S01E06: Game of Streams (SSAI and updates from WWDC17)

Our Media Solution Consultant, Magnus Svensson, is sharing his reflections from the online streaming industry in this post. This is part of a monthly series so make sure to follow us here if you don’t want to miss an episode.

I have lately been in involved in numerous discussion around Service Side Ad Insertion. The trend is clearly shifting away from letting the client handle insertion of ads, towards server side. This could either be done directly by the origin server or more commonly in a separate service between the origin and the client.

As I mentioned in my last episode of Game of Streams, WWDC17, the Apple developers conference was held in the beginning of June. A couple of interesting news was presented. The biggest for the streaming nerds was probably the announcement of HEVC, that I have covered in a separate article. Some other interesting news was presented, that will have some impact on the streaming industry, more on that later.

Server Side Ad Insertion (SSAI)

The latest trend in streaming advertising is Server-Side Ad Insertion or SSAI. SSAI is the technology to stitch together the content and ads on the server side during the encoding phase or directly after by manipulating the manifest file. Using Client Side Ad Insertion, CSAI, the client application handles the ad insertion.

The ad break markers, also known as SCTE-35 markers, informs where the ad shall be placed and segmentation is done accordingly. Depending on how the SSAI is handled, ad segments are inserted directly into the manifest file, or the manifest is updated to indicate where ads shall be placed. The latter is typically used when another service is responsible for handling SSAI.

SSAI is in practice still only applicable for HLS, even if it’s possible also for DASH using multi-period DASH. But many origin/packaging vendors still lack support for DASH.

That ad insertion is important is further underlined by the fact that two big guns announce that they strengthen the ad insertion focus. Comcast Launches Advanced Advertising Group to oversee the ad tech business at Comcast. Viacom is launching a similar group that will pursue ad product innovation and multiscreen, multiplatform advanced analytics.

Update from WWDC17

Apart from HEVC, some smaller updates were also presented at WWDC17. For HLS streaming EXT-X-GAP will make it possible to signal loss of video/audio data coming from the encoders to allow the client pass through the missing segments, or even better, change to another bit rate. Yes, IP sources are still subject to problems.

EXT-X-DEFINE allows for variables to be specified in the master index file and referenced in the sub media manifest files. And with AVContentKeySession clients can retrieve the encryption keys in advance of playback start.

Apple also announced that Safari 11 will support WebRTC. WebRTC is a standard for browser-based real-time communication that is also used for low-latency video streaming.

Short streaming video updates

Skinny Bundles continue to grow. Both Charter and CenturyLink will launch skinny bundle offers, making it at least eight skinny bundle providers in the US. Earlier launched skinny bundle offers include Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV and Hulu Live with Comcast Stream joining.

Comcast is also teaming up with AMC to offer a new $5 option called AMC Premiere. This will allow ad-free viewing of the latest AMC shows like “The Walking Dead”, exclusively to Comcast subscribers.

Hulu has joined the Alliance of Open Media to accelerate development of the Alliance’s first video codec, AV1. The purpose of AV1 is to deliver improved compression efficiency for high definition streaming over the current HEVC and VP9 video compression standards.

During a motor race in Sweden, STCC, Net Insight, a Swedish video streaming company, announced the STCC Live app. The app is based on Net Insight’s live OTT solution Sye that enables synchronized TV distribution without time delays. The motor race was a very good example of the need for low latency and synchronization in live video streaming.

To watch out for the coming months…

According to an nScreenMedia article, both the premiere league and NFL saw television audiences decline last season. Especially the young audiences abandoning football and soccer. Is this a sign that the huge fees for sports broadcasting rights will decline?

Early bird tickets are now available for Streaming Tech Sweden. Hybrid CDN, Server-side Ad Insertion, Low-latency Streaming and AV1 vs HEVC are some of the topics that will be covered this year. The conference will have speakers from both Sweden and abroad, and already confirmed speakers from Bonnier Broadcasting and Swedish Television.

Secure your ticket at: https://www.streamingtech.se

Magnus Svensson is a Media Solution Consultant and partner at Eyevinn Technology. A Swedish consultancy company specialized in streaming, VR, and gaming.

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