Fox Sports Go executive says latency is still the No. 1 complaint with online video

From left to right: Jason Thibeault, Streaming Video Alliance; Andreas Engde, Viaplay; John Bishop, Akamai; Clark Pierce, Fox Sports Go.

NEW YORK—Broadcast television and online video are moving closer toward parity, but latency is still a big hurdle to overcome, particularly in terms of live sports.

At Streaming Media East today, Jason Thibeault, executive director for the Streaming Video Alliance, led a conversation with Clark Pierce; senior vice president of TV Everywhere for Fox Sports Go; Andreas Engde, project manager for Viaplay; and John Bishop, CTO of the media division at Akamai, on how far online video has to go until it can call broadcast an equal.

In terms of latency, Pierce said OTT, TV Everywhere and online video is still behind broadcast.

“We are acutely in touch with users and latency is the No. 1 complaint,” said Pierce, adding that social media monitoring is making the gap even more glaring.

The panelists agreed that the technology stack for online video will continue to evolve and that will help drive scale for those services. Bishop went so far as to say that this will be the year that internet latency will become less than cable latency. He added that Akamai he received calls from providers to slow down the internet feed on live because it was outpacing the cable feed.

“Online video has momentum right now,” Bishop said, adding that the customers that are leaving pay TV are still watching media, just on different platforms.

Outside of latency, other challenges discussed for online video included support linear (or 24/7, 365 content playout experiences, regardless if they’re live).

Bishop said linear is relatively new in the online video space and will still require more work to reach parity, but he said that online video has essentially match broadcast in terms of scale (on a relative basis) and fidelity. Pierce disagreed somewhat on fidelity parity but he reasoned that it’s because of consumers not necessarily caring. With online video, viewers don’t want Dolby all that much but 60fps is a big deal, Pierce said.

Bishop admitted that challenges for online video continue to pop up on the operational side and with monetization, which could be difficult to ever equal broadcast.

“Direct addressability is possible but that’s not the way ads are sold on television,” said Bishop.

On the inverse, Pierce said online video is likely ahead of pay TV and broadcast in terms of user experience. User interface updates and evolutions happen much faster on digital platforms than on pay TV platforms.