The modern cable industry, at least in the US, has been forcefully moving ahead and endorsing TV Everywhere as their digital model – the ability to access online content as part of the cable subscription, migrating the high value revenue stream to the digital age. On the other end, Netflix has been trying to create more original content to move beyond the exclusivity of cable.

Even though there are many different opinions what model is the best, it’s clear that TV Everywhere has been constantly raising the quality of content accessible online. With it comes an interesting challenge – scalability. Many projections during the last 25 years proclaimed that the web will collapse due to increased traffic, but we can now stream 4K content online, and often higher quality video content than available with traditional broadcast technology.

To reach true scale, there are still a few obstacles:

  • Although TVE popularity is increasing, we are nowhere close to broadcast size audiences yet – once this changes, scalability will be the business deciding factor.
  • The nature of broadcast is linear. Digital video provides more flexibility for time shifted viewing, but linear or live viewing events are where the excitement is (live sport events, season premieres, breaking news, etc.)

Data from the Adobe Digital Index underlines the trend, with live sporting events becoming increasingly more popular online.

sport

What does this mean for broadcast’s digital future? Will the internet finally collapse? It’s unlikely, since the Internet survived the massive amount of traffic coming from main stream video services such as YouTube or Netflix. But mastering scalable technology will be a business advantage.

 

How to scale

Even though scalability can be influenced by many different factors, and there is certainly not a golden bullet, there are some areas that greatly lower the risk of issues.

Cloud based services

Running operations in the cloud often can provide a quick fix for device reach and abstraction across clients, but it is the number one bottleneck to your operation. True cloud scale is rarely spinning up a few additional servers, but requires in-depth knowledge of scaling techniques. This means to rely on an experienced third party for cloud scalibiltiy, or a solution that provides scale by not overusing the cloud.

The Network

Mastering the lower level mechanics of networks is an important skill. Most of it has been solved for us today, but understanding how to increase caching efficiencies to maximize CDN performance leads directly to a better user experience, and more engagement.

Streaming Technologies

The fragmentation of streaming technologies can be significant if not architecturally addressed.

  • Streaming protocols
  • DRM technologies
  • Authentication
  • Measurement

Lower complexity and an architecture with a single workflow in mind provides the foundation for true scalabiliy. It allows to focus capacity on certain systems, vs. trying to stretch it over parallel workflows. The same for authentication services, and measurement. While in the traditional cable world authentication and transactions occurred way ahead of time (think cable subscription), access authentication to digital content is often happening very close to or during the digital event.

 

The Future

We need to be ready for scale, it is unavoidable. Usage patterns are shifting, and the generation of digital natives is here. We can influence our faith by making architecturally smart decisions and consider scalability as one of the lead factors. It might not influence the near future, but will be the key for exponentially future growth.