Streaming Vendor News Recap For The Week Of April 27th

Here’s a list of all the news I saw from streaming media vendors for the week.

Of The 50B Streams Conviva Monitored In 2014, 28% Of Them Re-Buffered

Last week, Conviva released their annual Viewer Experience Report which provides details on the quality of video delivered from the 50 billion streams across 180 countries that Conviva monitored in 2014. While the market for video consumption continues to grow, both in viewers and in the revenues flowing in and out, the quality of that video being delivered is now starting to experience real growth pains.

At the same time, Conviva notes that re-buffering of video didn’t really improve in 2014, which is disappointing,  when compared to their data from the year before. (Data: 2012, 2013) Re-buffering impacted 28.8% of all the streams they measured, down from 39.3% in 2012. On the other hand, the number of initial play failures dropped like a rock so more viewers are getting into their content, as they should, but now the challenge is for providers to deliver on the promise of delivering a consistent quality video experience all the way from start to finish.

Picture resolution is going up rapidly, Conviva identifies 30% increase in average bit rate from 2013 to 2014, although they point out that the picture varies wildly from country to country. The key take away though is that while the 30% number sounds big, it’s not. Across all of the 50 billion streams Conviva measured in 2014, the average bitrate was only 1.46Mbps.

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 3.34.59 PMI’ve been very vocal about the overwhelming challenges of 4K streaming and this report is just one more piece of data that proves just how far away 4K streaming is from major adoption. [See: The Adoption Of 4K Streaming Will Be Stalled By Bandwidth, Not Hardware & Devices] The average bitrate delivered in the U.S. in 2014 was UNDER 2Mbps. The average 4K streaming bitrate is today is 8x that. Even with HEVC and better compression, networks are going to struggle to stream 4K video for a long time to come. There’s plenty to do for the infrastructure players here, as well as the broadcasters, and a lot of money that will need to be invested if they truly want to support 4K streaming with a quality user-experience.

Notes: While not detailed in the report, Conviva said about 60% of the 50 billion streams they monitored came from the U.S. and all of the video content delivered was from broadcast, media and entertainment owners, for both live and on-demand streaming.

Verizon Falsely Promising Better Quality Netflix Streaming With Faster, More Expensive Internet Tier

Last week I contacted Verizon to discuss the renewal of my two-year FiOS Triple Play contract which already gives me 50Mbps up/down. Three different sales reps via the phone and one via an online chat all tried to convince me to upgrade to 75Mbps, with the false promise that it would give me better quality Netflix streaming, amongst other OTT streaming services. I was told that with 75Mbps I would get “smoother video viewing” and “better quality” with a higher tier service. Of course, this claim by Verizon is 100% false and they know it.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 4.41.51 PMFor the average consumer who doesn’t know any better, or isn’t technical, they could be paying for something they don’t need and can’t use. If they were going from DSL to FiOS, or from 5Mbps to 50Mbps, Verizon would be accurate in their quality claim. But when the average Netflix bitrate delivered via Verizon last month was 3.5Mbps, going from 50Mbps to 75Mbps has no impact on quality. When I made this point clear to the Verizon sales reps, their counter argument was that with multiple people in the household, the higher tiered service would be needed. Again, that’s not true.

During HBO’s Game Of Thrones Season 5 premiere, I had ten separate streams going on at the same time via HBO Now and Sling TV and I posted a photo to Twitter showing multiple streams in action. All combined, I consumed just under 29Mbps of my 50Mbps connection and all ten streams had perfect quality. HBO Now’s bitrate maxes out at 4Mbps and some of the streams I had going were to mobile devices. Amongst the ten streams, they averaged 2.9Mbps per second. So even if I had a household of ten people, all streaming at the same time, going from 50Mbps to 75Mbps would not have given me any better video streaming quality over what I already have. Verizon is simply using the average consumers lack of knowledge of bitrates and streaming technology to scare them into thinking they need a higher tiered package than they really do.

While some might want to chalk this us to an isolated incident, or an over zealous sales rep, that’s not the case at all. I called in three times and spoke to three different reps, plus one online and got the same pitch. Clearly this sales tactic is being driven by those higher up in the company and isn’t something a sales rep made up on their own. And two years ago, Verizon tried to pitch me the exact same story, promising better quality Netflix streaming if I upgraded my Internet package.

This tactic by Verizon needs to stop and stop now. Before anyone tires to bring the topic of Net Neutrality into the debate, this has nothing to do with it. It’s simply a bad sales practice that’s disingenuous, plays on consumers desire to want better quality video streaming and is only being done to improve Verizon’s bottom line. The average customer gets no improved service in return and false expectations are being set, which is bad for the streaming media industry and over-the-top content providers, not to mention consumers. Verizon needs to re-educate their sales force and do away with this sales tactic immediately.

Level 3 and Verizon Sign Interconnect Agreement: Agree To Share Cost Of Network Upgrades

Last week Verizon and Level 3 announced they had entered into a long-term interconnection agreement where both companies have agreed to share the cost to add additional capacity between their networks. Unlike Netflix and Cogent who think there should be no cost to them, Level 3 has always agreed that there is a direct cost of adding capacity on each side and that both parties should share in those upgrade costs. This is the same model Level 3 used when they signed their deal with Comcast a few years back and shows that when two companies both think rationally, a mutually beneficial agreement can be worked out between them without the need for any oversight or regulation from our government.

While I am not going to get into contract numbers, the price Level 3 is paying is extremely affordable, is one they are happy with and is locked in for a very long period of time. This is how interconnection deals between networks have historically worked and that model won’t change, even with Netflix and Cogent’s complaints. Apple, Microsoft, eBay, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Pandora, Twitch and many others have all negotiated interconnection deals with ISPs, where both sides agree how they share in the cost for upgrades. These types of mutually beneficial agreements have been going on in the U.S. for a decade and benefits the content owner, network operator, ISP and most importantly – the consumer.

Expect to see more interconnection agreements announced by multiple providers in the coming weeks.

Tuesday Webinar – Challenges Associated With Defending Cyber Threats

Tuesday at 1pm ET, I’ll be moderating a webinar on the topic of Cybersecurity. This free webinar will discuss the threat landscape, rising costs, and other challenges associated with defending cyber threats. Recent security hackings and DDoS attacks have greatly impacted business operations in the Media and Entertainment world and technology alone is not the answer. Hear how strong cybersecurity measures, in many ways, has as much to do with process and actionable threat intelligence as it does with technology. Join speakers from Level 3 and Intel Security and bring your questions for te Q&A portion of the event.