by James G. Barr
Streaming media is more popular than ever, as both consumer and enterprise users increase content consumption - whether audio, video, or multimedia. The content can be delivered in real-time (live) or on-demand. Trends in streaming media include platforms that enable delivery over multiple devices such as tablets, computers, smartphones, gaming systems, and blu-ray players as well as subscription-based video delivery services such as Netflix and Hulu. This report outlines trends in the streaming media marketplace.
Streaming media technologies enable the real-time or on-demand distribution and presentation of audio, video, and multimedia content over a communications channel, typically the Internet or a dedicated IP network operated by a service provider.
The presentation of streaming media has evolved into an integral part of the Internet experience for both consumers and enterprise users. Businesses are more likely to access services over a company's dedicated IP network, thus avoiding the public Internet and the traffic congestion associated with it.
Normally delivered at broadband speed, streaming media allows users to receive audio, video, and multimedia presentations without the need to download files to their computers, saving time and storage, and providing media owners with built-in copy protection. Today, streaming media is rapidly replacing static content forms such as CDs and DVDs, is facilitating e-learning initiatives, and being used to produce advertising campaigns.
The streaming media market is divided into multiple segments:
Among consumers, streaming media solutions are used overwhelmingly for real-time entertainment and, to a lesser degree, for web browsing, file sharing, gaming, and social networking.
Within the enterprise, streaming media solutions are most often employed for knowledge sharing, e-learning (also known as distance learning), and, increasingly, sales and marketing.
First appearing in the mid-1990s, streaming media enables the real-time or on-demand distribution of audio, video, and multimedia content over the Internet or dedicated IP networks operated by content delivery network (CDN) service providers. Streaming media was designed to eliminate the lengthy wait times involved in downloading audio and video files, since streamed media, especially streamed videos, can play almost as soon as the Internet transfer is commenced. The widespread availability of broadband access has accelerated the use of streaming media, furthering reducing content delivery lag time and improving the user's experience. Several dynamics affecting the marketplace include:
Probably the biggest driver in the streaming media industry is the ever-increasing demand among consumers, particularly young consumers, for music and video. Despite controversies surrounding peer-to-peer networking and users' rights to share copyrighted material, user-generated and shared streaming content have become a business phenomenon.
Another major driver is webcasting, in which organizations transmit audio, visual, or multimedia presentations over an IP-based network. Since anyone with a PC and a high-speed Internet connection can participate in a webcast, webcasting is gradually replacing more traditional forms of infrastructure-intensive audio- and videoconferencing. In addition to conventional webcasting, enterprise marketing departments use social networking such as Facebook and YouTube to introduce products and gain visibility for a marketing effort.
After years of trial and error, service providers are finally generating interest in paid video content. Users are as likely now to watch on-demand TV shows and movies on their computers, portable devices, or on-demand gaming systems and video players, as they are through their TVs and video players. This growing trend now eats up service provider bandwidth and creates demand for faster Internet speeds and fast, stable CDNs.
According to analyst Tim Siglin, cloud-based enterprise video platforms - whether employed for encoding, transcoding, distribution, or all three offers companies "the chance to push the heavy lifting of dozens of servers away from capital expense (CAPEX)-heavy server farm purchases - which may only see significant use once per quarter during the CEO's all-hands meeting - and toward an on-demand, per-instance overhead model that eliminates the need to budget operating expenses (OPEX) for maintenance of the oft-idle servers. One major issue upon which vendors and enterprise video managers agree is the need for strict security policies, especially with the growing number of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies within enterprise on a growth path to outpace employer-provided devices."1
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According to a survey released by Sandvine in May 2013, "the bulk of total [video streaming] usage growth comes from real-time entertainment traffic. Maintaining its status as the dominant traffic category in the region, real-time entertainment is responsible for over 68 percent of downstream bytes during peak period, compared with 65 percent six months ago. Netflix continues to be the unchallenged leader for traffic, accounting for 32.3 percent of downstream traffic during peak period." YouTube had 17.1 percent, Hulu had 2.4 percent, and Amazon had 1.31 percent.2
Just as television dwarfs radio in terms of audience interest, audio streaming represents a small slice of the overall streaming media market. At the present time, Pandora leads the field.
Content delivery networks are the principal engines for moving content - including streaming media - around the globe.
In a content delivery network (CDN), content is copied and distributed - or replicated - to strategically dispersed servers. When a specific page or file is requested by an authorized user, the CDN identifies the nearest server (as determined by the minimum number of nodes between the server and the user) and disseminates the information. By ensuring that content is delivered from the nearest source, data transit time - and, thus, system response time - are minimized.
The concept is analogous to a product distribution network in which an enterprise maintains three product warehouses, each stocked with the same merchandise. One warehouse is located in New York, another in Chicago, and the third in Los Angeles. If a customer located in Philadelphia orders a product, the product is shipped from the nearest warehouse (in this case, New York). Similarly, if a customer in Phoenix orders the same product, the product is dispatched from the warehouse closest to Phoenix (namely, Los Angeles).
According to an October 2012 report published by Markets and Markets, the global content delivery networks market is expected to grow from $2.5 billion in 2012 to $7.4 billion by 2017, at an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.6 percent from 2012 to 2017.
Major players in the CDN market include Akamai and Amazon.
According to a recent TechNavio report, "Global Video Streaming and Broadcasting Equipment Market 2014-2018, the market for video streaming and broadcasting equipment will grow at a CAGR of 13.43 percent over the period 2013 to 2018, reflecting the increasing demand for high definition (HD) programming and on-demand content.
The key vendors dominating this market space are Alcatel-Lucent, ARRIS, Brightcove, Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Harmonic Inc., Microsoft, SeaChange International, and ZTE Corporation.
The recent rapid expansion in video services is producing concomitant growth in the consumer electronics sector, particularly products that efficiently support streaming media. One of these products, the streaming media player, has enjoyed significant growth over the past few years. Multimedia Research Group (MRG) is forecasting that worldwide sales of streaming media players, led by Apple TV and Roku, will continue, with an estimated 8.3 million units shipped in 2012.3
Once considered a consumer toy, tablets such as Apple's iPad are now delivering business functions and acting as lightweight PCs. As such, consumers and business users expect that tablets will deliver high-quality video streaming.
The newest trend in streaming media is the mobile market. From smartphones to data-intensive phones like the iPhone, consumers and businesses want to provide content to mobile devices with roughly the same stream rate as users are familiar with via the Web. This has posed many challenges, as service provider networks that were fine for traditional communication have been overwhelmed with the increase in data iPhone users demanded. Streaming media companies have been scrambling to provide solutions.
Service providers and video distributors such as Netflix, Hulu, Comcast's XFinity, and others are moving consumption of television shows and movies away from traditional media such as DVDs and TV to multimedia platforms, including streaming over the Internet and through devices such as gaming systems (Nintendo Wii and Microsoft XBox) and blu-ray players. This market trend, anticipated for years, is finally taking off as competition in this market heats up and services are now highly profitable.4
The byword of business is collaboration. Streaming media takes much of the cost out of collaboration, providing multimedia presentations that can be viewed in real-time or on-demand. Information is available to all concerned parties almost immediately and provides security so that no unsecured data ever leaves the place of business. In addition, the use of streaming allows a business to track and report on all end-user activity whether in the organization or outside of it. Live streaming presentations often negate the need for expensive business travel and are replacing audio- and video-conferencing, which are often more costly. Newer packages add synchronized slides, video, and polling to the streaming. In addition, media recordings of meetings and other business dealings can be archived as part of a records retention program.
Businesses can utilize streaming media to deliver seminars, presentations, and training to employees via their desktop, either live or on-demand, reducing both travel time and expenses. Similarly, educational institutions can provide coursework online, and the use of on-demand content further expands their educational reach. With the reduction in cost and improvement in features, e-learning software has reached beyond universities to include general business training. For businesses, streaming media platforms can be tied into their learning management systems to deliver training to employees that work from home or in small offices.
In spite of the negativity spawned by such Internet phenomena as viruses, spam, and fraudulent ad clicks, Web advertising has proven enormously successful. Video ads continue to become more pervasive, and advertisers have more options than ever in the types of ads they deliver. Several that are used with streaming are:
As content providers collect more "metadata", their ability to deliver personalized content tailored to specific consumers will increase.5 While outwardly, feeding customers content based on past preferences may seem beneficial - both to the provider and to the customer - it also constitutes a form of censorship, limiting people's exposure to new ideas.
Streaming video will continue its rapid evolution in 2015. According to analyst Chris Knowlton:
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In the enterprise, employees often expect to be able to stream media for both personal and business use. Just as email forced information technology (IT) departments to expand their data storage and transmission capacity, streaming media will compel IT professionals to consider how media is produced, stored, and processed. A high-bandwidth broadband service provider is a must, as well as strong anti-virus software and firewalls to filter and block content with viruses.
Employee Personal Use. Companies should also create policies around Internet usage and determine if streaming media for personal use is acceptable on company computers and company-owned mobile devices. Policies for the "Acceptable Use of Streaming Media" may cover:
Streaming Media for Business Purposes and Profitability. Businesses may seek to maximize the use of streaming media for promotion, content distribution, and collaboration. Trends include:
Within the enterprise, streaming media should be considered a critical asset, and streaming media planning should be conducted in full view of IT, Security, Risk Management, and Legal Department officials.
Cisco Systems: http://www.cisco.com/
SeaChange International: http://www.schange.com/
2 Dara Kerr. "Video Streaming Is on the Rise with Netflix Dominating." CNET. May 14, 2013.
3 "Research and Markets: Streaming Media Players Find Their Niche Report Provides Information about Key Streaming Media Player Product Vendors." Reuters. February 4, 2013.
4 Sam Schechner. "Comcast Takes Aim at Netflix." The Wall Street Journal. February 22, 2012.
5 Andre Bourque. "Top 10 Streaming Video Trends You Can Expect in 2015." HuffingtonPost.com. January 24, 2015.6 Chris Knowlton. "The Year of Video Streaming: 5 Trends to Look for in 2015." TMCnet. December 24, 2014
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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity analyst and business writer with more than 30 years' IT experience. A member of "Who's Who in Finance and Industry," Mr. Barr has designed, developed, and deployed business continuity plans for a number of Fortune 500 firms. He is the author of several books, including How to Succeed in Business BY Really Trying, a member of Faulkner's Advisory Panel, and a senior editor for Faulkner's Security Management Practices. Mr. Barr can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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