October 29, 2020
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up, a weekly newsletter about the future of technology and entertainment. This time around, Next Up is focusing on the accelerating decline of the traditional TV business, and the role a new codec can play in powering streaming.
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Another 25 million households will cut the cord over the next five years, and major media companies are starting to accept the idea that some of TV's legacy business models won't survive this massive shift. That's the gist of a recent CNBC story that has been the talk of the town among tech and media executives.
The article was also a perfect tee-up for our TV's Tipping Point event yesterday, which featured CBS News Digital EVP & GM Christy Tanner, Cinedigm Networks President Erick Opeka, Tubi founder and CEO Farhad Massoudi and Wurl CEO Sean Doherty. You can watch a recording of the entire panel on YouTube, but here are a few highlights of what these digital media insiders had to say about this moment of transition for TV:
"It's no wonder that people are fleeing big cable in droves, and they are shifting to streaming." T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert, introducing the company's new TVision pay TV service.
"T-Mobile TVision offers [a] mishmash of channels at so-so prices." NScreen Media analyst Colin Dixon about Sievert's new "uncarrier" TV service.
Energy companies have a tricky problem to solve. They need to defend interconnected infrastructure from cyberattacks that can cause real-world damage. Learn more about energy sector's readiness to address this growing spectrum of cyberattacks.
When Roku unveiled its latest streaming devices last month, it also dropped a hint at things to come for the industry: Roku Ultra, the company's new $100 flagship device, is the first major streaming player to support the new AV1 codec, which offers significant performance improvements over existing video compression technologies. Chances are, it won't stay the only such device for long, as a number of companies are getting ready to adopt AV1 in the coming months.
Codecs are a bit like the plumbing of online video. The individual compression technologies are largely invisible to consumers, but make a big difference to service providers, device makers and network operators.
Industry insiders care about codecs for two reasons:
YouTube, Netflix and Facebook all began streaming a small portion of their content in AV1 to a subset of Android phones in recent months, but living room adoption has thus far been hampered by the lack of devices capable of decoding these streams. Google's new Chromecast with Google TV, for instance, can't play AV1 streams yet, and Amazon's 2020 Fire TV sticks, as well as the company's Echo Show displays, also don't know what to do with AV1.
However, all of this is poised to change quickly:
Experts tell me that AV1 could also make it easier to stream low-latency video for interactive applications, including cloud gaming and video chats. But the biggest benefit still lies in the associated bandwidth savings. U.S. home broadband, and even in-home Wi-Fi networks, remain major bottlenecks, as the pandemic has proven over the past couple of months.
The situation is even more dire in emerging markets like India, where many consumers have been using mobile hot spots in lieu of traditional home broadband. To be successful in these environments, streaming services have to be extremely mindful of data consumption — and codecs like AV1 can be a godsend for Netflix and the likes.
On Protocol: Netflix is experimenting with audio-only playback. The service is testing whether its subscribers may want to just listen to their favorite shows, potentially pitting it against podcasts and audiobooks.
YouTube is running out of videos to show political ads against. Premium swing state ad inventory is especially sought-after, Bloomberg reports.
Also on Protocol: T-Mobile has a new TV service, but the company hasn't always made the best choices when it comes to streaming video. Remember that big partnership with Quibi?
Apple is building yet another HomePod. Smaller AirPods Pro earbuds are reportedly also in the works.
Sam Smith teamed up with Spotify for an AR experience. The promotion is a first for Spotify, but likely won't get a whole lot of users, as you need two phones to unlock it.
Another Protocol story: Netflix has 400 times as many movies as Apple TV+. Quantity doesn't equal quality, but the differences between the major streaming services are striking.
Foursquare is doing audio AR now. The location data platform is sending AirPods users audio recommendations about select businesses and points of interest. The company is calling it "an experiment."
Audible is becoming a podcast aggregator. Amazon's ebook service is adding 100,000 podcasts for free. Also worth noting: There are apparently 100,000 podcasts in this world.
With just a few days left until Election Day, I often have to remind myself that the results won't be affected by the number of times I reload the 538 forecast. So maybe we should all take some cues from our kids to distract ourselves in times like these.
My 9-year-old, for example, has been keeping herself busy with puzzles during the pandemic. First, 500 pieces, then 1,000. Then someone gave her a puzzle consisting of 245 pieces that are all completely black, and all look the same to me — and she somehow solved it, too! Now, she has moved on to a Rubik's Cube, which was inspired by us watching Netflix's "Speed Cubers" documentary — a film that is as heartwarming as it is geeky. Give it a try, even if you are not a big puzzler. I promise, it beats reloading election forecasts.
Thanks for reading — see you next week!