Skype To Keynote Streaming Show: Learn How To Integrate Skype Into Live Events

pic08660I’m excited to announce that Matt Jordan from Skype’s media division will be the keynote speaker on day two of the Streaming Media West Show, taking place next week at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa in Huntington Beach CA. Matt will demo how Skype is being used in the media industry and showcase the integration of high-quality Skype calls into live broadcasting events for news, TV and film and social media events. Register online using the code 200DR for a “Discovery Pass” and get free access to the keynotes, exhibit hall, discovery track sessions, and receptions. #smwest

As Live Streaming Matures, Encoding & Delivery Workflows Getting Smarter

Live streaming is not for the faint of heart. There is no margin for error. When a glitch happens anywhere in the live chain from capture and backhaul, to the encoding and packaging, to the caching and delivery, there is no “do over”. And as events scale and live streaming becomes more predominant, the impact of any failure becomes immediately evident, potentially to millions of viewers. This was the case for Apple’s recent live webcast of the launch of the new iPad Mini, which was a massive failure.

Over the past five years, we’ve seen successive attempts to take live streaming to new levels for major events like the 2010 World Cup, 2012 Summer Olympics, and the recent World Cup in Brazil. Akamai recently noted that the 2014 World Cup was more than 7X the streaming volume of the 2010 event. These events are now commonplace and getting to the point where the user experience rivals traditional linear broadcast. But, it’s not there yet.

Earlier in the year, at IBC, Elemental unveiled its Elemental Delta video delivery platform and over the past month, I’ve had a chance to see the platform in action. Sitting between the core video compression and downstream content delivery network, Elemental Delta enables catch-up TV, start-over TV, nDVR functionality, as well as targeted advertising. For a sense of what Elemental Delta can enable, just check out CNN’s new app, CNNGo (previously branded CNNx) on your PC or smart device.

What wasn’t noted in the widespread coverage of the Elemental Delta launch is that this was a pretty smart extension for Elemental and one worth watching closely as it evolves. While extending its reach along the video delivery chain positions Elemental to have a potentially larger impact on the industry and therefore greater prospects for growth, it also allows the company to double down on its well-recognized expertise in live applications, while providing a bridge to the creation of on-demand assets.

When I talk to broadcasters and content owners in the media and entertainment space, it’s clear that Elemental has been a disruptive force in live streaming. The company’s focus five years ago was on leveraging graphics processors along with a powerful software stack to achieve dramatically better density, performance and quality in any live streaming experience. It was an approach that took other vendors by surprise and captured the attention and support of media leaders like BBC, Comcast, ESPN, and HBO.

The makeup of the video delivery infrastructure market, particularly at the point of origination, is remarkably similar to the transcoding market five years ago. The ecosystem is fragmented, with no clear dominant player and a lot of large players, including Cisco, Alcatel Lucent, and Arris with perhaps more questions than answers. Adding in all the new cloud based transcoding solutions and the new devices available to consumers, (Nexus Player, Amazon Fire TV Stick) and the market for encoding, both live and on-demand, only continues to get more complex.

Elemental’s approach to the market has been to maintain its focus on perfecting live streaming experiences with its software platform to implement video architectures that have a lot of elasticity and scalability. Many vendors now use the new term “software-defined” transcoding, which essentially means video is infrastructure-agnostic, freeing video operators from the constraints of dedicated or legacy equipment. In other words, customers can deploy Elemental’s solution on whatever combination of dedicated and virtual resources as well as architectures and processors that work best, maximizing the most flexibility possible across the content chain.

With the entrance of Elemental Delta into the market and delivery portion of the video chain, it’s signaling to the industry that this is an area ripe for disruption. What I find intriguing about their product is what it is not. It’s not a veiled attempt to be all things to all people like the OVPs that have been forced to do so because their capabilities, and market, are more or less limited to end-to-end management of clip content. Elemental Delta seems remarkably focused on functionality customers need right now as they think about the impact of YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon on their media franchises. Not that the OVPs aren’t also thinking about this impact, but they simply aren’t as focused in their product offering.

By positioning itself as the singular source of clips, highlights, start over assets, etc. directly sourced from live streaming and even 24/7 linear channels, Elemental Delta plays to the company’s expertise in real-time video processing and gives the potential for a fused viewer experience across live and on-demand. If Elemental Delta can bridge the divide between live and VOD processing, it will in an enviable position, with a holistic offering that extends well beyond the basic ability to move bits. This may jolt companies like Cisco, Ericsson and perhaps even Akamai into recognizing the need to evolve services in the video delivery space to align with customers seeking to offer more than the ability to move bits.

This segment of the market is really heating up and just this morning, thePlatform announced a new product called mpx Replay, which also looks to address this need in the live event market. I suspect we’ll see even more solutions like these coming out in the New Year and I know of at least on major OEM provider who is looking to partner with a vendor on such a solution.

How To: H.265 vs. H.264, Choosing The Best Options

The case for H.265, like most new video technologies, is compelling: better compression and faster/cheaper delivery over lower bitrates. For any content distributor seeking to distribute content to mobile devices over congested 3G/4G/LTE networks, these traits are highly desirable. However, the reality of real-world choices can quickly deflate any optimistic plans. At the Streaming Media West show, [taking place November 17-19 in Huntington Beach, CA], you’ll learn from Robert Reinhardt if and how H.264 compression and deployment options can be utilized in typical online streaming workflows, and more importantly, if your target audiences can benefit. Examples of x264 and x265 output will be compared for bitrate, compression time, and file size.

Register online using the code 200DR for a “Discovery Pass” and get free access to the keynotes, exhibit hall, discovery track sessions, and receptions at #smwest.

Using YouTube For Original Content Distribution

With 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s difficult to get your content to stand out. Whether you’re a traditional media company, a small business, an independent filmmaker, or any of the other millions of users uploading to YouTube, the questions remain the same: How do you get people to find and watch your videos? How do you monetize that audience? And can Google AdSense really support premium content? At the Streaming Media West show, [taking place November 17-19 in Huntington Beach, CA] YouTube guru Lauren Francesca will discuss with a panel of social media stars and filmmakers about how they use the YouTube platform to sell their shows and grow their audience. Confirmed speakers for the session include:

  • Moderator: Lauren Francesca, iwantmylauren, YouTube Sensation
  • Andy Stack, Manager, Partner Technologies, YouTube
  • Danny Fishman, Partner, Believe Entertainment Group
  • Shanna Malcolm, Actress, Content Creator, YouTube/TV
  • Shira Lazar, Creator, What’s Trending, TV Host

Register online using the code 200DR for a “Discovery Pass” and get free access to the keynotes, exhibit hall, discovery track sessions, and receptions at #smwest.

The Net Neutrality Debate Is About Companies & Politicians Own Posturing

This net neutrality debate is getting ugly, political and only going to get worse. Cutting through all the garbage arguments and posturing by companies and politicians makes it clear that they want what’s best for their bottom line and politicians just want to stay popular. The President says, “the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality” but then says “the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act“. You can’t have both. If new rules are made, then you don’t need to reclassify anything under Title II. The President also says that, “no paid prioritization” should take place, but Title II does not cover interconnect deals.

Not to mention, the deals between Netflix and the ISPs don’t involve prioritization of Netflix’s traffic, at any level. Netflix pays to get a direct connection to Comcast’s network, but both companies have publicly said the data itself is not being prioritized. So how does Title II solve the Netflix/ISP issues? It doesn’t. Also, do we know of a single instance where an ISP is actually doing paid prioritization? I have yet to see a single example. So while it’s ok to say it should not happen, people talk about it like it’s something that keeps occurring. [Cogent was just caught doing it. See: “Cogent Now Admits They Slowed Down Netflix’s Traffic, Creating A Fast Lane & Slow Lane” and “Cogent’s Favoring Of Packets Disregards FCC Rules“]

The FCC was created to be an independent regulatory agency with no involvement from politics, yet the White House now throws their hat into the ring, which is pointless since they have no authority. Politicians and policy lawyers want to use net neutrality for their own agenda, without any transparency. Content owners like Netflix and the ISPs are also guilty as they have released very limited data to the public, that can’t really be reviewed without a lot of supporting documentation, which we don’t have, and is needed so we can see the bigger picture. Any company can slice off a portion of their overall data and make it look positive for their agenda, which is what’s been done.

I also find it funny that the President said that net neutrality has “been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation“, except that we didn’t even have that term until around seven years ago. The Internet is older than seven years. The President goes on to say he is asking the FCC “to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.” Except about 1 million of those comments were against Title II regulations, but as politicians like to do, they use the numbers as they see fit to their advantage. Yes, 75% of the comments were for it, but then use the real numbers, don’t inflate them. This is the problem in having a conversation on the topic of net neutrality because so often, very little in the way of real facts and numbers are used, not taken out of context.

There has never been any rule or understanding that certain networks must carry traffic for free. A lot of networks engage in settlement free peering, but that is purely at their option, as a business decision. If some want to argue that needs to change and be regulated, then lets review their proposals. Problem is, the companies arguing for change haven’t put forth any proposals on how they want to see it work in today’s economy. Where are their proposals? So far, I haven’t seen a single one, other than to say they want Title II reclassification, or free access to the ISP networks. That’s not a “proposal”, it’s an idea, with no details included to allow anyone to determine what the impact to content owners, ISPs and consumers would be. It’s easy for some to throw around terms like Title II and create wish lists of how regulation should happen without scratching the surface of what it really means to broadband companies and the entire Internet ecosystem. What’s the impact, both positive and negative, for everyone involved?

If ISPs got reclassified under Title II, no one is asking what that would mean for quality of video content being delivered to consumers. People assume that means the quality would improve, which is a big assumption. When Netflix did their paid interconnection deal with Comcast, they got three SLAs from Comcast. An install SLA, packet loss SLA and latency SLA. If ISPs get reclassified and have to provide access to their networks for free, where is there any language under Title II that says what the quality of that access has to be? Free access to their networks would be done on a “best effort” approach. If you look at the SLAs at some of the ISPs, it has language like “service is provided on a best efforts basis and cannot be guaranteed.” So while the topic of access and interconnects keeps coming up, no one is discussing or suggesting what QoS metrics need to be tied to that. Quantity means nothing without quality!

Without re-writing Title II language, classifying ISPs under Title II won’t fix anything. We need new language or better yet, a new law, not reclassification of an old law, applied to today’s economy. Title II allows for discrimination according to source of content and other factors. That’s what people don’t want, yet they are still calling for Title II classification to be enacted. That shows just how illogical this whole debate has become. Net neutrality is a an incredibly complex set of problems that people keep trying to simplify and politicians try to turn into sound bytes. As long as it continues like this, the net neutrality debate is not going to be solved anytime soon and we should expect more delays, unclear language, lawsuits, non-transparent data and politics instead of common sense. Be careful what you wish for.