Level 3 Communications

Jon Alexander

The Evolving OTT Landscape and its Network Implications: Insights from Our 2016 OTT Survey

 

No one will debate OTT video is here to stay, but when you look at the different technologies, formats and experiences associated with OTT, there are still a lot of questions around the industry at large. That’s why, for the second year in a row, Level 3 teamed up with Streaming Media and Unisphere Research to discover what the current state of OTT looks like, and the industry’s outlook for the future, particularly given the increasing popularity of virtual reality  and 4K video.

The study, titled “The OTT-Video Services Market – Today’s Trends and What is Next for 4K, HDR, HFR and VR,” surveyed more than 600 respondents from media and entertainment companies across the globe. What we found is a greater number than anticipated of OTT businesses have either already implemented these trending technologies, or plan to implement them in the near future.

Virtual Reality

Let’s first look at VR-video, which has dominated the technology news cycle the past six months. Our research shows more than half of companies offering OTT services are actively researching, getting ready to launch or have already launched VR-video content. In addition, 67 percent of OTT companies say they believe VR is here to stay. Given VR was considered a novelty technology just a few years ago, the rapid pace of acceptance is striking.

4K Resolution

Like VR-video, strong promotion of 4K resolution the past couple of years boosted consumer awareness and is now driving OTT industry response. Close to 50 percent of the survey respondents indicate they have plans for 4K development in the forms of broadcasts, video-on-demand (VoD), live-linear or live event streaming. And while today the amount of 4K content is fairly limited (much like high-definition content was 10 years ago), given the shipment of 4K television sets – 48.1 million anticipated in 2016, up from just under 1 million in 2013 – we expect 4K content production will rise rapidly to meet growing demand.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) and High Frame Rate (HFR) Video

Finally, let’s talk about HDR and HFR. HDR allows for a wider range of colors and brightness in video. HFR refers to the use of more frames per second (fps) than the current cinema standard of 24 to allow smoother video playback. For example, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 has the ability to capture 1080p video at 60 fps – more than double the industry standard. Our study confirms nearly 70 percent of respondents currently offering OTT services offer or plan to offer HFR in existing HD video, as well as HDR content for greater color depth and enhanced viewing experience.

Given the networking implications of these bandwidth-heavy technologies, one of the biggest concerns becomes network performance and how to deliver content effectively to end users, no matter their location. This is why we asked the question regarding companies’ CDN strategies, and not surprisingly, 40 percent are using multiple CDNs. CDNs are the go-to technology for streaming because they are built to handle high quality video and deliver it quickly, securely and seamlessly. In addition, CDNs can rapidly scale up to meet spikes in demand, which is essential when you consider the exponential growth of OTT consumption. I anticipate CDN usage to increase as more of this content is developed and companies need the ability to deliver it to end users globally.

My key takeaway from this study is that in today’s OTT environment, the network has never been more important. In order for OTT companies to keep pace with this evolving industry, they’ll need to closely examine their network strategy and make sure they have the right infrastructure in place to support new video formats and increased demand.

 

 

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Jon Alexander builds products to make the web fast, reliable and secure. Outside of work, he is a displaced Brit exploring Colorado.