2016 was a big year for live streaming. Facebook Live launched, new technologies like 360° and VR live streaming were developed, and records were set for live stream viewership across the board. Here at DaCast, we’ve spent the last week reflecting on 2016. Based on that analysis, we’ve derived several predictions for this year. Here are the top 7 live video streaming trends we expect for 2017.
1. Increasing streaming adoption across the board
In 2017, bandwidth dedicated to video traffic is expected to make up 74% of internet use. This fact, combined with other trends, leads us to believe that live streaming will continue to experience strong growth in 2017.
Young internet users seem especially drawn to video, which gives us a glimpse of the future. On platforms like Snapchat, users watch over 10 billion videos per day and Facebook accounts for more than 8 billion video views from 500 million viewers per day. That market size alone is global in scope and game-changing in nature.
Increasingly, users are watching content on two screens at once. Often that means watching content on a phone while simultaneously watching on a TV or computer screen. This trend represents an opportunity to reach users who would otherwise only be accessing content via traditional broadcasting platforms.
2. More broadcasters moving into live streaming OTT video
OTT video stands for “Over The Top,” a new trend in content broadcasting. Essentially, OTT video refers to media companies making their TV shows, films, and other video content available via the internet “over the top” of traditional broadcasting channels.
HBO is one example. For years, their video was only available via cable subscription. Now they’re bypassing the middleman and distributing their material directly online via HBO GO so you can enjoy your TV show at any time and everywhere. Netflix and Amazon TV are also OTT video providers more and more present in our daily life.
Live streaming OTT video content is ideal for events like concerts, sports, and similar happenings. Twitter’s experiment with live streaming NFL games was a major success, reaching more than 20 million viewers. In 2017, we expect both live streaming and on-demand OTT video content to become even more mainstream.
3. Virtual reality, especially VR streaming, is becoming more widespread
VR refers to a wide range of technologies around video. The most common implementation is a headset that allows a user to “look around” inside a video or generated environment (like a video game). These headsets finally became widely available in 2016, and more than 12 million units were sold. This number is likely to skyrocket in 2017 as prices fall and computing power increases.
We’ve covered this topic previously in some detail. VR video is likely to be the future platform of choice. In the meantime, 360° video is a bridge technology that is coming into its own. At DaCast we support 360° streaming if your chosen video player, camera and encoder can support the format.
Twitter just added support for this tech in the final 3 days on 2016. NBA games are now available via NBA League Pass and NextVR. In 2017, more video players, web browsers, computers, and providers will be adding support for this technology.
Gaming is likely to be one of the first areas to truly harness this technology. Sony’s PlayStation-branded VR headset has already surpassed Oculus and HTC VR platforms. Look for more video pioneers to experiment and break new ground in VR streaming in the coming year.
4. HTML5 video supplanting Flash entirely
The roots of Flash go back nearly two decades. Using Flash for video tends to require greater battery and processing power compared to HTML5 video. Flash has also been plagued with major security vulnerabilities for years. Thus, major companies have backed away from Flash. Neither iOS nor Android support Flash formats. The Chrome browser has also pretty much dropped support for Flash. More and more CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) are following suit.
As fewer websites use Flash for video, we believe Flash to pretty much bite the dust in 2017 except for free online games since its use is remaining quite widespread.
Rising in Flash’s stead will be HTML5. HTML5 video is simply more lightweight, faster, secure, and compatible. It’s also open source, which is a big plus for many users.
5. Rise of next-gen formats like H.265
Next-generation video compression formats are likely to start hitting the mainstream this year. These next-gen formats include H.265 (also known as HEVC) and AV1. These technologies will significantly improve the performance of online video by using complex mathematics to “throw away” superfluous data. For example, H.265 delivers similar video quality at half the bitrate (and thus half the file size/data requirements) of H.264. AV1 aims to be even more efficient than H.265, and is a royalty-free technology.
Until now, the barriers to adoption for these technologies have been significant. A major back stock of devices that don’t support these modern compression technologies is one of the main challenges. However, with these new next-gen formats coming, things might change this year.
Today the most common video compression standard remains H.264. H.264 is used for almost all online video, as well as on other platforms like Blu-Ray. Another common compression standard is VP9.
6. HDR/HFR start to creep into the market
In 2017, both HDR and HFR will become increasingly common. They are increasingly supported on 4K TVs and monitors that are becoming the default display technology.
This is partially enabled because HEVC and other next-gen compression standards make it possible to pack the extra data required for HDR or HFR into manageable file sizes. Over the coming year these technologies will begin to creep into more broadcasts and live streams.
HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a technology that allows screens to display a wider range of tones, from bright to black. Whites are whiter, and blacks blacker. In between, there’s more detail captured.
High definition video doesn’t support HDR. However, 4K UHD (Ultra High Definition) video supports a wider dynamic range. These images appear much more life-like. 4K Blu-Ray already uses HDR video, but a new standard—Dolby Vision—promises to bring an even wider dynamic range and color gamut to video in 2017.
HFR, or High Frame Rate, isn’t a new technology, but it’s use is becoming more common. Traditionally HFR video has been used for sports. Delivering video at 60 or more fps (frames per second) makes motion crisp—and allows slow-motion replays. However, the effect’s usefulness isn’t limited to just sports. Some visual studies have shown that frame rates from 60-80 fps and higher result in a more life-like, clear, and smooth video.
7. 4K streaming becomes common
In 2017, 4K live streaming will become more of a norm. As one analyst puts it, “4K is now formally, concretely, and fully here to stay.” As internet speeds increase and video compression advances, this shift is inevitable. H.265 is expected to deliver 4K video at 15-20 Mbps (megabits per second), a speed that many home broadband internet connections can support.
Last year, we predicted that 4K video would begin to emerge as a trend in the broadcast movement in 2016. That prediction has come true. On-demand video providers like Netflix and Amazon are already offering 4K content. YouTube also distributes in 4K, and many other broadcasters are coming on board.
If you’re a big broadcaster, you probably already have a plan for 4K. If you’re a bit smaller, it’s time to start planning. The world of content is changing, and we all have to adapt if we want to keep up.
Conclusion: Looking forward
We expect some big changes in the video industry, and specifically in live streaming this coming year. Technologies that we can expect to completely revolutionize the world of streaming are starting to appear. The future is ultra-high resolution, high frame rate, high dynamic range, HTML5 video, VR streaming, and more. More changes are on the horizon. For example, Streaming Media has declared SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) the best business model for OTT video—something DaCast predicted back in 2012.
Armed with these predictions, we hope that broadcasters and video producers can be prepared for these changes. Here at DaCast, we do our best to anticipate future trends in the industry by following developments and talking with thought leaders in a wide variety of video and broadcast businesses. We’re excited about the advancements coming up in 2017!