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The year ahead: event-based streaming and enhancing the user experience

It is without doubt that 2020 has proven to be a transformative year in the world of video streaming, not least due to the wide-reaching impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

By James Burt, CTO, VUALTO

Video streaming service usage continues to break new records, with many people turning to it for at-home entertainment during government mandated lockdowns. In the UK alone, the number of households subscribed to a video on demand (VOD) service grew from 14 million in Q3 of 2019 to 17 million in Q3 of 2020, equating to 60% of households now having access to such a service. With different players joining the market every month, the pressure is on for content providers to curate a VOD offering which stands out, ensuring they meet ever-changing viewer expectations, especially with uncertainty around how the pandemic will continue to impact the broadcasting industry this year.

The rise of event-based streaming

We have already seen the importance of event-based streaming in times of social distancing, particularly for sporting events where fans have been unable to attend in person. Despite this year’s sporting calendar optimistically filling up, with the Olympics and Euro 2020 set to take place this summer, it is likely we’ll see continued caution around large-scale gatherings. Because of this, event-based streaming will continue to provide a reliable avenue for fans to enjoy events in a safe way.

Anticipating continued demand for events-based streaming, organizations will be seeking ways to rationalize their cloud streaming costs. A cost-effective solution can be leveraging infrastructure as code techniques, which enables broadcasters to only consume cloud resources when they’re required, banding together the required resources to spin up an event right before it begins and essentially decommissioning the technology post-event.

This approach not only provides greater flexibility and speed, but it also enables reactive scaling of infrastructure in line with demand. Implementation of an effective orchestration layer will also add resilience and redundancy to a live streaming solution, which will become crucial for large scale events. For viewers, the overall impact of adopting a dynamic approach will be in the delivery of the optimum experience every time, whether the event they’re watching is a cup final being streamed by millions or a niche sporting event with lower viewing figures.
Hand in hand with this increased focus on event-based streaming will be navigating the digital rights management implications, particularly when considering Live-to-VOD assets. Providers that may have initially facilitated free general access to content as a goodwill gesture in the wake of the early months of the pandemic will be switching their focus to monetisation to ensure sustainable future success. Integrated an effective DRM solution will be key to this.

Enhancing the user experience

Personalizing and empowering the user experience is set to be a key differentiator amongst different video streaming offerings, particularly as the market continues to become more fragmented and saturated. We may see other content providers following the example set by launch of Netflix’s linear TV channel in France, which broadcasts the streaming giant’s catalogue of VOD content via an ‘as-live’ channel. This gives subscribers the opportunity to revert to the traditional ‘lean back’ experience of consuming content as opposed to having to actively choose from an extensive library, providing a solution to ‘option fatigue’.

When it comes to personalizing the experience, metadata will play a key role, enabling users to search for content more easily and intuitively, whilst also delivering more accurate recommendations. Granular metadata can go one step further, allowing users to search for time-related events. This could be tries scored in a rugby match, for example, which then facilities the easier sharing of relevant clips via social media channels to boost engagement.

However, in this rush to provide the best user experience, the importance of inbuilt accessibility must not be overlooked. Integrations such as voiceovers and closed captioning will prove to be a key part of the product suite in 2021.

Another year like no other?

It’s clear that the video streaming landscape has undergone rapid growth in the last twelve months. Whilst we’re starting to see some figures levelling off, for many consumers the changes in their viewing habits will be permanent, and so broadcasters must focus on how to sustain momentum.

This will entail the finessing of events-based streaming orchestration, plus a focus on delivering a unique user experience, ensuring content providers have a competitive edge in a saturated market. In a landscape driven by consumer demand, considering infrastructure as code techniques and embracing a dynamic approach to scaling will be crucial, ensuring a quality viewing experience for audiences at all times.

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