Video streaming

The Evolution of Video Streaming: 2021 Predictions and Trends

Camilla Young, CEO & co-founder of VUALTO, gives her predictions for 2021.

It is without doubt that 2020 has proven to be a transformative year in the world of video streaming, not least due to the wide-reaching impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the UK alone, the number of households subscribed to a video on demand (VOD) service grew from 14 million in Q3 of 2019 to 17 million in Q3 of 2020, equating to 60% of households now having access to such a service. For content providers, the opportunities continue to grow, and the technologies to facilitate video streaming will only expand. With this in mind, what trends do organisations in the video streaming sector need to be aware of when devising their 2021 strategies?

The Rise of Event-Based Streaming

Two of the biggest sporting events in the 2020 calendar, the Olympics and Euro 2020, have been pushed back to the summer of 2021, leading to what will be a busy sporting calendar next year. Event-based streaming has taken on a new level of prominence already this year due to fans being unable to attend stadiums and venues. With the likelihood of continued uncertainty and a cautious approach from many fans who would usually attend events in-person, event-based streaming will continue to provide a reliable avenue for fans to consume content in a safe way.

With this increased demand for events-based streaming, organisations are looking to rationalise their cloud streaming costs. Using infrastructure as code techniques enable them to adopt the cost-effective approach of only consuming cloud resources when they’re required, a trend that is likely to continue into 2021. This dynamic approach to video orchestration, which entails banding together the required resources to spin up an event right before it begins and essentially decommissioning the technology post-event, not only provides greater flexibility and speed, but it also means that infrastructure can be scaled in line with demand, ensuring the best possible viewing experience at all times.

An increase in demand for live streamed events will open up a range of further considerations for content providers in 2021. One is digital rights management (DRM). Providers that have followed the strategy of facilitating access to free content as a goodwill gesture in the wake of the early months of the pandemic will need to consider monetisation of their valuable assets and switch to a paid platform to lay the foundations for sustainable future success. Ensuring an effective DRM solution is integrated with this will help enable content to be protected.

And it’s not just DRM which will need to be considered. Implementation of an effective orchestration layer adds resilience and redundancy to a live streaming solution, which will become crucial for globally attractive events that will bring in potentially millions of viewers.

Any content provider that is looking to offer event-based streaming on a large scale will also benefit from adopting solutions that are complemented by second line support engineers and third line access to developers. This access to expertise will give reassurance to providers that are increasingly adapting to the growing trend of end-to-end over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

Enhancing the User Experience

As the video streaming market continues to become more fragmented and saturated, content providers will need to explore means of personalising the user experience to gain a USP over competitors. Netflix recently launched a linear TV channel in France, which broadcasts its catalogue of VOD content via an ‘as-live’ channel, giving viewers the opportunity to consume content through a traditional ‘lean back’ experience as opposed to having to actively choose from an extensive library. This provides a solution to many consumers who are facing option fatigue due to the wide range of choice available to them.

Metadata will also be a crucial element in providing personalisation and enhancing the user experience next year. Content providers that utilise metadata processes in 2021 will see their users able to search for particular content types more easily, plus the ability for more accurate recommendations to be shown to each user. Granular metadata can go beyond by allowing users to search for time-related events in content such as goals scored in a football match, and provides the basis for providers to share relevant clips via other channels such as social media.

In the rush for content providers to enhance their user experience offerings to customers due to the increasingly competitive market, they also need to ensure that they don’t neglect the importance of providing accessibility options for users. Integrations such as voiceovers and closed captioning will prove to be a key part of their product suite in 2021 and leaning on the right external technical expertise will help them to achieve this.

As mentioned, it’s likely we’ll see a spotlight shone on the need to effectively monetise content due to market competition and saturation, and content providers can look to advertising-based VOD as an alternative avenue to bringing in more revenue. Including advertising within VOD content however can be a complex integration, and providers that are looking to adopt this will benefit from the expertise of a technology partner that can guide them through what may prove to be a steep learning curve in 2021.

Scaling to Meet Demand

The transformation of the streaming landscape this year has been largely underpinned by unprecedented levels of demand, and whilst some of this impressive growth is already levelling off, it’s likely that for many consumers, the changes in their viewing habits will be permanent.

For many organisations, 2021 will require the finessing of their events-based streaming, plus a focus on making improvements to the user experience in order to meet consumer needs. As the market grows and content reaches a saturation point, offering a unique user experience will provide the competitive edge that is required to attract and retain audiences. In a landscape driven by consumer demand, considering infrastructure as code techniques and embracing a dynamic approach to scaling will be crucial, ensuring a quality viewing experience for audiences at all times.

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