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Looking Ahead to Video Streaming in 2021

We probably all have our fingers crossed 2021 will be different than 2020, but there’s little doubt it will be good for video streaming. But will the trends that took off last year continue? Will there be major changes in technology? It’s time to check-in and make some predictions about these and other questions.

More of the same

To answer the first question, will the trends continue, the answer is a firm yes. Most industry experts expect to see a strong increase in live streaming, even more OTT content, and more live sport. Also, they predict businesses will use, or leverage, user-generated video content to a greater extent than before. While some companies had been doing that already, the sheer amount of it last year proved its value as a way to stay connected with customers.

5G will transform streaming

The full roll-out of 5G won’t be completed until 2022 or later, but the changes coming this year will still affect video streaming. According to the State of Streaming Report by Streaming Media, ‘well over 50% [of respondents] think 5G is going to have a significant impact on their video streaming strategy’. In city centres and around stadiums across Europe and other parts of the world, updates in 5G will bring ‘multi-gigabit speeds over short distances’ (Android Authority). These speeds can further enable live streaming of sport using wireless cameras and the bandwidth load of thousands of fans at the same time. This could open up new opportunities for producing sport streams once production companies adapt to the technology. Still, given 5G is in transition, experts recommend a hybrid approach that uses a 4G failover – just in case. The conclusion the Streaming Media experts made was that the industry needs more education about the 5G capabilities available, so we might not see it used widely until later in the year.

Remote production explodes

Television networks in the US and across Europe announced their coverage of the Tokyo Olympic Games would rely on ‘heavy’ remote production. It’s a sign that the trend towards using the cloud for production will continue to grow at a fast pace in the coming year. In part, this is due to the uncertainty about travel and access because of the pandemic, but also for business reasons. Remote production often reduces cost and results in more flexibility to meet future demands as they arise.

And it isn’t just big production studios going remote. A study by the International Trade Association for the Broadcast & Media Industry showed that 45% of their respondents had started moving production to the cloud and another 40% planned to do so (SVG Europe). Companies with smaller teams find shifting their production to the cloud allows them to save money and have happier employees working from home rather than travelling (Streaming Media).

Major events will still be online or hybrid

As anxious as we all are to get back to normal, quite a few experts suggest that virtual entertainment and conferencing will continue. This makes sense given the uncertainty still surrounding this year and how the pandemic will play out, but when it’s over will people still want to attend events from their home?

Of course, only time will tell, but many conferences planned for this year have already announced they will be virtual or hybrid. For example, look at Toggl’s list of the top 100+ tech conferences across Europe. As you might expect, many in the near future are virtual. Looking farther out in the calendar, you’ll find many are still planning to be virtual or hybrid. One notable example is Latitude59, in Estonia, that happens in May. It’s billed as the ‘flagship startup and tech event’ and normally has over 2500 attendees. Last year they switched things up, running a hybrid event in September. It went so well according to their own report that they intend to keep doing it.

But most of the tech conferences listed after June haven’t updated their information for 2021, so it’s hard to draw any conclusions about whether people will prefer virtual over in-person events. Even before the pandemic, conferences often offered an online option, even if it was just access to the recordings on-demand. It’s likely that more conferences will include some sort of streaming or virtual attendance, but will it replace the in-person experience for most people? We’ll have to wait and see.

What about entertainment? Will music concerts or theatre continue via live streaming rather than in person? It’s likely according to an article in Rolling Stone. But don’t expect to see musicians playing stripped-down versions of their songs from their living room. The Dua Lipa livestream at the end of last November set the bar for how to stream a concert and make a ton of money doing it. Ben Mawson, co-founder and co-CEO of TaP Music told Rolling Stone: ‘Even when touring comes back, I think this will be part of the new model … It’s a new creative form for live’. Like many other areas, live streaming in the music industry was already on the rise before the pandemic and it simply took off faster than it might have otherwise.

Video marketing goes live

Video marketing is a no brainer for most businesses now. Even if they aren’t doing it, they know about it. But when live streaming became the only way to interact with customers, it became even more important than creating traditional videos for marketing. A Restream.io study said half of the businesses weren’t live streaming in 2019 but started in 2020, spurred on by the pandemic. However, 91% of those businesses plan to keep streaming after COVID, and 81% say it will be a social media priority in 2021 (restream.io).

Beyond social media and brand awareness, many companies found livestreams give instant sales boosts. Whether you’re doing a product launch, a live demonstration, or an interview, these generate immediate interest which leads to sales. Now that many businesses realize this, 2021 will see a surge of live stream marketing.

Will it all happen?

There’s not much certainty in the world right now, but the fact that online video and live streaming, in particular, will continue to dominate the Internet in 2021 is as sure a bet as you can make. The details and timing may differ from what we’ve written above, but the trends have too much momentum to stop now.

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