Bitmovin expands encoding to analytics, talks fuboTV upgrade

Analytics technologies are cropping up as an inherent component of more and more business verticals across the video ecosystem, from content security to the network itself, so naturally the encoding players are expanding in this area too. Analytics and encoding/transcoding are two areas that will define the future of video, and such is their importance that service providers themselves are mounting a challenge to vendors with in-house R&D teams.

A company relatively new to the game is US encoding start-up Bitmovin, founded in 2013, which picked up a big deal at sports streaming service fuboTV just before the new year, and the company explained to Faultline Online Reporter how its business has rapidly evolved from software encoding to advanced analytics in under three years.

Coming out of working on the original DASH spec and HTTP-based protocols to launch its own cloud-based encoding product in 2015, supporting Google’s Kubernetes open source container software, Bitmovin then built a video streaming player to support its codec developments. After launching these two product arms, Bitmovin soon realized the importance of optimizing business data and came out with an analytics product for providing teams with tailor made APIs for analyzing and optimizing video workflows.

In September 2016, Bitmovin secured its $10.3 million Series A funding round and today claims Sling TV among its customers, using its Player product for browser delivery, not encoding, as we know Harmonic supplies Dish deployments, to support in-house Sling Media encoders.

Bitmovin’s Solutions Architect Paul MacDougall puts the company’s quick rise down to a different approach to what is viewed as traditional encoding, by breaking the process down to a granular level and providing individual outputs not tied to hardware or specific cloud providers. It lets customers deploy either on-premise or via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, which is nothing new in itself, but MacDougall claims the bigger players simply take software for traditional encoding and put this into a virtual machine, instead of looking at the whole resource footprint.

Bitmovin claims performance improvements of up to 30% in many cases and 100% in extreme circumstances. Our recent cloud transcoding report shows that the total cloud and software transcoding market for OTT video will be valued at $2 billion by 2022, representing a huge opportunity for budding vendors, while simultaneously painting a future where AWS swallows an increasingly large portion of the market.

There is still plenty of space for the less established suppliers of software and hardware transcoding products to make their mark in OTT, with many vendors already well on their way to transitioning from hardware to software. The rise of the SaaS model, which is occurring in various sectors, involves vendors signing up for cloud integrations with the likes of AWS and Microsoft Azure to scale out, but in doing so, sacrifice a share of deployment revenues.

Tech giants eating up market share, particularly in cloud computing, is likely playing on the minds of vendors and trigger them to differentiate from their core markets. Bitmovin shifted from encoding to providing an analytics platform for tracking CDN performance at ISPs – perhaps the most critical stage of the video path. It monitors how a streaming player was loaded, for example via HLS on Android versus DASH on Android, taking in various metrics which are used to flag network issues.

This is perhaps where encoding and analytics can overlap. With networks struggling under the pressure of traffic volume, the two technologies can combine to reduce bandwidth and in turn drive down CDN costs. Multi-codec developments including HEVC and AV1 are paving the way for better user QoE, while increasingly intelligent analytics platforms can detect abnormalities in the network, and in some cases rectify issues before the delivery of packets interrupts the content experience.

MacDougall noted that Bitmovin is a member of the royalty-free codec group the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia), but maintains the view that AV1 will not sweep the entire market, but rather it will dominate mobile and desktop, while HEVC adoption will lean towards set top deployments.

Bitmovin has been working with fuboTV, using its Player product for a couple of years now, and was awarded a contract upgrade in December 2017 for an encoding deployment alongside other anonymous encoding suppliers, although we are awaiting confirmation if this was a switch out job. The fuboTV deployment covers 9 of its total 65 channels, integrated with multi-DRM and encryption key security from BuyDRM and Zixi’s Feeder UDP-based transport stream protocol software. FuboTV also selected SpotX’s programmatic advertising service this week.

21st Century Fox invested in fuboTV, along with Sky, in March 2016, leading to a group of investors putting in $15 million. Neither 21st Century Fox nor Sky are currently licensing content to fuboTV, but both companies intend to work closely with fuboTV as it continues to grow, recently surpassing 100,000 subscribers.

FuboTV provides subscribers with a premium, OTT bundle of sports TV channels, featuring hundreds of live soccer matches, club videos, series, documentaries and other English, Spanish and Portuguese content.

The fuboTV service has distribution deals with TV channels that hold US rights to major worldwide sporting events, including soccer matches from more than half of the leading international soccer leagues and tournaments, a primary driver of growth. These include Univision Networks, beIN Sports, GolTV and Benfica TV.