Disney+ and the streaming wars were all the rage in 2019 and this occupied much of the industry’s mindshare. Cord-cutting will still be important in 2020, but if you ask me what’s going to be new and exciting next year, OTT is not the answer.
The new decade will be more focused on niche audiences and niche content that is not produced in Hollywood. The 3 areas that I think will boom next year are Social Mobile Video, Video at Work and Cloud Gaming. The technologies that are needed to build these platforms are new and interesting. Here are some predictions:
Mobile Social Video + Gen Z
The success of services like Vine, Twitch, Youtube and Instagram has proven that large audiences will watch and enjoy user generated content. But there’s a new app in town, and it’s called TikTok (by Bytedance). If you haven’t heard, it’s the fastest growing app in the world, with reportedly 500M active users!
This app is extremely popular with teens (Generation Z) who feel very comfortable broadcasting themselves and consume video intensely. When I walk on the streets of my hometown, I see young people all around just casually recording themselves. Recording a video in 2020 will be like taking a selfie in 2010. Consumption will also skyrocket - watching your friend’s funny vid might be more entertaining than watching your favorite show on Netflix.
The technical challenge: The ascent of user generated content means that an unbelievable amount of video will need to be uploaded, transcoded and stored. So far, high-res hasn’t been TikTok’s focus, and their video quality is average at best. As competition grows, and you can bet on seeing 4K, HDR and maybe even AR/VR in the near future. Now imagine what kind of infrastructure you’ll need to sustain more than 500M active users at those bit-rates.
If every TikTok user creates just one 10-second video, they will generate 1.3M hours of video that needs to be ingested! For comparison, Netflix needs to process less than 100K hours of video per year!
Video Streaming at Work
The Zoom IPO in 2019 showed that video collaboration within enterprises is super important. But, it’s not just about real-time conferencing -- there’s also VOD and webcasting. For example, it’s important for CEOs to communicate clearly during all-hands meetings and video is one of the best mediums through which to deliver a personable, authentic message. These one-to-many video broadcasts need to look great and definitely can’t be pixelated like an everyday video conference.
The technical challenge: Today, executing a webcast entails taking a video feed from a webcam or a professional camera, encoding it, packaging it, and streaming it using HLS or DASH. When thousands of employees try to watch a webcast of their CEO at the same time, thousands of streams need to enter the corporate network from the Internet. The office ISP link can get easily congested.
New or improved hardware (local caching, improved network equipment or multicasting) can be the solution, but we predict that most enterprises will choose software instead. Given that most employees now use Chrome as their primary browser and Edge will be Chromium based starting on January 15th, many companies will leverage WebRTC to form peer-to-peer mesh networks that keep most of the video bandwidth within the local office network.
Peer5 has done this for many years and we’ve recently seen growing demand for this use case, especially from large global companies like SAP. It’s a huge win for these customers because they can now easily deliver high quality video to all of their offices without worrying about network saturation and without the security and IT complications that go hand in hand with hardware solutions. If you want to hear more about how we deliver SAP’s internal video, check out our session next month at Kaltura Connect.
There may come a day when you don't need a game console or fancy PC to play the latest video games. Google, Sony, and Nvidia are betting big on streaming video games.
This is definitely not a classic use case for video. The idea is that you run games on cloud infrastructure and stream them to a “dumb” end user device that only decodes and plays the video. The benefit is that you can play games without pre-installing them and without the expensive hardware that is required for high end graphic rendering.
One of the most interesting projects in this space is Google’s Stadia service which recently launched (watch demo on youtube)
Stadia service streams a 4K, 60fps video of the game you’re playing to any device you choose.
Admittedly, Stadia has had a rough start, but it’s only the beginning. GeForce Now, Microsoft xCloud, EA’s project Atlas and Playstation Now are all trying to do the same thing. Others will join the fray in an attempt to capture a piece of the $230B gaming industry with easy-to-use, easy-to-buy services. Suddenly, being really good at video streaming is a key to winning the video game business. Any latency (aka lag or delay) is very annoying to end users and makes games less enjoyable or even frustrating. Gamers are not going to ditch their expensive consoles and PCs unless these new services work flawlessly, and we’re not there yet.
The technical challenge: Building this is EXTREMELY hard. Well funded companies like OnLive have tried and failed.
In order to play games remotely, you need really low latency. Think about how much time passes when your avatar jumps. Well, that’s how much time these game services have to (1) convey your intention to jump to the remote server, (2) generate the video of your avatar jumping in the game environment and (3) deliver that video back to your remote device. This requires ultra low latency, and Google is leveraging WebRTC for this. To check out some more technical details, you can watch Justin Uberti’s talk
Social video, corporate video and cloud gaming will push us technologists to improve video quality even more. We need to make sure it works at scale (social), on any network (including at work) and sometime at ultra low latency (gaming). Hard work, true, but very rewarding for the companies that are able to come up with the best solutions for these problems.