Latency, Controlling Costs Top the List of Streaming Tech Challenges

(Image credit: Pixabay)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—A new survey of video developers by Bitmovin highlights a number of ongoing tech challenges facing streaming services, with 41% of those technologists citing live low latency as a challenge, followed by controlling costs for such things as bandwidth and storage (33%), playback on all devices (32%), consistent monitoring and analytics (31%) and ad insertion (31%). 

Bitmovin’s fifth annual “Video Developer Report” also found that 41% of developers cited low latency streaming as an important tech opportunity for innovation at their service, followed by live streaming at scale (33%), viewer engagement and consumption (28%), media delivery and distribution (26%) and content protection and security (26%.)

In terms of the adoption of AI and machine learning, the survey found that 43% of respondents said they were using AI and machine learning in their audio transcription and speech-to-text efforts, followed by tagging and categorizing video (35%), personalization (34%), identifying scene or shot boundaries (34%), video quality optimization (33%), object detection (33%) recommendations (30%) and quality of service (24%). Only 12% said they had no plans to use AI or machine learning. 

In terms of other technologies, the survey found growing interest in commercial encoders, with 54% saying they used them versus 37% using open source encoders. 

The  use of cloud-based encoding services is also on the rise, hitting 33% in the 2021 survey, up from 32% in 2020 and 29% in 2019. 

The survey also found increased consumption and variation in device preference, with 81% of respondents delivering streams via HTML5 in desktop browsers, followed by 57% via HTML5 on Android. Philips was the preferred Smart TV brand in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) and while Vizio led the pack in North America. 

Interestingly, Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) is the most popular console for streaming in North America, outranking many Smart TV brands. Console use in all other regions of the globe is much lower.

The report also found that streaming device usage differs significantly worldwide. While Apple TV is most popular in North America and Asia Pacific, it comes in at only #5 in Latin America (LATAM).  Android TV is preferred in LATAM (44%) and EMEA (51%), with others, such as Chromecast TV, closely behind at 44% in LATAM and 38% in EMEA.  

The survey also highlighted some notable and important changes in codec usage. The AVC/H.264 video codec continues to dominate device reach, however newer and more efficient codecs, such as HEVC, VP9, and AV1 all saw increases in testing and production usage in 2021. HEVC is being deployed currently by nearly 50% of survey respondents.  

The survey also found increased AV1 usage on consumer platforms like YouTube and Netflix and support from affordable devices like Fire TV Stick 4K Max signals a potential shift toward broader AV1 adoption across the ecosystem. 

The reigning audio codec AAC continued its position at the top but did see some incremental decline over the past year while multiple Dolby audio formats rose in popularity and usage, the researchers said. 

Interestingly, the most popular streaming format, HLS, saw its first usage decline while CMAF rose in adoption from 21% to 26%.  

“This year’s Video Developer Report reveals several indicators about the continued maturity of the industry as a whole,” said Stefan Lederer, CEO and co-founder of Bitmovin. “We’re seeing increased consumption across the board, along with accelerated innovation and pressures from consumers to enhance innovation and personalization to deliver the seamless streaming experience they continue to expect. Center stage as well in this year’s results is the rising importance of video analytics platforms as a key element of scalability and successful workflows.” 

Now in its fifth consecutive year, Bitmovin has conducted its Video Developer Survey between July 7-August 22, 2021. Bitmovin surveyed a sample set of 538 video developers, industry experts, customers and prospects from 65 countries.  

The full report with more details on specific technologies and trends is available here

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.