Streaming Video Has Made it to the Big Time. Are You Ready to Deliver?

We won’t waste your time with prognostications about the death of cable TV. With a cast of characters that includes the FCC, Disney, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, telcos, and networks, there’s no telling how this plot will unfold. But as we enter a fresh new year of disruption in technology, entertainment, and consumer choice, it’s worth noting we’re in the midst of a convergence.

Streaming TV has crossed the Rubicon. You know when your Baby Boomer parents buy a smart TV for Christmas and cut the cable cord, a new era of couch potato-ing has arrived. Need more evidence? Consumer Reports just published a full review of streaming services — representing a full range of offerings from sports-focused and movie-centric hubs to original content creators (network and otherwise), 16 different services made their list. Streaming TV is a household commodity on par with dishwashers, tires, and vacuum cleaners. It’s a mainstream milestone. (PC Mag also has a nice new chart, in case you’re shopping).

In addition to a growing selection of services, the convergence encompasses advances in streaming video devices and TVs, fast and reliable Internet connections, the popularity of watching TV on smartphones and tablets, and a growing supply of high quality movies and series for every imaginable viewing preferences. To those who still remember VHS, it looks like the seventh heaven of streaming video. It’s thrilling to imagine what they’ll think of next. We may never get off the couch again.

There are two kinds of television watching. There’s passive watching — having HGTV on in the background while you fold laundry and tidy up. And there’s intentional watching — sitting down to watch a basketball game or an episode of your favorite show. DVRs, on demand cable offerings, and Netflix already revolutionized intentional watching — we’re much less tethered to watching certain things at certain times than we were 10 years ago. Streaming TV blurs the distinction between these two modes by making all the options available all the time, anywhere we want to watch. All the best things about TV — live events and games, network programming, movie rentals, and binge watching — can be streamed, and the runaround of switching inputs, setting up recordings, and loading DVDs is becoming a thing of the past.

Most important of all? It all looks like “real” television. If the picture quality doesn’t match what comes through the cable box, streaming loses its audience. Even cord cutters looking to save money don’t want to accept subpar video quality. Looking like cable TV depends on smart traffic management. For the convergence to hold, streaming quality has to keep getting better and more reliable. Moreover, providers have to manage costs so they can keep creating original content and making profits.

Outages, slow clouds, and CDN issues — what looks like buffering or stalled screens to viewers — might be the only thing that could dampen the convert’s enthusiasm for streaming services. As audiences grow (and the FCC fracas sorts itself out), content distributors need a way to ensure seamless, high-quality delivery. To scale globally while improving customer satisfaction, you need a way to optimize traffic management intelligently with user-by-user, second-by-second granularity. Real user measurement (real-time pulse of user experience, even in sparsely-served regions), real-time server health, and third party metrics (to guide and monitor efficient use of bandwidth resources) give you an essential level of control.

Cedexis ADP includes specific optimizations that help maintain a highly quality of experience for all of users — reducing start failures, improving start times, and eliminating buffering.

It might have seemed hyperbolic just a few years ago, but there’s no need to play it cool — thanks to streaming video, TV is very exciting right now. (It’s tempting to use the word revolution, but that’s definitely not cool.) There are sure to be some fiercely competitive years ahead. You won’t win by overspending on bandwidth, and you won’t win with sputtering video quality. Control, visibility, intelligence, efficient resource use, and automation will be crucial to navigating the battlefield — and making the magic happen for your audience.

– Aude Smiejan as Cedexis SaaS and Cloud expert