An annual industry survey suggests that the majority of players expect viewing of live linear online streaming to overtake broadcast television by 2020. The majority of those offering online video consider streaming linear channels important to their business plans. So what does that really mean, will it really happen and if so when?

The third annual survey was conducted on behalf of Streaming Media, based on approaching 500 responses, 70% of which were from North America, with almost half coming from organisations that offer online streaming services.

Of those respondents offering online video services, just under a quarter included live-linear services, defined as channels that are available around the clock, not necessarily live events. Just over a quarter planned to offer such services within two years.

Among those offering online video services, live-linear was considered very important to their business plans by 42% of respondents, compared to 47% for live events, or 64% for video on demand. Only 13% considered live-linear as not important.

Among the questions asked was “When will live-linear OTT viewing exceed typical broadcast TV viewing?” It is obviously a leading question, although not clearly defined in terms of how which viewing is measured. Nevertheless, respondents were offered a range of six dates, from 2018 to 2030, as well as the option never.

Around 10% of respondents responded that this would happen in 2018. Over 50% of those offering services said would be the case by 2020, almost 70% selected a date up to and including 2022. Only 5% of those offering services responded never, rising to 8% for those that did not offer online video services.

Given that live linear online viewing is still marginal compared to watching traditional television, according to research from companies like Nielsen, this would represent a dramatic change in the way that channels are delivered, if not viewed.

Much as informitv is a proponent of new ways of delivering and viewing television and video, it may be overly optimistic, if not wishful thinking, to assume that live linear streaming will overtake broadcast viewing to such an extent so rapidly.

We have to temper our enthusiasm for novelty with the recognition that the rest of the world is still watching a lot of traditional television.

What is perhaps more interesting is the extent to which such online services might adopt enhancements, such as higher frame rates, higher dynamic range, and higher resolution.

Of those currently offering online video services, only a third had no plans to offer either higher frame rates or higher dynamic range, while over a third planned to offer both. Just under a fifth said they were uncertain about offering 4K, while a fifth had no plans to offer higher resolution. Over half said they were either actively researching virtual reality video, planning to launch such a service, or had already done so.

Online services offer more flexibility for experimentation with new formats, compared to conventional broadcast services, which have to sustain legacy standards.

However, traditional television platforms may broadcast premium channels in higher fidelity to deliver them to a larger audience that may not have sufficient connectivity to receive them online.

OTT Video Services — Innovation, opportunity, maturation and technology by Unisphere Research is available from Streaming Media.