Picture This: Tapping the Trend
Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer
The professional AV industry is poised to take advantage of streaming video.
What does YouTube mean to the professional AV industry? Well, probably nothing directly. Yet during the last couple of years, the success of streaming video on the Web has had a marked impact on how comfortable the general public has become with online digital video content. And that affects how computer users will view this relatively new form of information.
It's not just YouTube, of course — although YouTube's singular success has clearly reached a very broad spectrum of computer users. Cable news websites now regularly stream short news segments, as do network news stations. Many television station websites now regularly stream proprietary content, including everything from local news to full episodes of national network primetime content. Whether or not YouTube deserves all of the credit for driving this streaming video boom and forcing the hand of other content owners, it is clear that streaming video is now a mainstream technology.
Of course, if you've spent any time at all on YouTube, it goes without saying that there's a lot of irrelevant, juvenile, and outright garbage content. But there's also content that is well worth seeing, whether it is for informational, cultural, or recreational purposes. But that is not what matters. The YouTube-era revelation is that regular, non-technical computer users have now become accustomed to watching digital video on the Web, and that extends far past video-sharing sites. It's an opportunity for the professional AV industry to take advantage of the new trend.
Digital video and streaming video have been around for a long time, but what has changed since I started followed streaming video more than a decade ago is the nature of the discussion. For much of that time, the issues centered around the technology: the compression formats, the encoders, the decoders, and whether CPUs alone had the processing power without hardware assistance, multicasting and edge-serving to minimize demands on infrastructure, and the balance between picture quality and low enough bandwidth requirements, etc. Many of those were exciting discussions typical of pioneering days, but history is littered with great technologies in search of a problem to solve.
It's only recently — most overtly with the success of YouTube — that streaming video has gone from being a cool technology for the few to a solution that is reaching viewers in large numbers. Concerns about image quality, while still justified given the heavy compression necessary, are no longer paramount issues. The marketplace has by its action decided that the user experience is good enough and that the desire for content outweighs any recognizable quality limitations. The questions now are more about how to leverage this new way of reaching the public, what content is desirable in the on-demand viewing era, and what is the business model for deploying the technology.
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