4K Streaming: Can content owners afford the bandwidth? Probably

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At CES this year 4K streaming was the most talked about topic between vendors and industry executives. There was a lot of technical talk about encoding, chips and devices, but according to Dan Rayburn, no one addressed the cost or QoS issues associated with 4K streaming. Yes, he notes, the technical challenge may be solved by HEVC but what about the business challenge?

In the article, he touches on the fact that even though companies like Netflix and Amazon – who have subscription based services – can offer 12Mbps-20Mbs bitrates to deliver 4K content (using HEVC), how will the majority of content owners – who make money from advertising – benefit? The average broadcaster won’t be able to deliver 4K streaming due to the cost associated with the extra bits.

Rayburn makes some valid points. 4K is here. And, as Reed Hastings says, HEVC/h.265 will help by cutting that 15mbps in half. However, a) the extra bandwidth costs money and those with an advertising supported model will struggle, and b) there will be precious little content for a while since we don’t have device penetration yet.

The one thing Rayburn doesn’t hit on is the issue of security – content owners are concerned about their content at this HD+ level. However, there are ways to deal with some of these challenges:

  • Rights holders and anyone else that needs to send content around need only store the content in one mezzanine format, and repackage at the edge. The result will be huge savings in bandwidth and storage.
  • Content will need to be watermarked – on a per-session basis – in order to appease rights holders
  • Content owners will need to get more effective with advertising insertion – in particular, how to improve CPMs via hyper-targeting
Michael4K Streaming: Can content owners afford the bandwidth? Probably

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