Advanced Television

Predictions from Synamedia for 2023

December 5, 2022

Julien Signes, SVP and General Manager of Video Network at Synamedia and Simon Brydon, Senior Director of Security Business Development at Synamedia, have shared their industry predictions for 2023.

  1. Sports streaming rights: go big or go home

2022 was all about how the future of live sports streaming would play out. We have been keeping an eye on the likes of Apple and Prime Video as they experiment with strategic rights buys in certain markets, while Netflix has also gone on record warming to the idea of offering live sports. But this learning phase has to be quick, so in 2023 we’ll see whether these streaming giants decide to go big or go home.

Sports streaming at scale is not for the faint hearted, and achieving profitability is no mean feat given the cost of sports rights. Although on paper it sounds like a challenge suited for big streamers with deep pockets, they really don’t like its territory-by-territory model.

  1. The rise of the augmented experience

The fan event experience is about to get an overhaul. Imagine a £100 match ticket has a QR code with an offer to download an app to use in-stadium with a bunch of fun features such as watching the game from a different part of the stadium, replaying a tackle, keeping an eye on a rivals’ match, or placing a bet. Meanwhile, F1 fans could view the track from a drone or drop into a car for the driver’s view.

The infrastructure needed includes 5G, WiFi, CDN with WebRTC support, and support for multiple latencies within a streaming service. The augmented fan viewing experience and 8K will also underpin the metaverse as sports brands start experimenting there.

  1. CDN scaling on tap

A critical technology for streaming at scale will be the emergence of dynamic CDN experiences with the instant elasticity needed to support millions of users switching on at the same time to view a top sporting event, whilst optimising the delivery for each users’ exact application, bandwidth, and device.

The drive for this instant elasticity comes down to managing scale, quality and costs. For example, supporting the 5 per cent of football viewers who want to place a bet means provisioning ultra-low latency for those users only, to manage costs.

A dynamic CDN takes end users’ requirements, their locations, devices and time zones into consideration when delivering video streams on the fly. It can adapt to unpredictable network, infrastructure and audiences, and automatically scale cloud resources up and down, while maintaining quality of experience.

Flipping the just-in-case streaming model on its head, 2023 will see just-in-time processing become a must-have feature for live streaming. If you are a broadcaster with channels – including ad-based FAST ones – with viewers only during live events, you are creating waste across infrastructure, cloud, and CO2 emissions. Instead, a just-in-time model provides exactly the resources required at any given time, cutting costs. If no-one is watching a channel, it simply frees up those resources.

  1. Giving content owners control of FAST

We are witnessing first-hand a FAST land grab as content owners rush headlong to adopt a YouTube-style business model so they can quickly start monetising their VoD catalogue. However, this locks content owners into a proprietary platform with unfavourable rates of ad revenue sharing.

In 2023, we expect to see a new approach take off – one that uses modular workflows to give content owners control of their FAST channels so they can regulate what advertising appears and keep the revenues. It also opens the door to add that all-important live streaming to attract viewers.

  1. Can streaming go green?

In view of COP27 and energy price pressures, carbon emissions cutting will remain on the agenda for 2023. But how can we achieve sustainability when we can’t even measure streaming energy consumption?

We are still from two to five years away from any workable standards because we need to fully understand how reducing energy in one part of the workflow impacts other parts. And measurement will only work when everyone in the ecosystem, including cloud providers, co-operates to report their data in a consistent way. Until then, we need to focus on quick fixes that cut energy, such as turning off servers that are not being used, and urging every operator to add sustainability to their RFPs to encourage more innovation.

  1. The price of piracy

The pressure on household budgets is intense, as inflation and interest rates soar alongside an energy crisis. These tough economic headwinds have coincided with a plethora of new SVoD subscriptions. In the UK, the monthly bill for legitimate services providing all major sports and entertainment reached £150 per month, and that doesn’t include the broadband service. This is why consumers are cutting their outgoings by paying for pirate services alongside legal services.

Our research with pirate consumers, conducted by Ampere Analysis, identified the scale of the problem, with 84% of those surveyed watching sport illegally. Nearl 9 in 10 (89 per cent) of pirate viewers also have a legitimate pay-TV service and 44% have a legal sports streaming service, demonstrating that they’re prepared to pay for media and sports media within their means.

This can only mean one thing in 2023, an increase in the consumption of pirate services. Streaming technology makes it simple and cheap to steal, aggregate, sell and deliver content illegally, rubbing salt into the wounds of broadcasters who face spiralling rights costs. For a get-rich-quick criminal enterprise, piracy is a winning business model and requires no technical know-how. The super-aggregated illegal pirate service offers premium sport and entertainment content at a price point that no legal service could ever come close to rivalling.

  1. CDN thieves: laughing all the way to the bank

What better way to deliver a pirate service than to steal the content directly from the legal owner’s CDN and deliver it to the pirate consumer while getting the legitimate service to foot the content delivery bill.

The doors to the content on the CDN have been left wide open and the criminals won’t wait for an invitation.

The risk of these OTT security vulnerabilities will really hit home for legitimate broadcasters in 2023 as they increasingly see their own CDN URLs being sold, used and consumed across the pirate ecosystem. Nobody likes being made a fool of, but the pirates are certainly making streaming providers look like fools and as they laugh all the way to the bank.

  1. Password sharing halted

We all know people share logins – a form of OTT consumption that ranges from the good, bad to the downright ugly. Every operator knows it is happening and costing them money, yet only a few have the foresight to proactively try to fix it.

2023 should be the year that hard-pressed OTT services finally accept that they need to firstly understand the scale of the issue and then come up with a variety of commercial and security strategies to deal with it.

  1. Fan zones driving 8K

Whether you are watching a live event on a big screen outside the stadium or in a bar with others, you expect a premium experience and pin sharp quality. Fan zones are not just limited to popular sports – think Eurovision Song Contest and Last Night at the Proms with all those sequins and pomp in glorious detail.

That’s why we believe fan zones will drive the adoption of 8K for their big screens. We first demonstrated live sports streaming in 8K with BT in early 2022 and, through our discussions with operators, we all have high expectations for the next 12-24 months.

  1. The big IP migration

While not grabbing today’s headlines, many people are still working their socks off on the migration from satellite to IP as it continues its inexorable momentum. Progressing at different rates, some operators such as SportsMax in the Caribbean, are using satellite for backbone only, while others are working towards a deadline for moving completely off satellite. This big switch will unlikely be completed even in five years, but look out for a groundswell of operators heading in the IP direction.

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