OTT & Video Predictions for 2024

Matthijs Langendijk
8 min readJan 5, 2024

At the start of the year, we always get the joy of seeing new technology reach the market with announcements at CES. But before we do that, I thought it would be good to take a quick look ahead and look at what the year 2024 is expected to bring. What are we going to focus on, what will be different from last year, and what is going to carry over from what we are already doing? Besides my standpoint, I also asked some industry veterans what they think will be the focus for 2024. Let’s take a look!

Money money money

Monetization has been the name of the game in OTT for quite some time now. Whereas in previous years big investments were made, money is rather scarce in today's day and age. Layoffs, lack of funding, and a lot of non-profitable parties in the industry — even the biggest in the industry are struggling to make ends meet. So you can expect a lot of efforts to become profitable in 2024; here is what Pieter-Jan Speelmans of THEO Technologies had to say about this:

“My expectation is that most of the trends as we have seen in 2023, will continue onwards in 2024, especially in the area of playback. I expect a focus on profitability across the board. This is likely going to translate into a permanent interest in anything that’s cost-saving (e.g. lowering the data usage), and anything generating revenue (e.g. advertisement). As part of this, I do also expect an increased interest in what I call ‘Fan engagement’. Especially an interest in topics like multiview will definitely come forward.”
- Pieter-Jan Speelmans, CTO, THEO Technologies.

A very clear and understandable take from PJ, if you ask me. Focussing on being profitable with both trying to save costs through reducing data usage, as well as trying to get more income through the likes of advertisements is only understandable. What does stand out for me here is his added comment about fan engagement. If there’s anything that you can do to increase profitability, it is by having an increased amount of interaction from your users. And by providing service-defining features, like multiview that PJ mentions, you can definitely bind users to your service.

Looking further into remaining profitable, David Eisenbacher of EZDRM had an interesting take:

“From our perspective, there are often advantages in stream delivery that can be used to maximize existing revenue streams. Clearly, one initiative is to reduce revenue loss caused by stream theft and ad-stripping using a robust DRM protection scheme for all content. But, going further, more sophisticated applications of DRM protection can be used to create differential pricing strategies for steams of standard and premium resolution, for example, or for streams with premium audio tracks. These techniques are not applied widely at present, but can be used to create competitive advantage in the marketplace,”
- David Eisenbacher, CEO of EZDRM.

Whereas a lot of the cost-saving is focused on decreasing the monthly spending on things like infrastructure, a clear aspect of being profitable is gaining and retaining subscribers. An important aspect of that, as clearly stated by David, is the need to protect your content. Not only from piracy of the content itself, but also from ensuring revenue streams like advertising before video continue to function as expected. Speaking of advertising…

Ad-supported

Next to saving costs, different monetization opportunities are of course at the top of it all. Continuing the trend we’ve seen in 2023, ad-supported services will likely continue to grow. With FAST having a steady hold on the United States of America, it’s likely going to make a bigger break into other regions of the world as well — all to try and increase the profitability of streaming services. While talking about the opportunities for the year ahead, this is what my colleague Sander de Vries had to say about advertisement and FAST:

Many companies have already recognised the opportunities with FAST and AVOD. What I am especially interested in, is seeing if we can help broadcasters and telcos embrace the changing market. They have many opportunities leveraging FAST; not just as an additional source of income, but also to (partially) replace their existing linear technology stack.
- Sander de Vries, Head of Media Services, Triple.

A quote I can only agree with, and find very interesting (no, not just because he’s my colleague ;) ). We’ve seen many companies adopt FAST as a means of getting additional income and gathering a bigger audience for their content. What interests me, however, is how we can leverage FAST technologies for pre-existing streaming stacks. There is a real opportunity for modernizing the technology stack of linear television, which in my opinion is long overdue.

Innovations and opportunities

Existing business is great. It’s what we thrive on, it’s what pays the bills. But for business to continue existing, we cannot just sit still. Having the ability to adapt, change, and recognise new opportunities is incredibly important; especially in the ever-changing world of streaming. So what are some of the opportunities in the year ahead? I asked some industry veterans that exact thing.

In 2024, the streaming landscape as I perceive it, would continue to witness significant shifts, with three key trends demanding our attention: African Content Focus, the rise of FAST Channels in Africa, and the revolutionary impact of Rapid OTT Innovations like Channel AI.
- Louis Manu, Co-founder and CEO, Wi-flix.

Starting with the first two points in Louis’ comments, he envisions a clear focus on African content — and he couldn’t be more right. Yes, Wi-flix is fully focused on business on the African continent. But that’s for good reason. The streaming market in Europe and the USA is rather congested, it’s very full and competition is incredibly high. There are massive opportunities for new (and also existing) streaming services to gain a foothold in African countries, with competition still being relatively small. Wi-flix is of course a great example of that, having reached a million paying subscribers just 3 years after its inception.

Continuing with the second part of his comments, we can only guess what kind of impact AI will continue to have on the streaming industry, and of course the world as a whole. We’ve seen many new services, tools and technologies pop up in the past year — and that’s only going to continue. I could warrant a whole blog on the role of AI in video and have done that already last year as well, so I’ll just leave it with a: Yes, AI is going to have a massive impact on everything we do, and will make massive strides in 2024.

Sustainability in OTT

While speaking to others about their plans for 2024, something that stood out to me was something that Sander Kouwenhoven from NLZIET mentioned about the plans they have:

We are looking at different initiatives together with our partners, with a big aim to reduce the ecological footprint of our streaming platform. OTT offers a much better viewing experience for end-users, but still has steps to take when it comes to being environmentally friendly. We see it as our responsibility to continue to make steps to improve this.
- Sander Kouwenhoven, CTO, NLZIET.

Tying into the reduction of costs a bit, reducing energy consumption is a great added benefit of this. Less CDN usage of course means less need for powerful equipment running that CDN. A big opportunity to decrease the ecological footprint could lie in using different encoding profiles and newer codecs like AV1, VP9 and VVC (VVC decoding was just added to FFmpeg) to reduce the bandwidth used. Which, as you guessed, in the end, contributes massively to a reduction in CDN usage. All in all, though, I very much appreciate the commitment from NLZIET to not just focus on profitability but also recognise their position to be environmentally friendly. Wish more companies would recognise this!

Low-latency

Guess whose back, back again? Low latency is back, tell a friend. Yes, that is an adaptation of Eminem’s “Without Me”. But low latency is definitely back, if it was gone at all. In recent months, we’ve seen many companies jump on the AI hype. However, many are still recognizing the opportunities that low-latency has to offer:

There’s no denying that commercial advantage comes from driving towards lower glass to glass times. Technologies such as LL-HLS, LL-DASH initially paved the way, but newer initiatives such as HESP and the expanded applications of WebRTC have the potential to offer sub-second latencies that open up new business directions. EZDRM is a big part of these initiatives because premium content services means content protection is a must-have. EZDRM has been an active member of not only the DASH-IF, but also the HESP Alliance, from the beginning to ensure security was a fully integrated element of the technology profile from day one. EZDRM has also developed a secure WebRTC-DRM solution to help drive this protocol towards offering a full commercial profile for content providers.
- David Eisenbacher, CEO, EZDRM.

In the area of low latency, I’m expecting this to continue to grow in the context of sports betting. Not only that though, as we’ve seen other premium sports brands more more towards lower latencies. Especially the announcement of Youtube TV about the Sunday ticket and their low latency beta, has definitely opened the eyes of other sports brands out there. They might operate slow though, so time will only tell if 2024 is the year they finally make the move.
- Pieter-Jan Speelmans, CTO, THEO Technologies.

Need I say more? David and PJ have explained it perfectly — at least from an OTT perspective, we’re all ready for low latency to make its way there. Content protection is there, players are ready for LL-HLS, LL-DASH, and WebRTC and HESP are also great options. The only thing to consider is the fact that while the ‘front’ part of streaming might be ready, the ‘early part of the glass’ still has some considerable steps to make. Because don’t be mistaken; getting the right encoders, making sure content gets where it needs to go in time, you name it… there is a lot more to real low latency than you might think!

My own two cents

Finishing off then, 2024 is looking to be an interesting year for our industry once again. Technological advancements are at an all-time high, and we can only expect 2024 to fully continue that trend, maybe even accelerate it. With AI very much on the rise, who knows where we’ll be come year's end? We can expect many moves in a very broad range of areas; from saving costs on the CDN side, with or without newer codecs (that also have the benefit of saving energy and contributing to a sustainable industry!); all the way to lower latency and growth opportunities in different parts of the world.

I can’t end without talking a bit about SmartTVs though, as that’s what you’ll likely know me for! However, with the state we find ourselves in currently, that warrants its own blog. There is a massive amount of fragmentation in the TV industry, with as many as 20 different TV brands needing to be supported. We’ll look at the CES announcements in the upcoming days, and based on that we can see where the industry is going. So let’s wait for that, and before you know it, I’ll be back with a blog about the state of SmartTV in 2024!

For now, though, I wish you a great 2024 filled with awesome opportunities to help our industry grow and become more sustainable.

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