By Bill Wishon, Senior Architect, Media Office of the CTO, at Akamai
Online video has drawn a great deal of attention over the last year, its convenience and competitive pricing make it an attractive alternative to traditional pay TV offerings. Online video services will continue to grow in the coming year and its user experience-focused innovation that will drive it. Here are three trends shaping the way media companies deliver their content online that will impact the industry and user experience in 2018.
Automating Metadata with Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Today’s online video services rely on metadata in order to categorize, recommend and search the content catalog. However, those tags are generated by real people, subject to the limitations of human capability and constrained to a few overarching tags such as title, director, genre or actor. Further, that limited set of tags only exists for the relatively small collection of professionally produced content, leaving vast volumes of user-generated and semi-professional content untouched. The kind and amount of metadata available for that content varies widely and, in some cases, doesn’t exist at all.
Video providers can address this problem by applying AI to quickly process vast volumes of video content, recognizing faces, voices, objects and even providing scene detection and classification. Not even an army of humans can keep up with the libraries of new content being generated in a reasonable timeframe to provide the kind of metadata required for advanced categorization, recommendation and search.
For viewers, this will result in improved experiences driven by better search and discovery of content. In more advanced cases, companies may also be able to use increased knowledge about their content to deliver better recommendations, personalized playlists and more targeted advertisements.
Increasing Rollouts for High Dynamic Range (HDR)
Since the Wizard of Oz was released in 1939, the video industry has been pursuing more vibrant video experiences. This year we saw the continued rollout of 4K displays and a great deal more activity around HDR. By this time next year, we could very well see HDR outpacing 4K in terms of TV set capabilities, with many options available in the mid-to-low and low-price range.
To get to that point, however, video providers will have to lead the charge in adoption by making more content available in HDR formats. This will prove easier said than done as HDR is not backward compatible with Standard Dynamic Range TVs, and most traditional broadcast infrastructure is not compatible with HDR. This means that online video services such as Netflix and Amazon will continue to lead in HDR titles while traditional services play catch-up. In fact, some major online video providers already have a reasonable selection of HDR content and are adding more with every new release.
Breaking Out Skinny Bundle Services
Skinny bundles will continue to gain traction during the months ahead. There are numerous options available already from providers such as SlingTV, DirecTV Now, Spectrum TV, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue and Hulu Live, but consumer adoption is nowhere near a point that disrupts traditional TV.
So far, skinny bundles are largely a port of the traditional TV experience to the internet, leaving lots of room for innovation in the user experience while industry standards continue to be established. While the lower price point is an important factor for certain, it will not significantly disrupt the traditional TV market by itself, especially given the limited number of channels and on-demand assets that give them their “skinny” name.
Companies will begin experimenting with new and unique user experiences for skinny bundles that take advantage of the Internet-based delivery platform. Some of these experiments will work, some will not, but finding the key difference that makes online TV offerings better than traditional TV will be critical to the skinny bundles taking off and truly disrupting the traditional TV services.