As of 2020, more people around the world were streaming video content into their homes than ever before. 60% of all global internet traffic is devoted to streaming video, and 85% of US internet users stream online video. This rise in video streaming has been driven by improving internet connection speeds, increasing content options, and Covid-19.
“A recent survey from Altman Vilandrie & Company showed that half of U.S. viewers are watching more TV and movies since COVID-19 started. Twenty-two percent of consumers are watching an additional five hours of TV or movies per week than they did before COVID-19.” – How to Trust Your Player
In the opening session of Bitmovin’s live video series for Bitmovin LIVE: IBC Edition 2020, guests from Beenius, Broadpeak, and Castoola weighed in on the future of streaming video and OTT content. Among the topics discussed were viewer engagement with streaming video.
There’s an exciting opportunity for online video providers to capture market share and improve user experience by increasing viewer engagement. Bitmovin’s 2020 developer report found that improving/increasing viewer engagement was one of the top opportunities seen by the 792 industry participants.
In this article, I’ll share some of the video tech trends discussed in the Bitmovin webinar and look at how you might take advantage of them to engage users more deeply with your content. While Covid-19 might be accelerating these trends, many of them will continue long after we have a vaccine.
Video Technology Trend #1: Synchronized Viewing
While live events and sports have suffered due to the global pandemic, they’re starting to come back in streaming formats. Viewers who want to stay engaged with their favorite teams, but aren’t ready to sit in a crowded stadium will likely prefer to watch this content at home. Synchronized viewing allows them to safely enjoy the company of their fellow fans, and it opens up a world of opportunities for video providers who want to add a social component to their services.
While social networks like Facebook, Twitch, and Twitter all have live-streaming capabilities, their primary focus is on content creators who want to share videos with their fans. This leaves a considerable gap for providers to build creative social experiences centered around a live video feed. These experiences can dramatically improve viewer engagement because they make viewers active participants and help them stay connected to their friends.
The trend towards synchronized viewing isn’t limited to live events. The popularity of niche social tools like Netflix Party proves that viewers want the experience of watching movies and TV shows together even when the pandemic precludes in-person gatherings.
Finally, social viewing is an excellent opportunity to increase market share. When a provider allows a viewer to share a video link with their friends to watch it with them, they’ve built a viral loop. Some percentage of these invited users will stick around and consume more content and invite more people.
Video Technology Trend #2: New Content Sources
Synchronized streaming isn’t the only way to improve viewer engagement with your content. Other providers are streaming variations of their existing content or soliciting viewers to submit original content.
Xavier Leclercq of Broadpeak offered the example of Formula 1 Racing giving viewers the option to switch between different live streams while watching a race:
- “What [F1 Racing has] done is really interesting. You have access to all the streams in an OTT fashion. So you can get different drivers. You can get the position on the map, and you have this idea of doing multiple streams on one screen…We had this before, but doing it on OTT is new.”
- “Experience is where we’re going to see the industry going forward: multiple streams per event, really high quality, really engaging content…This is where people engage emotionally with the content.”
Leclercq also mentioned Dish TV India’s successful efforts to get user-generated content and broadcast the best of it over satellite to their subscribers:
- “They have this portal where people can…compete for the best possible content. There’s a prize, people are being followed, and then at the end for a very small amount – maybe 1% of the competitors – get aired onto DTH [direct-to-home].”
As you would imagine, viewers who have a hand in creating and selecting content are highly engaged viewers. Traditionally, generating new content has been an expensive and time-consuming process. By broadcasting multiple streams of the same event and soliciting user-generated content, providers can multiply their offerings and improve viewer engagement without buying new media rights.
Video Technology Trend #3: Bundling
Along the same lines, many providers are pursuing content bundling strategies to keep viewers engaged without producing more of their own content. Bundling is generally good for viewers, as it means fewer services to keep up with and less logging in and out of accounts to watch their favorite shows.
Jure Žlak of Beenius points out that bundling is a significant opportunity for OTT providers to outmaneuver traditional telecommunications companies:
- “You could see through the years that the majority of telcos are offering more and more content, more and more channels for their subscribers, yet the average number of channels being consumed by household has not really moved up…So as viewers, we are locked at about 17 channels, and the rest are being wasted…”
- “I think the main opportunity here, for innovation, is going to be how to better engage the viewers…And I think one of the best ways of doing this is to think about bundling. Looking at some of our customers, they’ve definitely got the content already available without having to add additional channels or additional VOD assets.”
By bundling content from multiple sources, video providers can keep more viewers on their platforms for longer. This engagement is just one of the important pieces to building customer loyalty and increasing revenue.
Video Technology Trend #4: A Shift in Business Models
Covid-19 had a sudden and dramatic effect on advertising. “There has been a general drop in the advertising investment during the pandemic,” said Matej Puhan of Castoola, “And this has, of course, influenced every major shareholder to rethink their business models.”
While the AVoD model suffers, the SVoD model is thriving in 2020. During the initial lockdown, video streaming subscriptions grew by 9%, so it makes sense for some providers to supplement their advertising revenue with subscription offerings.
Building a long-term relationship with viewers as a subscription provider also has benefits beyond the initial cash. Subscribers tend to be very loyal to their streaming services, so providers can expect a multi-year relationship with their satisfied subscribers.
Other providers may find that reducing costs is essential when revenues fall and uncertainty rises. This is one area where solutions like Bitmovin’s can make a big difference.
- “One of the issues that we see out in the market are customers spending time and resources on projects that are not their core competencies…Like building a player or trying open-source encoding.”
Using high-quality video tools by a trusted provider can dramatically cut down your cost to build and support essential video functions like your player, analytics, or encoding.
Video Technology Trend #5: Decreased Latency
Another trend that’s complementing increased viewer engagement is decreased latency. In order to enjoy real-time events, chat with friends while watching videos, and synchronize experiences between mobile and big-screen devices, viewers need fast internet connections, and streaming providers need efficient video encoding.
With the release of 5G networks across much of the world and Apple’s Low-Latency HLS, more users will be able to stream high-definition video on the go. This introduces new opportunities for video providers to engage users on their mobile devices while watching movies or live streams.
Of course, keeping latency low will get more challenging as video quality increases. With 4k and 8k video becoming the norm, service providers will have to continue improving their encoding and delivery mechanisms. Engaging users with interactive experiences and synchronized streaming forces even more data through the pipeline.
How Can You Make the Most of These Video Technology Trends?
A lot is going on in the world of streaming video right now. While viewer engagement is a huge opportunity, it’s also probably not the only thing on your plate. Make sure you capitalize on the trends that best serve your customers and your business. You don’t have to rework your business overnight, but if you ignore viewer engagement, you’ll face an uphill battle as the OTT landscape continues to evolve.
Be sure to watch the entire discussion from Bitmovin’s IBC webinar here and download Bitmovin’s 2020 developer report to learn more about where the industry is heading this coming year.