Monday, 23 May 2011

Video streaming drives data growth – but who pays for it?

Once again, we’re hearing reports that multimedia traffic and video in particular, will drive a massive growth in Internet traffic. ABI Research has calculated that Video and TV streaming could surpass web and internet traffic by 2015, driven by the increasing use of laptops, tablets and other connected devices.

While this isn’t anything new, the increase in the amount of services delivering over-the-top media (and more importantly, the upsurge in the number of devices that give consumers access to those services) indicates that this growth can’t be ignored.

Rising internet traffic will require increased investment from both data carriers and service providers. While the net neutrality debate isn’t yet over, it’s clear that consumers will end up paying for this investment in one way or another. However, who they pay will be an important factor and if service providers can’t monetise their content they will face an uphill struggle in the face of increasing costs for content delivery. We’re already seeing YouTube moving to provide pay content, and other service providers are likely to soon follow, but it’s unclear what will distinguish their services from the likes of Netflix and LoveFilm.

Services operated by broadcasters, such as Sky Player, often have an edge in the quality of content they can offer - not to mention revenue from broadcast programming that can help offset the cost of an online service. For this reason, pure online services will have to do more than simply provide video in order to convince end users to pay. Without offering something unique, these services will face stiff competition from traditional broadcasters and TV service providers offering online content.

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