivery format utopia."

Finally, on the low-latency front, the report notes that "sixty percent of video developers have a low latency expectation of five seconds or less." 

While that's a bit of a rise from the 2019 report, what's even more interesting is that almost a third of respondents now expect one second or less latency for their streams, which plays nicely into the advent of low-latency HLS (LL-HLS) as covered by the most recent Pantos spec that I cover in this month's Algorithm series article on live-event scaling. 

The full Bitmovin report can be downloaded here.

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