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Linear TV is so 2011...On-Demand and Streaming is the Future

July 25th, 2012 at 19:25 by Dave Tomlinson

Speedtest result

How we use the internet has changed – and is changing – dramatically. Ten years ago, most of the UK was on dial-up – and if you had broadband you almost certainly had a 512kbps connection.

Today, 512kbps feels like a dial-up connection because the average webpage is well over 1MB. And while the average speed of broadband in the UK is now around 7-8Mbps, we’re trialling 80Mbps and even 330Mbps services. But how has this changed how we consume media – most importantly TV? Read on, for my take on it all …

The faster speed effect – build it and they’ll come

With faster speeds and superfast fibre broadband coming people often ask: “what on earth will I do with 40/80/100/330Mbps?” Right now, there aren’t a huge number of services where the average internet user needs super-fast speeds, but they’ll come.

For some people the only chance of getting speeds faster than 2Mbps is through FTTC and FTTP. Lots of households are taking advantage of these services right now so multiple people can do different things online, all at the same time.

In such households, for example, you could have one person watching a video on demand service (5Mbps), another watching iPlayer (3.5Mbps), a third gaming, listening to music on YouTube and chatting to friends (2Mbps) and a fourth browsing the web (low average bandwidth but with bursts up to line speed). Sustained throughput is therefore 10.5Mbps with bursts that go even higher, and they may also have downloads and software updates running in the background. So, it’s not that big a leap then to see how you start needing 40 or 80Mbps.

Devices content and demand

Faster speeds might explain how more of us are able to consume media online, but what’s driving demand? The first increase in demand is down to the proliferation of internet connected devices and therefore the concurrency of usage. How long ago did the average household have a single PC connected to the internet via a USB modem? And now how many of us have phones, tablets, games consoles, set-top boxes, TVs and all sorts of other things that all connect to the internet? (One of our customers even has an IPv6 connected Cat Feeder!)

The second increase is the content. People want to view content on the biggest screen they can. That used to be the (small) desktop computer screen, now it’s often the (big) TV. On a large TV, people use the highest bit rate they can to make it look the best. And of course the content providers are providing higher bit rates (all the major streaming players now offer HD streams) so that streaming services can now compete with DVDs on quality as well as convenience and cost. How long will it be before we see even higher bit-rate streams? HD satellite broadcasts are around 9-12Mbps so there’s room for an increased bit-rate for the online streams, not to mention what’s to come in the future.

The streaming trends we’ve spotted:

On an average evening, more than 50% of Plusnet customer traffic is streaming – and this peaks higher during big sporting events.
Although we are starting to see streaming traffic coming from Netflix, the biggest providers by far are still free services like YouTube at nearly 15% and iPlayer at around 10% of total traffic during our peak period.

We’ve also seen that SkyGo peaks when they have exclusive content like big football games and F1, but barely registers the rest of the time (are people sharing logins with friends who aren’t Sky customers?). 4oD, Demand 5 and ITV Player combined do roughly half the traffic of iPlayer. ITV Player is similar to SkyGo in that it has peaks for exclusive content, such as their Champions League and Euro 2012 games so far.

The Manchester derby on Sky Sports beat BBC1 in the TV ratings, and this doesn’t count online viewing. This was also the biggest event we’ve seen from SkyGo but it only represented about 8% of traffic on our network during the 2nd half of the game.

YouTube seems to be very popular with the kids, we see a small spike in the morning around 7-8am but only on school days (we don’t see it at the weekend or during school holidays), and then it spikes up rapidly from around 3-4pm when the schools finish.

 

iPlayer is much more centred around the evening peak and you can see clear peaks when there are popular shows on like Top Gear and Doctor Who.

The top 10:

In terms of event driven demand these currently rank as the 10 biggest events we’ve seen on the network:

Date – Event

  1. 13/05/2012 – Final Premier League fixtures/Spanish Grand Prix
  2. 30/04/2012 – Man City v Man Utd
  3. 13/10/2011 – Release of iOS5
  4. 22/04/2012 – Man Utd v Everton/Bahrain Grand Prix
  5. 24/04/2012 – Barcelona v Chelsea
  6. 22/01/2012 – Arsenal v Man Utd
  7. 04/03/2012 – Spurs v Man Utd
  8. 11/02/2012 – Man Utd v Liverpool
  9. 05/02/2012 – Chelsea v Man Utd
  10. 22/01/2012 – Man City v Spurs

Apart from the release of iOS5 and the Spanish/Bahrain Grand Prix, all of these are football games and most feature Manchester United or Manchester City (or both).

To be clear, we can only see the type of traffic and time and are making the assumption about what people are doing.

Streaming Music

Streaming services are now dominating the bandwidth landscape; we now have a streaming chart and more music is streamed than downloaded. People are no longer tied to physically owning the music or videos they want to consume. In the 60s if you wanted to listen to music your choice was record or radio, the 80s added cassettes and then CDs and the 90 and 00s have brought us mp3s and the iPod. But ultimately you either had to either decide what you wanted to listen to before you went out or listen to the songs the DJ chose on the radio.

Now you can take your iPhone out with you and with a service like Spotify stream any of millions of songs over 3G or wifi. Spotify uses over 1% of our network bandwidth so is clearly popular, and from talking to people we believe that a lot of the YouTube usage is from people, often their kids, creating music playlists to listen to and watch something else or play a game at the same time. This is particularly interesting because the video content being sent along with the music is effectively being ignored, despite it being the majority of the bandwidth of the stream.

Streaming Sport

Three of the top four events were only in the last 3 months. Right now we are in the middle of the summer of sport, first with Euro 2012 then Wimbledon – and we all know what’s just days away where we expect to see lots of records set.

The snake in the mailbox?

Is this the snake in the mailbox moment? Has streaming already become the new radio? And is it becoming the new way to consume TV? If content is there then people will listen or watch, especially if the price is right, (free 4oD and YouTube is a great price). One of the reasons piracy (which is regarded as something bad) continues is perhaps because content isn’t always available in the format users want, at the time they want, or is not available at all?

The amount of traffic just gets bigger and bigger. We’re getting ever more content, higher bit-rates, more devices and bigger screens. More content is becoming available; how many songs, films and TV shows are there on iTunes? How many films are becoming available on the On Demand services? There’s plenty of stuff that isn’t there yet, but more is coming all the time.

 

Streaming now accounts for over 42% of all usage in the evening (between 4pm and midnight), peaking at above at 50-60% depending on what’s on TV and which channel. We’ve seen a 65% increase in the amount of streaming over the past year. Total usage has grown by 40% in the past year (and doubled in just over 2 years) and streaming makes up over half of the growth.

As we’ve said before, iPlayer and YouTube dominate the amount of streaming traffic on our network. Their free content is consumed by lots of people. Where people are paying for content, they use it a lot, but the penetration is a lot lower than the free services and we’d speculate that services like SkyGo are used more by the friends of Sky customers wanting to see the exclusive content rather than people watching it on a different device to their TV. After all, if you are paying for a Sky Sports subscription, why wouldn’t be you be in your front room, watching it on your main TV.

People are liking what they see and are consuming more. We’ve seen step changes in the past after big events like the World Cup two years ago where people have watched the football online and then started watching more regular shows on iPlayer or other services. There’s a generation starting to emerge that don’t watch TV on the television when it’s broadcast, they watch on demand when they want to on the device that’s most convenient to watch it on. When they buy their own homes and get a TV, the first requirement is going to be that it connects to the Internet and second that it’s big.

Several years ago I predicted that we’d get an EPG which went forward and backwards in time, forwards it would record over the air TV shows and backwards would download or stream them. YouView has just announced the first backwards EPG that switches between digital TV and on-demand programmes from the past seven days.

Streaming and online on-demand content isn’t going to replace broadcast radio and TV this year or next year or even the year after, but it’s going to eat into the amount of hours we spend viewing and listening to content and it’s going to make up a significant proportion in that time. If the content people want is conveniently available and it’s portable between devices and screens then it’s a no-brainer. In fifteen years time this may well be the home of the future.

What do you make of our streaming stats? Do you agree with Dave? Please leave a comment and let us know …

dave

This entry was posted by Dave Tomlinson on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 at 7:25 pm and is tagged with , , , , , , , , , , and is posted in the category Plusnet News, Traffic Management, WWW Front Page. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


20 comments on "Linear TV is so 2011...On-Demand and Streaming is the Future"

Being an old fogey, I don't really embrace these new delivery methods. ;-)

There is no doubt that TV you don't watch live is a great leap forward, but that was achieved years ago and works well with current generation PVRs (and the Tivo functionality is even supposed to "guess" what you might want to watch). If iPlayer et al exist to allow people to watch something retrospectively, why are they full of regular series and soaps - programmes which people could have series-linked or pre-programmed on any PVR-like device? The odd weird programme you didn't know about is much less likely to be available streamed.

My own feeling is that on-demand streaming is more about watching the content on a device that isn't the living room TV. The desire to have a window with TV that you can watch with one eye while you work or surf at the same time. The desire to watch something on a mobile phone, iPad, or small screen in the kitchen or the back of a car seat. Such viewing behaviour stems from an unwillingness to apply any real attention to the programme content, in much the same way that people may traditionally have had a radio playing music as background noise.

Hmm... Which was the chicken and which the egg? The tremendously inane, dumbed-down, repetitive programme content seen in increasing amounts, or the viewing attitude which allows people to apply the amount of attention the content deserves? :-o

In many cases though, the use of streaming just seems a misappropriation of the technology. Packet switched networks are not well suited to streaming, and on-demand streaming to millions simultaneously is hopelessly inefficient. Radio waves provide a far better system for broadcast. P2P helps somewhat, but in many cases that approach seems to be used by companies who want to offload the cost of content delivery onto third parties (i.e. ISPs), who then have to bear the brunt of the cost (and the customers' ire) when the system doesn't keep up.

As someone who finds great enjoyment in watching my TV and films on a good quality home cinema system, I can't see myself wanting to watch TV on a mobile phone any time soon. The humorous, inventive and banal "clip-mentality" content of YouTube and the like is far better suited to casual viewing on mobile devices. Don't drag proper drama and entertainment down to that level simply to enable the technology to deliver. Embrace all mediums and styles and apply each to the other appropriately.

ejs

Saying that streaming accounts for 50-60% of the total evening traffic isn't particularly exciting, because videos use much more bandwidth than text and still images.

If the total evening bandwidth peaks at 50Gbps, and if 60% of that is streaming, then that's 30Gbps of streaming, or 30,000Mbps. That's only 20,000 people streaming at 1.5Mbps, which isn't a huge proportion of 500,000 customers online.

beardybuck

I'd agree with the bafflement of people watching movies on small screens. I have a modest TV and surround set up, but it is like an imax compared to watching movies on a PC, let alone a laptop, tablet or - shudder - a phone.
However with the proliferation of living room devices that can access on demand contact - especially through the excellent iplayer, this isn't going to go away.

What does need to go away however, are the hugely restrictive usage limits imposed by ISP's. I have a 120GB limit like a lot on Plusnet, but with the 80/20 trial, and my speeds being 76/16, this is paltry. With 5GB extra being an extra £5, I find myself paying through the nose some months.
People will migrate more to those ISP's that impose no limit, or a realistic one of say, 500GB. I live in a home with two desktop PC's, three iPhones, an xbox, and a PS3. This eats into 120GB at a frightening rate, and many homes will have far more connected devices than this.

All this is mentioned in the article in terms of speeds, and the saturation of line speed in bursts, but not in terms of usage - I really, really hope plusnet change their limits, as I find them an excellent ISP in terms of reliability, and especially customer support - but I would be willing to sacrifice these for unlimited or higher usage.

"Today, 512kbps feels like a dial-up connection"... yeah today and everyday, considering this is the speed you give me.

beardybuck said "excellent ISP in terms of reliability, and especially customer support - but I would be willing to sacrifice these for unlimited or higher usage"

Which is why ISPs like TalkTalk exist. Dreadful as an ISP, but they cater to the "I want loads of data for the cheapest price and I don't care about consistency, latency or, god forbid, customer service" type of person.
Maybe you should sign up?

bobpullen

Thanks for your views guys, keep them coming.

@Mr.Ano, is your speed due to the length/quality of your line, or is there something I can help you with?

beardybuck

@Laser -
I said I would sacrifice excellent reliability and customer support, not throw them out the window.
There are other ISPs, which do offer more usage. I probably will sign up for another at the end of my contract, If things stay the same. My post was more a poke at Plusnet, to see if any increase in usage is forthcoming. Not an invite to be told to leave.
I'm not asking for terabytes, but a realistic approach. I pay for the pro add on, which is fantastic. Perhaps there should be extensions to the pro add on, such as pro+250gb for an extra tenner, but keep the unlimited overnight.
I can't be the only customer frustrated with the 120GB limit. The 80/20 speeds make a mockery of it.
I think Plusnet appreciate the constructive criticism and would like to hang on to custom, rather than just ditching to another ISP.

@beardybuck
Heh, I should perhaps have added a smiley to take any sting from my words! I'm not "telling you to leave", just pointing out it can't be hard to find an ISP with "unlimited" if you're not fussy about other aspects.

There have been many threads and discussions lately about wanting more usage, but they are generally along the lines of "I think there should be a package of (insert amount to suit self here) for (a couple of quid more than I'm currently paying)". i.e. With little regard to practical economics of business. PN have in the last several years offered constrained quotas with managed traffic, as opposed to the unconsrained, largely unmanaged approach taken by many other ISPs. It's just their style, I can't see them suddenly saying the quotas are going to quadruple without putting the price up or restricting something else.

At the same time as people wanting hundreds of gigabytes to stream TV or have their kids watch YouTube all night (hey, what a change - we used to complain about "downloading Linux distros"! ;-) ), there are many others who surf and stream and exchange pictures and mail and yet remain well within the 10GB Value allowance, let alone the 60GB Extra. They wont be happy if their package price goes up to accomodate a higher allowance or subsidise others.

A long time ago there was an invitation to discuss what type of packages and charging structure we wanted to see. I suggested something quite complicated in an effort to accomodate everybody but, of course, it was too confusing to be used. I think the upshot of all that was the BBYW packages which seemed fairly agreeable to people at the time, but PN's approach seems to have veered away from that flexibility towards a much simpler offering. Pity...

beardybuck

@Laser, no offence taken at all!
I do use torrents a lot, but I am usually very careful to schedule my usage overnight.
I find it is NETFLIX and Youtube get hammered, and my kids are mental about demos and online gaming. Steam sales don't help either. It ramps up very quickly. Also I am dreading the usage over next few weeks with the Olympics. Apart from the opening ceremony, we haven't watched anything broadcast,all iplayer - which has been superb.
It all builds very quickly.
I can understand them not jumping to 500GB+, but 250GB seems like a reasonable amount - to me!

callen

I have to agree with beardybuck. To emphasise the point, plusnet need to offer plans with more the 120Gb/month. My family finds it extremely frustrating to be hitting the limits each month and it causes tension - no way am I paying £5 for 5Gb.
Plusnet, if you're going to promote streaming, get real and offer us a usage plans that works for a 21st century family.

i think plusnet is rubish in all ways my main hate is how slow and rubish the internet speed is im a call of duty player ind every 1 else i ask is with sky or bt thay get 4 bars connect and so it shud b im happy if for 1 day mine is 3 bar but 75% of the time its 2 bar that = 150 ms ping for pepol that dont no call of duty 1 bar is lag 2 bar is a bit of lag and lots of folse movement 3 is playable 4 is how it shud b any one else have the same problem

Chris

@gareth

Sorry to hear of your ping issues, have you contacted our support team at all? If you can give us some way of identifying your account we'll take a look.

godsell4

where does the average of 7 to 8Mb/s number come from?

bobpullen

@godsell4, the latest Ofcom speed report I think. It's summarised in the TBB article here - http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/5010-ofcom-speed-report-indicates-that-uk-average-has-risen-to-7-6-mbps.html

Truthteller

NO STREAMING,,,,NO GAMING,,,,,,NO PINGING,,,,,,NO ISSUES........
I AM ONLY SURFING AND LOVING IT FOR 10 GB MONTHLY USE FOR UNDER £6.49...

kissinuk

Surely this should be ringing alarm bells at Plusnet? 60gb isn't going to be anywhere near enough for a lot of users in the near future, we need higher usage at prices less than £1 a gig!

bobpullen

Thanks for the feedback Paul, rest assured we're listening to you guys!

In the past I had used BT, AOL, Freeserve, Wandadoo and another I forget. All them had an inconsistent connection, with speeds varying for no apparent reason and they would definitely throttle the connection during peak times when I was trying to stream content. Plusnet are great in that they are honest in revealing how traffic is handled and communicate well with their customers.

I have a PS3 to stream iPlayer and Netflix to the big screen and use that more than normal television - having a reliable connection and staff who are quick to resolve any issues (I've only needed this once) is a breath of fresh air compared to my previous ISPs. With past ISPs the standard response what that BT were at fault or my hardware set-up was incorrect, they would never accept responsibility and attempt to assist - even when provided with proof that the connection was clearly being throttled.

Looking forward to the day when a TV license and rooftop aerial are no longer required and everything is pumped down the line on an on-demand basis.

I just have to smile reading these sort of blogs. There is a massive divide in UK between those who have the communications infrastucture to run connections of above 2mbs and those who do not.

The communications infrastructure, mostly owned and controlled by BT, is not in good shape and there seems little they are prepared to do about it, particularly if you just happen to live some distance from an exchange. If you also happen to have an infrastucture comprised of aluminium lines you are really struggling to get 400kbs, that's if your line is not crumbling and out of service.

So, all the ISPs can continue to offer more and more speed and reliablity at their end and folks can continue to dance between them but until the INFRASTRUCTURE is upgraded for the whole of the UK and we are all getting what we pay for then I will continue to smile at the moans and groans of the subsidised!!

Regarding the latest upgrade announced by Plusnet, again great for those who I already subsidise but not good for the likes of me!.......makes me wonder why I continue supporting them.

funny aint it everynight around 7pm the throttle kicks in and my downloads
start failing was 1.6gb into a 1.7gb DL then connection drops to 37kps
and DL errors out lovely!!!! no resume option so ill need to DL it all again
even after midnight in the so called free time connection dropouts are all to frequent 9/10 times ive woke up after scheduling an overnight DL only for it to have failed totally gave up now i DL everything in the afternoon
plusnet joke of a service im switching shortly

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