Help For Poor Video (Especially Live Streaming) Experience May Be On The Way

For all of video’s dominance of our waking hours — and all the toil and creativity invested in creating and distributing video ads and content — the experience is still often less than optimal.

In fact, the industry continues to be plagued by “huge” problems when it comes to latency and multi-device playback functionality, according to the latest Video Developer Report from multimedia tech company Bitmovin.

You don’t have to understand a lot of the underlying technology to grasp that interruptions and frustration are not likely to enhance the effectiveness of video ads or ads inserted in video content.

This third annual report from Bitmovin is based on a survey of 542 executives involved in video development at broadcasters, streaming providers, publishers and social media companies in 108 countries.

The headlines: Latency — broadcast delay to us non-techies — is the biggest technical challenge, cited by fully 54% of respondents.

“Delivery delays can be a particular painpoint for online streaming compared to traditional broadcasters, especially for live sports events,” notes the report.

The second-biggest problem — cited by 41% — is trying to ensure playback on all devices. The good news is that it is down by nine percentage points from last year. 

And the broader good news is that the poll also points to some progress toward adoption of new solutions for addressing these problems.

“The findings show a shift toward new-breed technologies such as AV1 and artificial intelligence (AI)” as well as machine learning (ML) and low latency, according to Bitmovin CEO Stefan Lederer.

Specifically — although 91% said that their companies are still using the HEVC (H.264/AVC) codec for the data compression that is critical to transmission speed, and usage of the newer VP9 appears to be flat — 7% said they are using the next-gen AV1 codec, and 21% said they expect to start using it in the coming year. 

AV1 has been found to deliver a 30% or even 40% performance improvement over HEVC and VP9.

AV1 is positioned to surpass VP9 and begin to compete with H.265/ HEVC as the leading open-source solution, driven by the rollout of AV1-capable devices by major device manufacturers, browser vendors and content distributors, including Cisco, Mozilla, and YouTube, Bitmovin points out.

Also, about 62% report that they plan to start using low-latency live streaming by the end of next year, more than half (53%) expect to achieve live-streaming latency of under five seconds, and 30% think they can bring it down to under a second.

In addition, 56% of respondents indicated that they expect to implement one of the most promising advancements, AI/ML-based video workflow solutions, within the next two years. 

With ML, “the encoder can make smart decisions about compression settings and visual parameters of each frame, speeding up processing and improving encoding efficiency,” explains the Bitmovin site. “The encoder performs a detailed video analysis and the machine-learning algorithm improves over time, continuously optimizing the encoding parameters.” 

“We believe that this is a topic that needs to be closely monitored and tested, as this number is predicted to increase,” notes the report. 

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