Banding together for a common cause, more than 15 major pay-TV operators, content providers and equipment vendors from around the world have formed a new industry group to tackle some of the issues most bedeviling the delivery of online video to consumers.
The new group, known as the Streaming Video Alliance (SVA), is seeking to improve online video delivery by addressing the delivery system from end to end. In the press release announcing its establishment, the group states that it aims to "facilitate the creation of architecture, standards and best practices that will scale the infrastructure for online video and improve efficiency for all providers in the ecosystem while preserving a high-quality experience for consumers."
In particular, the SVA says it will initially focus on developing an open architecture for delivering on-demand and live online video, setting benchmarks for measuring and optimizing streaming video quality and creating standards for product interoperability and performance. The group then plans to expand its focus to other streaming video issues next year.
Dan Rayburn, a principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan and a leading blogger in the streaming video space, is informally spearheading the group's efforts and promoting its goals right now. Rayburn, who is also executive vice president of Streaming Media.com and a founding member of the alliance, said the SVA could extend its coverage to issues such as encoding and 4K video streaming on the web next year, coming up with best practices for providers and vendors to follow.
But, Rayburn said, SVA does not intend to become another tech standards group for the rapidly growing streaming media industry. Nor does it plan to wade into policy or political issues, such as the latest firestorm over President Obama's proposed net neutrality rules for broadband service on the Internet. (See Obama Backs Net Neutrality, Stuns Industry.)
"We will not be taking on any legal or policy issues," he said. "We don’t want to get involved in politics."
The SVA's 17 founding members include a number of prominent pay-TV operators, such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Charter Communications Inc. in the US, Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) and Telecom Italia (TIM) in Europe, KT Corp. in Asia and Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) in Australia. The lineup also includes such major online content providers as Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Fox Networks Group, Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) and Epix, as well as big-name industry players such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT).
Notably missing from the list are leading online content players such as Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), Hulu LLC and YouTube Inc. The large US telcos, Hollywood movie studios and many major vendors are absent as well.
But Rayburn says more companies, especially vendors, will be unveiled as SVA members early next year. Noting that there are "a lot more vendors waiting in the wings," he said the group actually held back from starting out with more hardware and software suppliers because the founders wanted to make sure it was service provider-centric, not vendor-centric.
"Other groups are always vendors talking to vendors," he said. "We're tying in everybody from the value chain." He expects the SVA to have "easily two dozen members" by the end of next year."
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading