Glass to Glass: Assessing the Video Ecosystem through the Lens of Crisis
Coronavirus has left millions of people confined to their homes and home offices, resulting in a massive shift to virtual work and online engagement, driving demand for streaming and OTT content to record highs, and exposing new hurdles for video streaming and delivery.
InterDigital recently sponsored a webinar discussion in conjunction with FierceVideo that discussed the innovations defining today's video ecosystem and exploring how this global pandemic might shape demand for, and access to, interactive video experiences. The webinar featured perspectives from four industry experts – InterDigital’s Alan Stein, ATEME’s Mickaël Raulet, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Mark Aitken, and Ultra HD Forum’s Benjamin Schwarz – each representing different facets of the video standards, technology, and delivery arenas.
Video Access over Quality
With so many aspects of our lives dependent on video technologies even before the pandemic took hold of the world, the unique circumstances of the coronavirus are causing the industry and consumers to look at video technologies in new ways. We all knew that the coronavirus would spark change in the ecosystem, but several changes are happening in unexpected ways. InterDigital's VP of Technology Alan Stein remarked that most people had an assumption that video "would just work" as our lives shifted online, an alternative that could not have happened 10 years ago. Many schools, for instance "turned to online education in a matter of weeks," Stein added. He noted that there have been reductions in "quality of experience, quality of service, and even a little downtick in quality of the video itself, but access became the main focus" for schools.
New Content Trends
Viewing habits have shifted almost entirely away from live sports, also, which was previously a huge user of bandwidth. "All of a sudden a whole lot of those pipes have gone empty," said Benjamin Schwarz, Communications Chair of the Ultra HD Forum. "But as we stopped watching all of that sport, a lot of us are watching a lot more news, which doesn't really fill the pipes up in the same way," so broadcasting companies have had to adjust their approach accordingly. Despite the very obvious economic downturn, the entertainment industry has largely maintained its resilience to global crisis, and with many more people spending more time at home, content viewing has reasonably increased since the pandemic began.
Regional differences in broadband access can have a significant impact on some users' viewing experiences, which creates unique challenges for technology providers and policymakers around the world. Consumers don’t often think about the amount of broadband necessary to enable video experiences. "When you have sufficient broadband for video, particularly upstream video, you don't think twice," said Stein. "The people who provision and configure networks may have to respond accordingly," he added, if their networks experience bottlenecks that could impact their users' ability to have their desired video experiences.
Video Standards Development
Panelists also briefly assessed the intersection of standards, wireless, and broadcasting, which have faced a series of interesting challenges and opportunities since the pandemic emerged. Coronavirus "has been delaying the 3GPP standards," said Mickaël Raulet, VP of Innovation at ATEME. "But at the same time, people are looking at new markets for 5G broadcast." You may learn more about how the pandemic is impacting 3GPP standards development here.
Compression is Key to Broadcast HD
On the production side, local news, in particular, is changing considerably, as news anchors are increasingly delivering the evening news and weather reports from their home living rooms. It's not just a change in appearance, as Mark Aitken, SVP of Advanced Technology for Sinclair Broadcast Group observed. Broadcasters are using newer tools and new models "like scalable HEVC: the ability to take the best of HEVC in the compression domain, to offer hybrid services where over the air broadcast at HD becomes a true enhancement channel with an IT backbone."
As the video ecosystem showcase its flexibility and resilience in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to recognize that the glass-to-glass video industry is actively tackling the challenge, and may change as a result. We will continue to watch these trends, and propose solutions and find new opportunities to drive immersive video experiences in the years to come.
You may download and watch the full webinar discussion, here.