3 Key Takeaways from Streaming Media West

Nov 10, 2016

On Halloween, I found myself not handing out candy, but flying to Orange County in California to attend Streaming Media West, an online video conference hosted by none other than EContent’s parent company Information Today, Inc. Streaming Media West (SMW) was, for the most part, a conference focused on the technological and business aspects of the online video industry. In this sense, I didn’t have to deal with hordes of screaming fans like I would at an event like VidCon or PlayList live.

I did, however, have to deal with the higher-level talks, discussions, and information from SMW attendees, many of whom are the underpinnings of the burgeoning online video industry and are possibly the reasons why VidCon is even in existence today. These professionals have been involved in the industry in one way or another for a while now, their hands deep in everything from streaming technology to live streamed event coverage to over-the-top platform development.

And since they know the industry so well, these experts had plenty of solid points about the future of online video, particularly related to technical issues and consumer expectations. During the conference, I also scraped a couple of takeaways myself which were addressed either directly during the conference, or based on my personal observations. Here’s what was talked about at SMW:

  1. Technical issues still hinder streaming advancement.

    The streaming video industry has plenty of technical hindrances keeping it from moving forward quickly. One of these concerns is bandwidth, which internet service providers control separately from streaming services, but more often than not, consumers don’t actually get the bandwidth needed to stream their favorite content in anything higher than 1080p resolution. In addition, another panelist mentioned how difficult it can be to maintain a high level of service just from the service side, referencing HBO GO’s embarrassing outage during the last season of Game of Thrones.

    For the most part, it didn’t seem like many professionals in attendance at SMW had solid plans to move past such hurdles. However, a few suggested opening up communication between consumers, content owners, streaming platforms/services, and ISPs to help address the bandwidth concern. This idea could work, but it’s a difficult path to start down when ISPs are already at such odds with consumers.
  2. Consumers want more, and they want it now.

    This isn’t new information for anyone involved in the streaming media industry; most of us have known for a while now that consumers want convenience, quality streaming, and features like targeted recommendations and playlist tools within their OTT apps. However, when the technical issues mentioned above are brought into the picture, suddenly what consumers want now isn’t as possible as it may seem.

    For example, at one panel at SMW, a video professional mentioned how 4K televisions were introduced at CES a couple years ago and no one thought they’d catch on. But 4K has caught on, and consumers love it. The rate of ultra high-definition and 4K adoption is increasing, proving consumers want it, and yet they can’t always stream 4K titles from Amazon or Netflix. In this sense, the industry is just playing catch up.
  3. Live streaming and VR will continue to advance, but only slowly.

    Combining the two points above gets us to the topics of live streaming and virtual reality, both of which are in demand by (or at least in the interests of) consumers. But live streaming is plagued with its own tech issues like latency, and VR is a mostly-uncharted area where companies developing this new entertainment and technology medium don’t seem to be willing to share ideas and stay transparent, and constantly scramble to keep up with each other. Both industries are finding it difficult to advance, and they will stay this way until consumers either become used to the problems (like latency, which will likely never go away), or companies open up, share, and partner to face the industry’s problems head-on.

As long as you’re developing any sort of streaming content for your audience or customers, you’re likely going to be affected by these takeaways from SMW. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue these strategies; in fact, the more open you are about your brand’s efforts to produce quality streaming content for your customers, the more likely they are to appreciate and adopt it. Do your best to stay up-to-date with industry standards, and don’t be afraid to contribute or speak out to help make them better. The more companies can work together to improve the streaming media experience, the better off we’ll all be.