Year in Review: Livestreaming, mobile drive online video space

Amazon FireTV
Amazon Fire TV. Image: Amazon

It’s almost time to bid farewell to 2016 and head into a fresh year with a fresh outlook. FierceOnlineVideo offers this brief look back at five of the top stories from 2016 that we’ll be following in 2017.

Amazon vs. Netflix: International edition

The year 2016 was essentially bookended by Netflix and Amazon, two of the biggest SVOD threats out there and two consistent content machines, setting their sights on international expansion. While Netflix has already gotten underway growing its subscriber base in more than 130 countries, Amazon Prime Video is just starting to test out its new 200+ country and territory footprint.

With both SVOD giants in the fray, it’s reasonable to expect not only much wider content budgets, continuing to put stress on other online video competitors, but also a new focus on localization in order to attract foreign market customers.

Windowing shift

Windowing, or the tiered pricing and scheduling around the release of premium video content, could be on its way toward a major overhaul in 2017. As Parks Associates analyst Glenn Hower pointed out, transactional VOD and pay-per-view rentals have been declining in past years while SVOD services have continued to gain market share and customer awareness. According to Hower, households spend an average of less than $1 per month buying and renting digital video.

To return that video segment back to growth, something needs to be done. Apple is already pushing Hollywood studios including 21st Century Fox, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures about offering movies on iTunes in a shorter time period after theatrical releases. Perhaps more importantly, Time Warner Inc. said it has been discussing the matter with theater owners, who cling tighter to wider release windows than any other party involved.

Livestreaming on the upswing

Livestreaming features on major social network platforms like Facebook and Twitter have grown over the past year, with Twitter, in particular, claiming a big prize with its NFL livestreaming agreement. But the rise of live streaming across the industry is generating significant demands on vendors for the technology.

In response to integrated livestreaming products from Akamai and Ericsson, for example, Verizon Digital Media Services this year launched its own livestreaming solution at IBC in September.

Nonetheless, live TV providers like DirecTV Now and Sling TV continue to struggle with the pitfalls of livestreaming.

Perhaps 2017 could be the year when livestreaming catches up to the QoE and QoS consumers have come to expect through years of traditional video viewing.

HEVC Advance and MPEG-LA

The High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) compression standard and the Ultra HD technology it supports is advancing slowly in the broadcast and online video industries because the existence of two patent pools, HEVC Advance and MPEG-LA, means studios using the codecs could have to pay twice for patent royalties.

Players are stuck choosing sides. For example, earlier this year HEVC Advance earned a vote of confidence when Warner Bros. agreed to join. "Having the support of a major studio like Warner Bros. will help eliminate HEVC/H.265 IP barriers and greatly accelerate UHD adoption," said HEVC Advance CEO Peter Moller in a statement.

More recently, HEVC Advance waived royalty fees for application layer software. Should developments like this continue in 2017, it could help heal the rift between the two pools and streamline the path for 4K to the mainstream.

Mobile video rising

Online video already accounts for a huge chunk of mobile usage and the numbers will only go up. Cisco for example predicts mobile data traffic on 4G networks will increase 800 percent over the next five years and mobile video is driving the bulk of that.

Online video hubs like YouTube have long enjoyed riding the swelling waves of mobile video viewership but competition is increasing almost every day. This year alone saw major launches from providers like DirecTV and programmers like Starz, and 2017 will likely see more livestreaming products from Hulu, YouTube and more.

That’s put added pressure on media companies like Turner, with numerous brands and apps vying for mobile video viewers. Turner, in particular, has responded by investing in You.i TV to help streamline the mobile video development and launch process.

In 2017, it’s likely that more media companies like Discovery, Viacom and Scripps will push harder to move their content out toward mobile, meaning the landscape will only get more crowded.