2024 Streaming Trends and Predictions
2024 is upon us, and with another year comes another set of predictions about what streaming trends I believe will gain momentum. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, so you’ll recognize a few of these as carry-overs from last year that are taking longer to materialize. Still, sometimes advances are more evolutionary than revolutionary and well worth tracking even if their full impact is yet to be felt.
2023 was the year of generative AI’s arrival across the tech landscape, but 2024 will be the year that streaming applications using generative AI will begin to scale up and be commercialized – and it’s hard to imagine its influence will not continue to explode. Based on what we’ve seen in the market, AI will be a common theme throughout a range of burgeoning trends.
Let’s dig in.
Table of Contents
AI / Generative AI in Streaming
AI in general has already started to influence the streaming landscape and will itself continue to transform the ease with which individuals can manage and analyze their streaming assets. Some of these more mature uses of AI, including speech to text for transcription, caption generation, and metadata enhancement, will become more accurate and immediate. This in turn will make content more accessible and discoverable. At Wowza, we are embracing all of these applications of AI to better address our customers’ concerns around content accessibility and discovery without a lot of manual work. Our discussions with customers suggest continued interest in AI streaming applications.
At Wowza, we are embracing all of these applications of AI to better address our customers’ concerns around content accessibility and discovery without a lot of manual work.
Additionally, AI applications like motion detection, object detection and facial recognition that have become reasonably common in surveillance workflows could expand to media, entertainment, and more. 2024 could see the growth of potential use cases for these niche AI functions, paving the way for more nuanced metadata enrichment, commerce, and personalization.
While these traditional uses of AI in streaming continue to mature, the use of generative AI will surge quickly as the technology continues to improve and as commercial opportunities are proven. Questions will also continue to arise, such as: Where is the line between what is real and what is AI-created? Do we care if we are entertained or informed by the result? Is the growing carbon footprint of generative AI a concern for the industry?
AI-created content became a reality in 2023 with artists and creators using it to create clips, scripts, and even fully AI generated long form content, including such titles as Check Point and The Frost. It will be interesting to see how far this goes in general, but easy to see the immediate benefits for businesses looking for fast and affordable content creation. For some use cases, like training, product marketing, and news reading, AI generated content may become the default.
Granted, such a paradigm shift will be controversial. Not all AI usage is positive. There is huge potential for abuse and deception. As the industry embraces this technology, we will also need to explore regulatory guidelines for AI use. We will need to invest in technologies to track content provenance to determine how that content was created, by who, and if it has been modified. Finally, even AI done ethically raises some valid concerns. Will consumers care where the talking head came from? Will the many startups working in these areas prove that AI can be used to create and deliver truly personalized experiences or hyper targeted advertising with any sort of scale and efficiency? Undoubtedly 2024 will see advances in these areas, even as we are untangling the philosophical implications that arise.
FAST and AVOD Growing in OTT Popularity
As streaming services struggle with profitability, FAST and AVOD represent the fastest growing commercial models within the OTT market. Most of the top streaming services implemented ad-supported tiers in 2023, and Amazon recently announced that all Prime Video subscribers will begin seeing ads unless they upgrade at an additional cost. But with growing AVOD and FAST monetization models comes potential advertising inventory challenges. Thankfully, traditional broadcast and PayTV subscriber numbers continue to decline as viewers migrate to streaming platforms. Those advertising dollars will follow suit and further pave the way for more innovative monetization strategies. Who has AI-generated personalized ads on their 2024 bingo card?
But seriously, how do we make all this advertising more relevant, better targeted, and ideally actionable? As a consumer, I’ve seen my share of poorly targeted, endlessly repeated ads or, worse yet, a slate where an advertising slot went unfilled. There are not only inventory challenges with hyper targeted ads, but also capacity challenges for the ad networks themselves to be able to provide the hyper-targeted ad inventory in any reasonable time frame (if it exists at all). There is room for some innovation in this area. As the world’s largest retailer, Amazon appears to have an advantage. Not only do they have the data to provide a highly relevant ad, but they can also facilitate the purchase directly from the video (as they showed on the 2023 Black Friday NFL game) or add AI-driven virtual product placements and avoid the ad inventory challenge all together. It will be interesting to see what else they come up with in 2024.
The proliferation of FAST channels – empty ad slates aside – also presents the issue of discoverability. Somewhere out there is a FAST channel for underwater basket weaving, but how do I find it? The lack of common metadata and federated search makes this challenging. This is an area where groups like the SVTA can have an impact by helping the various providers work together to create common standards and interfaces. AI will also go to work here. With deep enough inventory, AI could be used to create personal FAST channels or AVOD watch lists based on previous viewing habits, which should drive higher engagement, higher satisfaction, and less churn.
Put simply, market trends we’ve witnessed suggest more OTT platforms adopting FAST and AVOD models, somewhat prompted by an influx in viewers from more traditional broadcast media. This presents challenges when it comes to inventory as well as potential solutions, as more advertisers will flock to these same platforms. In any case, it will encourage continued innovation, with and without the help of generative AI.
Streaming for Security, Surveillance, and Smart Cities
When most people think of streaming, they think of media and entertainment. With such a large focus on companies like Netflix and Disney+, it’s easy to forget how truly varied streaming applications can be. For example, there’s a vast amount of streaming video produced by an ever-growing number of connected cameras. Smart cities, traffic management, security, and surveillance and, particularly relevant in 2024, election monitoring are just some of these wide-ranging use cases.
As the sheer number of camera inputs has grown there has been an increasing use of AI and Machine Vision to enhance, monitor, and make use of the video produced. Retail applications, like inventory management and proactive loss prevention, can create additional value for existing IP camera installations. AI can help to analyze the video from large networks of traffic cameras to generate real time route optimization and traffic control. The use of AI will continue to grow as companies look to use both new and existing IP camera installations to generate real time information.
2024 is a key election year not only in the US, but also worldwide, with countries such as Russia and India holding general elections. Election security is in the spotlight. We will see a large increase in the use of video-based election monitoring at polling locations and counting facilities. AI will be employed to help analyze the vast amount of data for fraud or tampering.
Sustained growth in the connected camera sector has made it easier to expand use cases for these cameras through the magic of shared resources and AI innovation. We should expect this growth to continue in 2024 and beyond.
More Accessible and Engaging Live Sports
Live sports continue to be a major catalyst for streaming growth as the big players like Apple, Amazon and SKY spend record amounts for the rights to stream major sports. This has created a growth opportunity for second tier or niche sports as many platform players look to pull in viewers however they can at a more reasonable price. By leveraging cloud-based remote production, automated cameras (such as Pixellot), and ingest technologies like SRT, niche sports can now be produced with high quality at a reasonably low cost and effectively monetized as FAST channels. These channels can easily mix live events and exclusive behind the scenes content to satisfy the most diehard fans.
Additionally, real-time streaming technology has paved the way for more interactive applications. Many sports streaming apps are getting creative with their fan engagement, including opportunities for fan interaction, supplemental media, and more. These advancements have been well-received. Just last year, SPORT TV APP won an award for Best User Experience at the SportsPro OTT Summit, an achievement of which Wowza is proud to have been a part. Live in-person sports are also finding a way to use streaming technology to better engage fans, as evidenced by the Broncos/Patriots Christmas Eve game in 2023, when they took control of a stadium’s worth of smartphones via a QR code during the halftime show. These trends will continue to expand in 2024 as companies are encouraged to push the envelope.
Industry Consolidation / Mergers and Acquisitions
Emphasis on profitability and expense control has led to restructuring and layoffs throughout the streaming and tech sectors, and as subscription fatigue and its associated churn continues, there will be more consolidation across the industry. Big players will look to buy market share and content libraries and also to combine technology platforms to increase efficiency. With capital markets tight and debt being very expensive some established players may have a hard time making it on their own and be forced to sell or merge with a competitor.
Ultimately, we are seeing these streaming giants become too plentiful, leading to the need for some to devour the others, and the impact of this will be felt both for those working in the industry and for consumers. For example, if Paramount+ were to merge with WBD and become more efficient as a result, then I’d potentially get all the same content with only one subscription which ultimately is a win for me. That said, the ultimate impact on the end customer remains to be seen – will operational efficiencies lead to a better experience, or will fewer choices bring higher subscription prices?
We have already seen this behavior in action with some notable events from 2023:
- Harmonic to consider selling video business
- Dish merges with Echostar
- Disney acquires remaining stake in Hulu
- Endeavor acquires WWE
- Warner Brothers Discovery acquires BluTV
- Warner Brothers Discovery in discussions to merge with Paramount
Consolidation will continue in 2024, particularly with the larger platforms acquiring niche and localized competitors in an effort to expand into new geographies or content verticals. Innovative technology startups working in areas that can accelerate monetization will also be targets.
Greening of Streaming
Many organizations have started touting their sustainability measures. Although their motivations for embracing such measures vary from political and marketing benefits to purely financial ones. Whichever resonates with your situation, the growing emphasis on sustainability in streaming cannot be ignored. Video accounts for as much as 80% of all internet traffic and that trend will not slow down any time soon. With increased streaming comes increased server strain, making the broader environmental impact of streaming more evident.
What can we optimize in streaming to lower our overall energy footprint? New codecs like AV1 and VVC, which reduce bandwidth requirements, and low power encoding accelerators (VPUS) all show great promise, and surely will be beneficial. But without careful consideration of the energy impact across the entire pipeline, you may be just pushing the problem to another link in the chain. A lot of research needs to be done to truly determine how a change in one part of the workflow influences overall energy consumption and what can be done to optimize these efforts. It’s a very complex problem, and we must work together to examine and optimize the entire ecosystem. The Greening of Streaming group is a leader in this area and working industry wide to bring companies together to improve how streaming affects the planet.
Wowza has made our own efforts to promote greener streaming through high density compression, transcoding, and delivery. In 2023, we collaborated with AMD on their Alveo U30 transcoding accelerator card. High density technology such as this reduces server strain and thus the physical and financial resources required to send the same number of streams.
Wowza and AMD Work Together
With higher density transcoding comes greener streaming.Learn More
Streaming Tech to Keep an Eye On
Streaming technology continues to advance, adapt, and innovate, and while it takes time for these advancements to become mainstream, we must continue to push the envelope. As streaming business models change and new workflows emerge the underlying technology may need to be created to support it, that’s where the fun is.
Delivery Protocols: The vast majority of streams are delivered via HLS and DASH, and for good reason – they are well supported across devices, support features like DRM, ad insertion and captions and scale efficiently via established video CDNs. Both HLS and DASH are still improving, adding features for improved security, ad insertion and better multi-CDN support. With low-latency HLS or DASH you may even be able to achieve latencies as low as three seconds at scale. However, that doesn’t meet the requirements for ultra-low latency or interactive streaming workflows. In this area, WebRTC has become the de facto standard for workflows that require sub-second latency, with success stories in verticals such as gambling, auctions, and real time surveillance. There are tradeoffs – WebRTC does not support accessibility features such as captions and is typically more challenging to scale – but innovations such as Wowza’s Real-Time Streaming at Scale are helping to solve that problem. There are also some innovative alternatives being developed that could make waves in 2024. One I am watching in 2024 is Media over Quic (MoQ) – while still early in development, I believe it shows a lot of potential as a future streaming protocol.
WebRTC does not support accessibility features such as captions, and is typically more challenging to scale – but innovations such as Wowza’s Real-Time Streaming at Scale are helping to solve that problem.”
CDN and Scaling: As streaming continues to grow and the large events become even larger the challenges of scaling delivery reliable, efficiently, and economically require significant innovation to address. We are continuing to see compelling advances in areas such as Open Caching which allows content to be cached deeply within an ISP or even a home, and dynamic Multi-CDN routing with Content Steering. Support for both of these technologies will grow in 2024.
Video Codecs: We’ve talked about video codecs in the past and the result has always been that H.264 is still the king, and in 2023 that was still the case with H.264 being the most used codec for both Live and VOD. However, we did see significant gains for both HEVC in 2023, particularly for 4k workflows, and I expect to see the use of HEVC continue that growth in 2024. AV1 also had a good year in 2023 with YouTube and Twitch adding support for it in their live workflows, new hardware encoding options from companies like nVidia, NetInt and AMD, and most importantly – Apple adding hardware decoding support on the iPhone 15 and the new M3 chips. These factors will lead to AV1 becoming even more prevalent in 2024 and likely passing HEVC.
2024 Streaming Trends: Don’t Fall Behind
When I look back on our claims about OTT monetization, interactive media, smart cities, and more, I’m left with one main impression: whether or not you’re in the media and entertainment industry, you’re likely to need streaming in your future. If you’re already in the business of streaming, then you could be looking at increased demands for real-time or high-density streaming. In any case, the best place to start taking advantage of these trends is not being the last person to learn about them.
Wowza is more than a streaming partner, we are established and respected industry experts. In fact, we were recently named an Enterprise Video Platform (EVP) leader in growth and innovation by Frost & Sullivan. Learn more about what earned us this distinction, and don’t forget to follow us for more insights!
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About Barry Owen
Barry Owen is Wowza’s resident video streaming expert and vice president of solutions engineering. In this role, he leads a team dedicated to helping customers succeed. From architecting custom applications to solving complex problems, Barry leverages more than 25 years of experience developing software-as-a-service, cloud-based, and live streaming platforms to create innovative solutions that empower organizations across every use case.