By Mika Skarp
Today over 50% of all Internet traffic is video. By 2020 it’s been predicted to top will 90%. And while the proportion of overall traffic will rise dramatically, so too will the total volume. Looking at these numbers tends to ‘bucket’ video within some monolithic category like say ‘fiction’, or worse yet “books”. But of course video is more like a prism, with nearly endless categories serving a spectrum of niche and micro-niche segments.
This is how I see the future of video and how we might approach segmenting it from the perspective of delivery.
The first and the most obvious video category is TV. Of course young people don’t call it TV anymore and they are right not to. It isn’t broadcasted, and it isn’t programmed in anything like the way it was when it truly was TV. With today’s TV-like video services the key driver is the availability of an unlimited number of channels, or better yet, video content streams to choose from. Whether delivered by Cable, DSL, Fiber or Satellite the defining feature of this category is the fact that it is “programmed” and provides a continuous sequence of predetermined (either by the viewer or the content company) streams based primarily on a push model. Depending on the service package and technology used to access these “Licensed Production” streams, they may be viewed as scheduled or recorded for later viewing by way of a PVR system. Although PVR allows for On-Demand, this is not the same as VoD direct streaming
In contrast to pre-programmed video content, is the now well entrenched Video-on-Demand type services offered by Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and others that provide access to their hand-picked content on a “pull” basis. This is largest commercial category for so called OTT or Over-The-Top video. From a production standpoint, one of the biggest differentiators here is that these services will tend not to focus on live (or pre-recorded) TV shows, but more on movies and television series, though the lines are blurring here as well. While some of the same programs may be available via Carrier IPTV and Cable, like say Game of Thrones, it is based on a pull rather than push model that puts the viewer in the programmer's chair.
One f the common defining features of both of these categories, push and pull, is that production ownership and licensing are very clearly defined. In the case of services like Netflix, HBO and others, they are the producers.
The next category is live content streaming, which is generally confined to the first, Cable or Satellite provider, but is increasingly being distributed across multiple platforms including YouTube. While live streaming is the most like traditional TV in that it is strictly programmed and in real-time, it is in fact the most technically difficult, most often carrying highly dynamic sports, politics and major cultural events. A good example of how this area is evolving is BT’s recent announcement that they will be feeding major league football broadcasts via from YouTube Live. And though the large content and communication providers dominate in this area due to the technical challenges of undertaking live streaming, it is also the medium for a growing array of specialty niche producers serving the long tail of viewer segments. Still, this content is “produced” by a company, organization or consortium.
This is where what we might call commercial video content contrasts with non-commercial, a growing category that is further blurring the lines between content producers and their audiences. This fourth category covers so called “User Generated” content, or video produced by non-professional entitles. Until now, this has largely been the domain of the "YouTube Generation" that allows anyone with a video camera and computer to broadcast to the world. We say that they are in the non-commercial category, though they may very well become commercial as their channels and streams grow in popularity. Long chronicled in the mainstream press, and recently showcased in Forbes magazine are the superstars of YouTube; individuals who, like live video gamer Swede boast tens of millions of subscribers and may pull in upwards of 25 Million dollars a year for their efforts.
But for the dull normals, like say me and my band, it creates some interesting dynamics. If I broadcast our jam sessions or shows on YouTube we are clearly the owners of the content and merely hoping to get some fans and exposure. But what happens if we are covering a Prince (RIP) song? De Facto, as long as we’re not pulling in big ad revenues, we’ll be left well enough alone. The Prince estate would certainly restate its ownership were things to change. And now how about if we’re playing live and our audience starts to stream their own videos of our shows? It quickly becomes a challenge to define authorship and ownership.
This is an emerging area which is already taking off with the arrival of “live call” services like Periscope, Facetime and Facebook video. While this may have found its roots in the B2B marketplace via WebEx, Skype etc., its tremendous growth in popularity on the consumer side presents a challenge for content producers and owners, and especially those laying down the bucks for major live events. When thousands of people begin "self-casting" their own POV of an Olympic event littered with licensed trademarks including the event itself, issues are bound to arise.
The fifth category is Virtual and Augmented Reality, and it’s as yet undefined as the 5th Generation of telecom that will have no choice but to support it. We posit that with the truly ground-breaking experience provides, its natural appeal and voracious demand for bandwidth, it will soon become the dominant consumer of video capacity. Although the mobile phone has quickly become entrenched in our day–to-day lives, it is in fact not a very natural human behavior. While the human animal wants to belong to a group and interact, we find ourselves isolated and silent in a strange one-way conversation with our devices; almost like reading book. Virtual Reality shatters that paradigm, letting us into a fully immersive 3D world with our “friends”, real or so called. Whether experiencing it as a voyeur, or broadcasting ourselves within it, VR and the slightly improved experience of augmented reality changes our relationship to video forever. And at 4K per eye it may well change our relationship to actual reality as well.