One of the major complaints competing against the future of streaming entertainment, media and sports content is the power of the distribution partner. Specifically, the level of streaming lag that slows the delivery of content to consumers. Streaming lag is our generation’s faster version of the AOL dial-up.
As a recent article from BBC articulated: “When video is streamed online it is broken up into small packets, which are reassembled by the recipient’s device [(i.e., modem, router, and television, etc.)]. If each segment is very short, processing them becomes inefficient. However, if they are too long, there is more of a delay between the TV broadcast and online stream.”
With specific reference to live sports content, any delay will be unwelcome. This makes sense because first, live sports are best consumed live so as to avoid an errant social media gander or text message from a friend updating you on the score or latest play.
Second, it reduces trust with the consumer on whom they chose as a distributor, whether traditional cable or something newer like streaming via a platform-entertainment tech giant (i.e., Amazon Prime/Fire Stick, Apple TV, Roku, etc.). When the trust between provider and consumer lessens, so does the bottom line. Lastly, if provided efficiently, it moves the needle forward to progress in delivering content.
However, help is on the way. BBC says it has both the technology and a new formula to deliver smaller packets of information faster so that those watching live-streamed sports events will be able to see it in real time. It is said that by the 2022 World Cup, to be held in multiple cities in the Persian Gulf country of Qatar, the technology will be available for mass distribution.
Interestingly, some success of this delivery is dependent on an individual’s broadband (e.g., the strength of Wi-Fi or delivery method). Specifically, 4K high-dynamic-range (HDR) content may be the highest level of viewing, but a person’s home broadband connection (think Cox vs. Charter vs. AT&T) and what level of service you are paying for (e.g., how much you pay in dollars per month), generally measured in “Mbps” or megabits per second, matters. With M-Lab, who has partnered with Google, one can test their local Mbps level. Per AT&T, the average Mbps standards and the best delivery methods can be found here.
Going forward, the companies that can guarantee great content and great delivery will likely be the most successful. The AT&T-TimeWarner merger is an example of this because it will be the first time a major content provider is also the streaming distributor. AT&T will create content through HBO (owned by Time Warner), then distribute that content through AT&T cell phone towers and cable lines. Not surprisingly, Hollywood Talent Agencies are doing similar things to control and distribute content.
BBC is no different. They want to guarantee that a great product is also delivered well. However, as with any free-market economic system, there may also be individual creation and innovation that drives the next generation of content and information delivery. Competition will be key to determine who(m) or what is the next great distribution provider and platform.