While an ever increasing number of consumers flock to the internet as their first point of call for video content, is it being delivered with the quality or level of service they deserve? Long start times, endless pauses whilst your video buffers and content not designed for your device. The expectations of today’s consumers are somewhat higher than those of the past 10 years.
There were 141 million unique viewers of online video content in February 2010, an increase of over 10.5% year-on-year. With the ever increasing number of devices being brought to market which are capable of streaming video, this increasing trend shows no sign of ending. 10 years on from the bursting of the .com bubble, technology is changing to ensure this online phenomenon can cope with the demands.
Many content distributers are turning towards Adaptive Bitrate Streaming, a recent technique whereby the user’s bandwidth and CPU capabilities are monitored in real-time and the quality of the stream is adjusted accordingly throughout the viewing experience. The technique relies on each video source being encoded at multiple bitrates. Bitrate is the measure of the rate of information content in a video stream and is quantified in bits per second. The higher the bit rate, the better the quality video but the higher bandwidth your end user will require.
When deploying Adaptive Bitrate Streaming, the resulting experience for the user includes, faster start times, extremely low buffering and a great experience that is tailored to the user, no matter what their connection type.
Adaptive Bitrate Streaming allows us to stream in High Definition without worrying about excluding users with low bandwidth or machines that are not capable of playing HD video. These users will be delivered video in the best quality that their setup is able to handle. If a user watching video in High Definition experiences a reduction in bandwidth or their machine is struggling to play the content smoothly, the stream will seamlessly switch to a lower bitrate without any interruption to the viewer.
The great thing about High Definition Adaptive Bitrate Streaming is its ability to be device independent. This can be achieved using Flash Player (with a market penetration of 99%), Silverlight (approaching 60%) and now the iPhone.
Solution providers are ensuring that their cutting edge networks, platforms and device offerings will make our recent experiences with online video a thing of the past. There is no better time than now to start engaging with your users by utilizing these advances in video streaming technology.
If you are interested in these techniques or would like to get in touch, it would be great to hear from you.
Sam Gibbs, Solutions Architect, Lightmaker UK