Video Distribution


Video Distribution

The transformation of video distribution is equally significant.  We have witnessed rapid growth of on-demand video via digital networks to multiple screens (TVs as well as tablets and mobile phones), although the predicted demise of traditional linear programmed TV is likely to take a long time to materialise.  The transformation of video distribution is facilitated by three Videodevelopments: the near ubiquitous broadband and 3G/4G mobile networks, the mass ownership of smartphones and tablets as well as personal computers, and the rapid growth of platform firms (from YouTube and Facebook, Netflix and Amazon, to Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, Meerkat, Twitch and Periscope, to name a few).  These developments have largely eliminated the technological, financial and skill barriers for the distribution of video: anyone with a digital camera can easily share the videos they produce with families, friends and the general public using multiple viewing devices.


However, to understand the future of video distribution, it is necessary to examine the video distribution value chain and the business models of the key players involved.  Understanding  who will manage the video collections, how consumers will view and reuse video, and what competing technologies will survive in the future is critical.  Today, video distribution is paid  for by operators, broadcasters or platform firms that produce or aggregate content.  Revenues for these players are generated either directly from consumers or indirectly through  advertising.


Videos are primarily distributed through two different models: the linear, broadcast model, where the content is distributed centrally from the broadcaster to multiple viewers at a scheduled time (e.g. BBC or CNN); or the non-linear, unicast model, which includes both time-shifted viewing (e.g. BBC iPlayer or timeshift DVR), and on-demand viewing (e.g. Netflix or YouTube), where  each viewer makes a unique request for the video to be delivered individually.  Despite all the hype, the creation of non-linear, multi-device services has not yet Distributionhad a fundamental  impact on typical viewing habits – linear TV still makes up the vast proportion of viewing even in the major developed markets such as the USA and the UK.  Defensive measures  taken by incumbents also served to slow down the transition. For example, cable operators in the USA and Germany increasingly bundle TV with broadband and phone services  (triple play or quadruple play).  However, the rapid growth of non-linear, unicast video distribution is facilitating the emergence of new business models that underpin video  distribution.


Although non-linear viewing is rising rapidly, linear TV still makes up 80-90% of all viewing in the major markets around the world.  According to IHS Technology Principal Analyst Ed Border, it is simply not possible within the medium-term time frame for unicast, point-to-point delivery to match total consumer demand for video.[1]  The total cost of delivering all content uniquely to users would be ‘orders of magnitude above the current cost of all video distribution’, and the additional revenues from multiscreen simply cannot cover it.  In other words, scaling unicast to meet total video demand is not yet economically viable, and it will take at least 20-25 years even in developed markets.  Today, total demand for unicast delivery could account for up to 50% of current viewing, but current supply could only cost-effectively provide 15-20% of total viewing.

[1] The future of video distribution.

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Ian Mottashed

Ian Mottashed

Ian is our Head of Product Marketing.

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