4C - leaderboard - 4-25-18

Analysis for 'Digital Fountain'

  • Video Quality Keeps Improving - What's it All Mean?

    Is it just me, or are you also noticing that the quality of your online video experience is getting consistently better and better? Even though I'm totally immersed in the space, periodically I will find myself watching something online and still think to myself, "This quality is just unreal!"

    I've had the experience of watching some or all of the following recently: the Democratic convention on demconvention.com, the movie "Ordinary People" on Hulu, swimming on NBCOlympics.com, trailers on Fancast and "Eli Stone" on ABC.com, among others. In each case, the quality of the video is outstanding, even in full screen mode.

    All of this is due to tremendous innovation in the content delivery world. This includes not only traditional CDNs such as Akamai, Limelight, Level 3, CDNetworks and others, but a raft of other players specifically focused on optimizing video delivery quality such as Move Networks, Swarmcast, Digital Fountain, Vusion, BitGravity and others. Further enhancing the experience are improvements in media players like Windows Media, Flash, QuickTime and more recently Silverlight.

    The innovation and investment in this space shows no signs of abating. I was reminded of this just last week in a call with Perry Wu, CEO and co-founder of BitGravity, which yesterday announced a strategic relationship and investment from Tata Communications (part of Tata Group, the massive Indian conglomerate).

    Perry explained that the underlying theme of the deal is to deliver video at consistently high quality on a global basis. That aspiration fits with the increasingly international-oriented distribution strategies I hear about from content providers. While fast-growing international markets have been core growth drivers for content companies, frictionless and cost-effective IP delivery is creating a whole new ball game. I expect international reach - and the ability to monetize with locally-appropriate advertising - to become more and more important.

    Meanwhile, back in the U.S. surging video quality means the bar is getting higher for all video providers. Delivering video without a full-screen option, or where the audio and video aren't synched perfectly, or where rewind/instant play isn't available will soon be perceived as sub-par. For budget-minded broadband content startups this will require heavier investments in delivery services if they're to be taken seriously.

    For traditional networks and the Hollywood community, higher quality broadband delivery means the shift from on-air to online consumption will only accelerate. As more consumers come to see broadband as a legitimate alternative, they'll continue modifying their behaviors. With these shifting eyeballs comes a slew of economic challenges (the "analog dollars to digital pennies" anxiety) that must be urgently addressed.

    Lastly, for the owners of local broadband networks (cable operators, telcos, etc.) surging video quality increases the pressure on their networks' delivery capacity. When a handful of users are watching high-quality long-form video that's one thing. But what happens when it's the norm? Bandwidth management and net neutrality debates are sure to intensify.

    While all of these uncertainties swirl, consumers are gleefully seeing a high-quality video Internet unfold that just a few years ago would have seemed unimaginable.

    What do you think? Post a comment.

     
  • Just Back From Digital Hollywood: Broadband Video’s White Hot

    Just back in from 2 days at Digital Hollywood. First, kudos to Victor Harwood for successfully expanding the conference to 2 adjacent hotels this time around. As always, it was a major schmooze-fest. Some quick observations: tons of energy, lots of networking and meetings, and many people trying to figure out how to turn ideas/technologies into real businesses.
     
    I moderated a session that should win an award for Clunkiest Title (see more about session here), but we had an standing room-only audience and all our panelists were fully engaged in a spirited discussion. (I certainly learned a lesson - don't bring up the whole "how's-broadband-going-to-connect-to-the-TV" discussion with only 10 minutes to go! Everyone has an opinion on that one.)
     
    Executives from 3 content providers (Showtime, IMG and Associated Press), plus 3 technology companies (thePlatform, Digital Fountain and Entriq) thoroughly hashed out everything from how distributors will distinguish themselves in the broadband era (answers included optimizing advertising, best user experience, most traffic, not possible) to how broadband-only content providers generate a following (viral distribution, building a brand, doing distribution deals) to what business model has the most potential (some agreement that ad-supported and paid will eventually both work, but that ad-supported is where much of the action will be for a while).
     
    It's just so fascinating to me how quickly we've moved from the "here's what I think's going to work" stage to "here's what is actually working" stage. While I'm fond of saying that the broadband video industry is still in the 1st inning of its ultimate evolution, there are already a lot of very solid lessons learned.
     
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