Looking Back at Video Streaming in 2020
There’s only one way to look back at 2020, and that’s through the lens of the pandemic. While lockdowns slowed the pace of life for most people, they provided rocket boosters for the streaming industry. It’s safe to say nearly everyone, worldwide, participated in some aspect of video streaming from binge-watching to participating in online meetings or classes.
But it isn’t just that people were streaming more. Trends that had been increasing slowly over the last few years to decades took off at incredible rates. Entire industries shifted to support the increase in streaming or adapted to using it. Let’s look at some of them.
One of the biggest shifts happened in video production. Travel restrictions, lockdowns and self-isolation meant it was near impossible to send a full production team out for events, conferences or TV shows. Suddenly TV hosts with no technical knowledge needed to set up the equipment to live stream from home. Event organisers switched to virtual events, then needed to figure out how to coordinate the remote guests into a single stream for people to watch. For events that remained live, they had to work with just a small video production team (or none) when they usually had tens to a hundred people involved.
Some video production companies had been moving towards remote production setups prior to COVID-19 and were prepared to shift entirely to remote with little trouble. Others discovered how to do it quickly, and the industry as a whole worked to define best practices. This was important because relying on guest presenters or hosts for work that would normally require a camera operator or audio team was problematic. They needed to make the process as simple for them as they could. During the Streaming Media West Conference in September, the panel discussed how this situation led to production workflows that moved most of the work to a remote site where a producer handled the encoding, mixing and even controlled cameras. In these cases, the guest or presenter just needed to physically place the camera, lighting and audio, then the producer, sitting somewhere else (perhaps far away), did all the hard work.
Another side effect of remote production is that viewers became more forgiving about video that might have been considered unprofessional before. For example, people produced videos in kitchens, bedrooms, hallways, and cars instead of a slick studio. People appeared without the full makeup applications they’d normally get prior to appearing on TV. And yes, there was the occasional dog barking, child crying, or strange undefinable noises that sometimes distracted everyone. Though I haven’t found statistics to back it up, I think this more realistic style helped make everyone feel more connected when we weren’t able to be physically with other people.
A lifeline for sport
Once sport could resume, fan-less games behind closed doors survived because people at home could still watch. And they were, and are, willing to pay for the experience. Almost two-thirds say they would pay more than £10 per month to watch live-streamed sport (Sportspromedia). That’s not surprising when 62% say attending a sport in person isn’t
important to them (Statista). Live streaming sport grew by 155% in 2019, and 2020 was supposed to see that trend increase (Insidersport.com). With fans forced to stay away from sport events at all levels, live streaming became one of the primary ways to watch, especially games or events that weren’t already broadcast on TV.
Online education has been around for decades, but it’s always been a small subset of people who used it. That all changed this year when everyone from primary students to business people had to rely on remote learning. Traditional education wasn’t the only area affected. Music lessons, martial arts classes, and clubs all went remote too. Fitness classes were another area that saw massive growth as streaming workouts replaced visits to the gym. One example is yoga and meditation. The number of minutes live-streamed for these types of fitness videos grew by 392% between March and August (uscreen). One local yoga studio live-streamed classes, but also put up over 300 hours of recorded classes accessible with a monthly fee. That is one minor example of how the business of education changed to meet the challenges of 2020. But like sport and video production, it isn’t unexpected. The online fitness industry existed prior to covid and was growing. This past year just accelerated it.
Business of streaming
Video marketing is another business tool that has been around for a couple of decades now. This past year, though, many companies found that just creating video wasn’t enough. They needed to connect with their customers in an alternative way given that the in-person experience disappeared, or was modified. In one study half of businesses said they hadn’t streamed at all in 2019, but started in 2020 in response to the pandemic. Live streaming provided them a way to interact and provide that person-to-person experience in a safe manner. It seems to have worked as 73% of those businesses said they plan to increase their live streaming budgets in 2021 (restream.io).
Did we almost break the Internet?
All this increase in streaming must have affected the Internet, right? In the beginning of the lockdowns there was a drop in average speeds of wired connections and an increase in outages. However, an analysis of the Internet worldwide shows that these were temporary and probably because of the ISPs reconfiguring to handle the demand. The final assessment of how the Internet performed is that it “bent [but]…the coronacrisis didn’t break it” and “the state of the Internet is healthy” (diginomica.com).
Last year proved to be a perfect stress test for the Internet and we know now it can handle the increased usage. It’s good to know we have nothing to worry about, at least when it comes to streaming video.