By Steve Miller Jones
2020 will always be remembered as a year of dramatic changes. Most of us would not have anticipated the tremendous impact COVID-19 has on the way we live, but yet people everywhere were quick to adapt to the “new normal”. As people across the world are now spending significantly more time at home they’re consuming more online content than ever before. According to the How Video is Changing the World report released this year, consumers are now watching or using online video four times as much compared to before the pandemic, and over 85% of people globally now watch up to six hours of online video per day.
Online video has taken a greatly expanded role as a top source of entertainment, social interactions and information. The sudden increase in viewing has accelerated consumer expectations for video experiences and caused far more online traffic causing a need for more capability around the world. Furthermore, now that the internet is increasingly home for everything we need for work and play, the security of the services we rely on and the data that is used within them increases in importance.
To keep up with these changing demands, businesses need to be able to understand the current climate and consumer expectations, and take a proactive approach to deliver the experiences that audiences want. Moving into the new year, here are three top priorities that companies must keep in mind to keep viewers coming back for more.
1 – High quality, interactive experiences
For anyone working in technology, the last year has taught us that the more time people spend online consuming content, the greater the expectations for an enhanced viewing experience. Coupled with the impending rollout of the global 5G network and introduction of newer, faster, more intelligent mobile devices each year, audiences today expect to find what they are looking for with ease, and they want their desired content to load quickly and without buffering.
This greater demand for content is creating the opportunity for new, more interactive content, and this is driving the adoption of new services at the network edge. Good examples of these are image manipulation for different devices, and personalisation of video to offer the best bitrate and format for the device being used. This will continue in 2021 as businesses strive to meaningfully improve user experiences and open the door to exciting new real-time, interactive, IoT, and enterprise applications – all while reducing latency, bandwidth costs, and centralised server load.
With the growing consumption of content on mobile devices, the streaming world can also expect to see video technologies provide increasing efficiency through techniques such as content aware encoding and device specific bitrate selection. Focusing on all aspects of the video workflow from encoding through to presentation on the users screen will ensure that users are getting the experience to keep them engaged with the content . New services at the network edge will provide the opportunity to introduce new data, interactivity and social aspects into streaming services to enhance the user experience, without introducing latency and performance issues.
2 – Get tough on content piracy
According to a study by Muso, worldwide content piracy jumped 33% during the pandemic with people turning to easily accessible but illegal content to satisfy the need for entertainment at home. As the threat of content piracy evolves, businesses are looking for ways to tackle the issue head-on to protect their online assets, prevent copying and redistribution, and sustain revenue. In the year ahead we can expect to see new use cases and innovations within digital rights and content watermarking paving the way forward to tackle content piracy.
Furthermore, it is not just copying and redistribution that is hurting businesses’ ROI. Credential-sharing among consumers, a form of piracy in its own right, is another growing area of concern, as the State of Online Video report by Limelight Networks found that around one third of people around the world share streaming account login information with other viewers. From new innovations in user authentication to leveraging on machine learning to keep track of your end-user behavior and pick up unusual activity, businesses and technology providers will be spending time in 2021 focusing on the challenges of stream security, keeping content distribution channels secure, and identifying and blocking illegitimate access to content behind paywalls.
3 – Sustainability takes the front seat
The rise of green consumerism is calling for businesses to take greater responsibility for ‘greening’ their operations to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon footprint. According to a Global Web Index report this year, 84% of consumers say that they may stop buying from a brand with poor environmental track record.
With online traffic and demand for digital content increasing around the world, businesses should heed the urgent call to alter their mindset and make the environment a leading factor for decision-making. When it comes to delivering content, not only is it important to deliver the best possible user experiences around the world, they must also think about how to do so using as little energy as possible. Using service providers focused on quality and efficiency is going to become more important, and there will be benefits for those who are ensuring the capacity for distributing content is being created in partnership with the ISPs and Telcos.
Be the Viewer’s Choice in 2021
There’s no doubt that 2021 is going to be a new year of possibilities and challenges. Striking the right balance between meeting performance expectations and increasing capacity in a secure and sustainable way is key – and businesses that deliver on and exceed such expectations will be the viewer’s choice in 2021.
Steve Miller Jones is the Vice President of Strategy, Industry & Partners at Limelight Networks