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The Future of Streaming Media and Entertainment

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Traditional methods of viewing entertainment and news are changing. Streaming media services, streaming subscriptions, SVOD, and over-the-top media services are appearing everywhere.

And it’s clear that digital platforms are increasingly being used instead of TVs, radios, and movie theaters. Recent research by Nielsen showed that in the United States, streaming is catching up to network and cable TV, with 26 percent of viewers using streaming services and 8 percent classified as “other,” which includes the use of video-on-demand and streaming from cable setup-up boxes.

This surge in digital solutions is seeing a range of emerging trends in the industry.

Direct-to-Consumer Business Models

Digital technologies now enable companies to connect directly with their audiences, build closer relationships, and provide more personalized content/experiences. They also provides varied monetization opportunities for content owners and operators via advertising, merchandising, ticketing, and more.

From “just” delivering content to viewers, the direct-to-consumer (D2C) approach offers the ability to gain greater control over brand messaging, develop new revenue streams, promote more engagement, and deeply understand your customers’ wants and interests.

It’s All About OTT

Can you imagine the dark ages when a home only had one television? One way of receiving ads, watching the news, and finding out what tomorrow’s weather would be like? All in a static, see-it-or-miss-it way?

This is all changing with the range of OTT delivery systems and apps, from internet-connected devices to gaming consoles, smartphones, and tablets, to Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and many more. All are providing flexible and unique methods of delivering relevant and engaging content that can be viewed when, where, and how the viewer wants.

This is especially relevant for established broadcasters (whether TV or radio) that want to expand and/or supplement their coverage to new platforms and audiences and open new monetization opportunities. But with so many different devices and operating systems, effective OTT testing is essential.

Technological Revolution

Beyond the OTT explosion, 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), software-as-a-service (SaaS), cloud-based delivery, hybrid networks, big data, and more will continue to converge and drive innovation. This is essential as the need for fast, reliable, secure, and scalable solutions will only increase.

  • 5G will help ensure lightning-fast connectivity to mobile and Internet of Things devices.
  • AI will deliver human-like automation to speed up routine tasks such as developing subtitles, provide deep learning to help understand user behavior, send recommendations, and much more.
  • SaaS and the cloud will ensure cost-effective content delivery, disaster recovery, asset management, and content monetization.
  • Hybrid networks will enable organizations to deliver content using different media delivery networks that best suit each region being targeted, whether internet, satellite, or dedicated fiber.
  • Big data is a natural result of so much digitized content, but it can be extremely useful when used correctly by providing real-time analysis of streaming data, aggregating data sets, and providing a holistic view of what the audience is doing/watching.

As each trend becomes increasingly intertwined, the opportunities this presents to the media and broadcasting industry are immense. Especially when it comes to providing highly personalized, high-quality digital content that boosts loyalty. But there are many challenges.

Rising to the Challenge

One of the biggest issues facing streaming solutions is latency. Not only can it negatively impact the user experience in a big way, but it’s shown to directly hit an organization’s bottom line.

In a 2017 study of online retail performance, Akamai found that a “100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7 percent,” and that “53 percent of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.”

That a 0.1-second delay can impact visitors so strongly is a big concern.

The following year, Google released information based on the analysis of 11 million mobile ads’ landing pages about bounce rates. As with the Akamai report, it showed that latency can severely impact revenue.

“As page load time goes from:

1s to 3s, the probability of bounce increases 32%

1s to 5s, the probability of bounce increases 90%

1s to 6s, the probability of bounce increases 106%

1s to 10s, the probability of bounce increases 123%.”

If your streaming solution is too slow and creates a bad user experience, it’s highly likely the viewer will simply go somewhere else. While 5G may help when it comes to mobile devices, ensuring latency is reduced as much as possible is extremely important and makes OTT testing essential. As Google noted, under 3 seconds to display content is best practice!

After speed comes reliability. It’s not just that the service is fast, but that it can reliably stream (or download) high-resolution video and other multimedia content to myriad devices that use various operating systems, in numerous locations with various levels of internet connectivity.

Viewers expect high quality every time, especially when they have a decent internet connection. If their streams lag or stop, it’s an immediate issue.

It’s All About the Experience

Beyond speed, reliability, and (not to forget) security, one of the most vital areas to get right is the customer experience. That your solution is useful, usable, and used. Without that, even the fastest and most reliable service will struggle to remain competitive.

At every point, the experience must be seamless, personalized, and positive. And that means on a wide variety of devices, operating systems, and browsers. User interface and user experience design must be intuitive and easy to use, and deliver a convenient, user-friendly experience. It’s no longer enough to focus solely on quality assurance; the customer must come first.

Put simply, are your menu options clear and easy to find? Does your search functionality do what is expected? Are playback functions working correctly (play, pause, etc.)? What about audio? Picture quality? Is everything syncing properly? Do you offer different resolutions? Are your recommendations appropriate?

All of this is a key component of testing streaming services. From UI, UX, and graphics testing, usability and bug testing, payments testing, localized usability testing, and much more.

As every technological and content component of your streaming solution becomes ever more connected, testing must take on a truly universal approach.

Get Ready for the Sequel

Streaming services and solutions are experiencing massive growth that is being boosted by high-bandwidth and fast networks, such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6, high-efficiency compression and cloud transcoding, and increasingly powerful devices with improved CPUs, GPUs, RAM, and storage.

This can only see further demand for streaming content. But it also means your products and services must stand out from the crowd.

With consistent, ongoing, and thorough testing in real-world conditions, your solutions can optimize the user experience, enable you to focus on developing great content, and ultimately, help you bring the house down.

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from Testbirds. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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