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SMW 17: Live Streaming Today and Tomorrow

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Live streaming will create an "experience economy" where user-generated content (UGC) will continue to compete with professionally produced content for viewers’ attention, according to speakers on the "Live Streaming Today & Tomorrow" panel during last week’s Live Streaming Summit, part of Streaming Media West. And they agree this ever-growing amount of live content will need purpose-built technology to move from a video-on-demand (VOD) architecture to a live streaming environment with its own network topology, metadata, and curation tools.

The UGC Rush Hour

"(The popularity of) streaming content from your device now means we have bidirectional congestion problems. Networks will have to scale up as that trend continues," said Dan Swiney, manager of live production and streaming for LinkedIn Media Productions. The online world was originally architected for VOD. "The market didn't contemplate this explosion of connected devices where we go from 10 billion in 2012 to up to potentially 50 or 75 billion in 2020," said John Petrocelli, CEO of Bulldog Digital Media. And now everyone is a content producer. "The number of contributions coming thru Facebook Live outweighs any other platform," said Swiney.

The Opposite of UGC

"I think a lot of the growth [in live streaming] will come from [the fact] that the broadcast industry is moving to over the top. Anything that is done today over the air, on cable, or satellite is moving more to be done over the internet," said Beamr CTO Dror Gill. Technology is helping broadcasters become more comfortable with OTT.

"We’re seeing more agreements being made to allow television stations to stream more of their content, in part thru the enablement of geofencing technology," said Skip Pizzi, VP of technology education and outreach for the National Association of Broadcasters. Syncbak is one such technology and is being used by CBS to stream content, he said.

Newer content formats will also prevail, according to the panelists. Petrocelli said he sees live streaming being driven by Madison Ave. with future opportunities in the music, fashion, and food verticals. "59% of U.S. audiences are sports fan, but 91% listen to music," he said. "We see concerts where people tune in for 25 minutes and music festivals up to 60 minutes." 

In contrast, brand marketers and platforms tell him they’re lucky to get 3-5 seconds of attention from a viewer. In addition to viewers watching these live events, many are also actively sharing social video as well, further congesting the internet.

Discovery and recommendation presents another challenge. When you have so much live content available, how do you find the right content. What’s needed, according to the panelists, is real-time metadata creation to help viewers find content being generated. Gill also said viewers will look to their friends to curate the experience, or there may be producers who curate content and create their own mini-channels to provide, for example, the best food-related content.

An HDR World

"HEVC is going to help reduce the bandwidth requirements," said moderator Chris Knowlton, partner and chief strategy officer at BlueFrame Technology, "but on the other hand it requires more resources to encode the content and play back the content, and that usually needs more expensive hardware."

"The sets that are out right now are doing a pretty good job of up scaling HD to 4K automatically, whereas the other stuff—like high dynamic range, wide color gamut and 10 bit color—not so much," said Pizzi.

"There are mobile phones today that have a 4K resolution, but everybody turns that off because you can't see the pixels," said Gill. On the other hand, phones are beginning to support HDR. "I think HEVC will be used for this much more than it will be used for 4K delivery."

Not only has the world decided that everything should be done in video, but the social aspect of sharing and interactivity has replaced the friendly conversation in front of the TV. "People want to be at experiences," said Petrocelli. "If they can’t be there, they want to have a collaborative, participatory experience and tune in to that live engagement."

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