Mobile Video, OTT and payTV
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Mobile Video, OTT and payTV
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Three UK to trial network ad-blocking

Three UK to trial network ad-blocking | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
Mobile operator Three UK has decided mobile advertising needs improving and thinks network-level ad-blocking is the answer.

The company says it believes the current mobile advertising model is broken, citing a KPMG survey from a month ago that found a significant minority of UK digital consumers are planning to use an ad blocker in the next six months. From this Three has concluded they are serving the best interests of their customer by taking that decision away from them and imposing ad-blocking technology across its network.

Tom Malleschitz, Chief Marketing Officer, Three UK, said: “This is the next step in our journey to make mobile ads better for our customers,” said Tom Malleschitz, CMO of Three UK. “The current ad model is broken. It frustrates customers, eats up their data allowance and can jeopardise their privacy. Something needs to change.”

Not mentioned in the announcement was the title of the KPMG report: ‘No winners with ad blocking – it threatens media owners, ad agencies and consumers’. The report goes on to point out that a lot of digital publishers are actively preventing the users of ad-blockers from accessing ad-funded content, while conceding that it’s difficult to get consumers to pay directly for content.

“Turning off content for those that have ad blockers is self-defeating for media owners and can, at best, only be a short term strategy,” said David Elms, UK Head of Media for KPMG. “Too many people still seem to think that they can consume content for free. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch in content. People are refusing to watch ads, but they show no inclination to pay for many forms of content – and that’s clearly unsustainable. It demands a fundamental re-examination of marketing strategy for major advertisers – and business strategy for media owners.”

Three seems to worry a lot about its subscribers exposure to advertising. In February it announced ‘three principle goals in mobile advertising’:

That customers should not pay data charges to receive adverts. These costs should be borne by the advertiser.
That customers’ privacy and security must be fully protected. Some advertisers use mobile ads to extract and exploit data about customers without their knowledge or consent.
That customers should be entitled to receive advertising that is relevant and interesting to them, and not to have their data experience in mobile degraded by excessive, intrusive, unwanted or irrelevant adverts.
“We can only achieve change by working with all stakeholders in the advertising industry – customers, advertising networks and publishers – to create a new form of advertising that is better for all parties,” said Malleschitz.

This stated desire to work with advertisers seems somewhat at odds with the draconian step of introducing ad-blocking across the network. It’s quite possible that the public announcement of this 24-hour trial is as much a negotiating ploy as anything else, to put pressure on advertisers to adhere to the Three principles.

Ironically Three’s own advertising methods were called into question earlier this month when EE lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority over a campaign that featured the strapline “The undisputed. UK’s most reliable network. Again,” alongside a Muppet with boxing gloves on.

EE’s complaint was that the claim was subjective and thus disputed. “…because we understood that there were no commonly agreed objective measures of network reliability against which Three had undisputedly scored higher than their competitors, we concluded that the claim “The undisputed” as used in the context of the ad was also likely to mislead.,” said the ASA in upholding the complaint.
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Google to launch dedicated YouTube VR app 

Google to launch dedicated YouTube VR app  | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
Google is due to launch a dedicated YouTube VR app later this year for its forthcoming mobile virtual reality platform, Daydream.

Announcing the launch at its I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California, Google said it is creating the YouTube VR app to provide an “easier, more immersive way to find and experience virtual reality content on YouTube”.

The new app will give users access to all of YouTube content – including 16×9 videos, 360-degree footage and VR experiences in “full 3D”.

YouTube is collaborating with partners like the NBA, BuzzFeed and Tastemade to “explore new ways of storytelling in virtual environments”, according to Kurt Wilms, senior product manager, YouTube Virtual Reality.

It is also working with camera partners such as GoPro to help make the production of VR video more accessible to content creators.

GoPro Odyssey cameras are compatible with Google’s VR Jump camera rig – which consists of 16 camera modules in a circular array – and YouTube plans to roll out its Jump programme to all its YouTube Space creator studios around the world, starting this week in LA and New York.

Speaking at Google I/O this week, Google’s vice-president of virtual reality, Clay Bavor, said: “We’ve rebuilt YouTube from the ground up for VR. In it is voice search, discovery, your favourite playlists – all in VR.

“We’ve added spatial audio, improved VR video streaming so you’ll be able to step inside the world’s largest collection of VR videos and experience places and concerts and events like you’re actually there. And by the way, you’ll also be able to watch every single standard video currently on YouTube, but in a very different way.”

Discussing Google’s other VR app developments, Bavor said that Google Play Movies is coming to Daydream, with high definition DRM video support. “That means you’ll be able to watch movies and TV shows from Play, but in a virtual movie theatre.”

He said that Google Street View is coming to Daydream, “so you’ll be able to walk the streets of the world without having to fly around the world.”

Bavor also revealed that Google Photos will support VR, “so you can step inside and re-live favourite moments.”

The launch of the YouTube VR app follows a number of developments in this area in the last year, with the rollout of new video and audio formats on YouTube like 360-degree video, VR video and Spatial Audio.
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EU OTT quota rule would have ‘not have huge impact’ on Netflix

EU OTT quota rule would have ‘not have huge impact’ on Netflix | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
The European Union’s rumoured move to make Netflix comply with a European content quota would have limited effect, according to analysts.

News of a rumoured quota applying to SVoD services was first reported in Les Echos yesterday. European Commission vice-president for the digital single market Andrus Ansip told the French newspaper that there needed to be a more level playing field between these SVoD operators and traditional broadcasters.

Separately, Les Echos cited sources saying the quota would be 20%, applicable across the catalogue.

Netflix is by far the most widely distributed streaming service in the EU, but the proposed rules would apply to all SVOD operations.

Industry experts said, however, that the imposition of a quota would not have a huge impact on Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Analysts said that the Commission was likely seeking to address a ‘regularity disparity’ between SVOD and traditional TV players, but a quota was unlikely to have a huge effect given the level of local acquisitions and production.

“Regulators do have to address this disparity, although there are only a few multi-territory SVOD players, in Europe it is just Netflix and Amazon,” Ed Barton, head of TV and principal analyst at Ovum told DTVE sister title TBI. “Netflix already does quite a lot of local content sourcing and is increasingly doing local production and that will increase.”

Analysts at another research house, Ampere, said that, having analysed the amount of Europe-originated content on each of Netflix’s services in the EU, Poland was the ‘least European’ and still had 20% of the line-up originating from Europe in whole or in part.

Amazon operates in the UK and Germany, and the UK had the lower proportion of Euro content at 33% of the total, still comfortably above the reported quota level.

“Ampere’s research suggests that such a quota could have only limited effect on multinational services such as Netflix and Amazon – depending on how strict the EC’s criteria are,” the research firm said.

“If the European Commission was to apply more stringent rules, and specify that the main country of origin had to be in Europe, Amazon Instant Video would still be unaffected in its two core European markets of the UK and Germany,” it added.

“Netflix, however, would have to adjust its catalogue composition in the UK, Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic – although not necessarily by much.”

Netflix refused to comment but the streaming service is keen to highlight its growing range of European-originated original content, with projects in the UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and France, and the range of Euro content it acquires from distributors.

Ovum’s Barton added that as the rules stand today, there is nothing to stop the traditional broadcasters launching their own streaming services across different territories.

“If the regulatory situation is allowed to stand broadcasters can use the same [strategy] as Netflix and launch multi-territory SVOD services,” said. “That would be another approach.”
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Amazon Takes on YouTube and Others, Opening Video Platform to All Creators

Amazon Takes on YouTube and Others, Opening Video Platform to All Creators | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |

Initial partners include Conde Nast, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Machinima, StyleHaul

Amazon, which touts itself as Earth’s biggest store, has officially launched its bid to be the place to watch any kind of video under the sun.

With the launch of Amazon Video Direct, open to any video creator, the e-commerce giant will compete head-to-head with Google’s YouTube for video-ad dollars and views as well as other big Internet video distributors like Facebook and Vimeo.

Partners participating in Amazon Video Direct have four distribution options. They can make their content available to Prime Video subscribers and receive a per-hour royalty fee; it can be sold as an add-on subscription through the Streaming Partners Program; it can be offered for digital rental or purchase; or it can be made available to all Amazon customers for free with ads, and creators will receive a 55% share of the ad revenue (the same as YouTube).

Amazon will pay partners 50% of the retail price for digital purchases, rentals and subscription fees. If they choose Prime Video distribution, creators will earn royalties of 15 cents per hour streamed in the U.S. and 6 cents in other territories (capped at $75,000 per year) under the standard terms.

At launch, AVD partners include: Conde Nast Entertainment, HowStuffWorks, Samuel Goldwyn Films, the Guardian, Mashable, Mattel, StyleHaul, Kin Community, Jash, Business Insider, Machinima, TYT Network, Baby Einstein, CJ Entertainment America, Xive TV, Synergetic Distribution, Kino Nation, Journeyman Pictures and Pro Guitar Lessons.

Amazon also is launching the “AVD Stars” program, a bonus pool of $1 million per month to reward top-performing video creators and give them an incentive to add their content to Prime Video. The company will dole out a monthly bonus from $1 million fund, based on the top 100 Amazon Video Direct titles in Prime Video, on top of the revenue partners have earned. The AVD Stars fund is eligible to providers who stream content starting on June 1.

“There are more options for distribution than ever before and with Amazon Video Direct, for the first time, there’s a self-service option for video providers to get their content into a premium streaming subscription service,” Amazon Video VP Jim Freeman said in announcing the program. “We’re excited to make it even easier for content creators to find an audience, and for that audience to find great content.”

The move comes after Amazon introduced the option to subscribe to Prime Video for $8.99 per month in the U.S. as a standalone service; previously, it was available only through the Prime $99-per-year membership program.

Among Amazon’s initial batch of AVD partners, Samuel Goldwyn Films president Peter Goldwyn extolled the new range of distribution options. “With Amazon Video Direct, we have the control to create the unique distribution strategies that reflect the changing ways in which our audiences discover our films,” he said.

StyleHaul, the fashion video network that has built its business on YouTube, said it will bring a selection of its original series to Prime Video, including fashion drama “Vanity” starring Denise Richards. “We believe Amazon Prime members will enjoy the unique female voices featured in our content and be inspired by the fashion and beauty that our brand embodies,” said Mia Goldwyn, chief content officer of StyleHaul.

Video publishers can sign up for Amazon Video Direct at The Prime Video streaming service is currently available only in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Austria and Japan.

Amazon said AVD’s benefits include support for all the devices Amazon Video is available on, including iOS and Android tablets and phones, connected TVs, Amazon Fire TV devices and game consoles. The company also said it will provide detailed performance metrics, such as number of minutes a title was streamed, projected revenue, payment history and number of subscribers, and that video partners will have full control to make changes based on the data.

Mr Branson's curator insight, May 11, 4:06 PM
Good news maybe???
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Netflix Introduces New Cellular Data Controls Globally

Netflix Introduces New Cellular Data Controls Globally | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
As we have launched Netflix around the world, we have seen big differences in how much people are streaming on smartphones and what kinds of mobile data plans they have. Today, we are offering a new tool to help you better control how much data you use when streaming on cellular networks.

The default setting will enable you to stream about 3 hours of TV shows and movies per gigabyte of data. In terms of bitrates, that currently amounts to about 600 Kilobits per second. Our testing found that, on cellular networks, this setting balances good video quality with lower data usage to help avoid exceeding data caps and incurring overage fees. If you have a mobile data plan with a higher data cap, you can adjust this setting to stream at higher bitrates. Our goal is to give you more control and greater choice in managing your data usage whether you’re on an unlimited mobile plan or one that’s more restrictive.

To set your cellular data usage, make sure you have updated your Netflix app on iOS or Android to the most recent version, select “App Settings” from the menu, and pick “Cellular Data Usage.” There you can switch off the automatic default and select a higher or lower data usage setting that works with your mobile data plan, including an unlimited option. For more information about how your new cellular setting will interact with account settings, check out this article in our Help Center.

We are always working on ways to improve picture quality while streaming more efficiently, so bitrates could change over time. As with all streaming, actual data usage can vary based on your device capabilities and network conditions. Your mobile carrier also may impact the actual data usage even if you elect a higher setting in the Netflix app. This setting only affects data usage while viewing on your mobile device on cellular networks; streaming on Wi-Fi is not affected nor is streaming when tethered.

We hope this will help you enjoy Netflix for those times that you are out and about, and we’ll continue to work to deliver a great streaming experience whether you are on a TV, computer, or a phone, and whether you are at home or on the go.
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YouTube reportedly preparing Unplugged TV streaming service

YouTube reportedly preparing Unplugged TV streaming service | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
YouTube is reportedly planning an online TV service that will let customers pay to stream a bundle of cable TV channels over the web.

According to Bloomberg, the service, dubbed Unplugged, is one of YouTube’s “biggest priorities” and is due to launch as soon as 2017, with the required technical architecture already in place.

Citing people familiar with the plan, the report claims that YouTube has met with the likes of NBCUniversal, Viacom, 21st Century Fox and CBS though is yet to sign any deals.

YouTube has been working on the idea since 2012, though its plans have taken on a “new urgency” in recent months as more rivals move into the online TV space, said Bloomberg.

Separately Variety reported that YouTube aims to keep the cost of Uplugged under US$35 per-month, though hasn’t yet finalised details of the model for the subscription service.

Last October YouTube unveiled YouTube Red, a new pay-monthly offering that lets viewers access an ad-free version of the service and watch videos offline on phones and tablets.

The service also includes original content, featuring some of YouTube’s biggest home-grown talent, with the company recently pledging “a lot more original content” throughout this year.

The news comes as Hulu – which is owned by 21st Century Fox, the Walt Disney Company and NBCUniversal – confirmed it too is planning to launch a cable TV-style subscription service that will let users to watch television channels over the web.

Speaking to the New York Times this week, Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins said: “this is designed for the people that the marketplace is concerned are falling out of love with pay TV. We want to have a product for them.”

He added that the service will be personalised in an effort to make it easier for viewers to find channels that may interest them, particularly on mobile devices.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the new Hulu service is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2017 and cost in the region of US$40 per-month.
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WhatsApp intros end-to-end encryption

WhatsApp intros end-to-end encryption | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
WhatsApp introduced end-to-end encryption for all data sent via the instant messaging app, in a bid to bolster user privacy.

“The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us,” the company’s founders, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, wrote in a blog post.

The news comes as the FBI dropped a lawsuit asking Apple to build a backdoor into the iPhone, in the latest example of authorities wanting access to user data, often to investigate criminal activity.

Last year, WhatsApp was blocked in Brazil possibly because it was unwilling to give up data related to a case involving a drug trafficker who allegedly used the messaging service.

“While we recognise the important work of law enforcement in keeping people safe, efforts to weaken encryption risk exposing people’s information to abuse,” WhatsApp’s blog post said.

Earlier this year, Koum said “a conversation about a back door is not productive as we will not do that”, adding that “bad guys will find them and break through them”.

What’s more, it was reported recently that Facebook not allowing Egypt’s government to spy on users of its Free Basics service was the reason the offering was banned in December. BlackBerry’s BBM has faced similar issues in countries like Pakistan.

Explaining the move towards encryption, WhatsApp said: “If nothing is done, more of people’s digital information and communication will be vulnerable to attack in the years to come,” adding that while it is one of the few platforms to offer protection, encryption “will ultimately represent the future of personal communication”.

“I grew up in the USSR during communist rule and the fact that people couldn’t speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the US,” added Koum.
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Expway Raises €3M in Funding

Expway, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based wireless multicast technology provider, raised €3M in funding.

The round was led by NTT DOCOMO Ventures, the corporate venture arm of NTT Group, with participation from current investors Innovation Capital, I-Source, TechFund and Isatis Capital.

The company intends to use the funds to further the adoption of FastLane.

Led by Thierry Sergent, CEO, Expway provides wireless multicast technology, which enables Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and Over-The-Top (OTT) content providers to monetize the mobile data explosion.
Its newly announced FastLane is an Ultimate Mobile CDN solution which optimizes data traffic between the telecom cells and the terminals using LTE Broadcast.
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Netflix downgrades mobile video for Verizon and AT&T, drawing ire

Netflix downgrades mobile video for Verizon and AT&T, drawing ire | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |

Netflix degrades the quality of the video it makes available to AT&T and Verizon, The Wall Street Journal confirmed, but doesn't do the same for T-Mobile and Sprint.

Netflix's concession supports last week's claim by T-Mobile CEO John Legere that Netflix's content is transmitted at a lower resolution over the networks of the two biggest U.S. carriers than over T-Mobile's network.

"Did you know that when you watch Netflix on T-Mobile you get it at 480p?" Legere asked during a video T-Mobile posted last week plugging its Binge On service. "And the duopoly is actually delivering your Netflix content at 360p. I'll bet you didn't know that. Go check; it's true."

Both Verizon and AT&T flatly denied throttling video content over their networks, and AT&T went so far as to say that "our customers on 4G LTE can get much higher resolution than T-Mobile's optimized 480p limit." Netflix failed to respond to multiple inquiries from FierceWireless over the last week regarding its policies for distributing content to mobile network operators.

The nation's two largest mobile carriers said they had no idea of Netflix's throttling practices until the news came to light. "We're outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent," said Jim Ciccione, AT&T's senior vice president of external and legislative affairs, in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, critics noted the policy appears to contradict Netflix's outspoken support of net neutrality principles. "Netflix fought hard during the open Internet proceeding to ensure that broadband providers could not engage in this same behavior that would benefit the same customers in the same way," Doug Brake of the Internet Technology and Innovation Foundation wrote in a blog post. 

The Journal reported that Netflix admitted for the first time to capping its streams at 600 Kbps "to protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps" that may lead to decreased viewing. The company cited "more consumer-friendly policies" of T-Mobile and Sprint, which slow network speeds rather than charging overage fees when users hit their monthly data allotments.

Netflix also said in a blog post that it plans to introduce a "data saver feature" in May to help users watch mobile video while minimizing their data consumption.

And while Legere's comments raised speculation that perhaps Verizon and AT&T requested lower-quality content from Netflix to ease the payload on their networks, both carriers denied those claims as well. "Verizon does not request any manipulation of content by the host service; a Verizon customer on-the-go gets the content at the resolution provided by the host service," a Verizon representative told FierceWireless Thursday.

Netflix's disclosure raises some complicated questions for the mobile industry as video consumption continues to ramp up, further congesting wireless networks. Carriers that charge overages when users blow past data limits may increasingly find they receive lower-quality content than competitors that merely throttle network speeds.

But it also highlights the fine line both carriers and content providers must walk when trying to deliver quality content while minimizing data payloads. There appears to be very little customer backlash from T-Mobile's Binge On, for instance, despite the fact that the carrier openly admits to "optimizing" – or degrading – the video quality for users of its service. Similarly, few – if any – users have balked at the inferior quality of Netflix's content over the networks of Verizon and T-Mobile. As data traffic continues to weigh down mobile networks, expect both operators and content providers to experiment with just how far they can go to minimize the data footprint.

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{Core Analysis}: For or against Adaptive Bit Rate? part V: centralized control

{Core Analysis}: For or against Adaptive Bit Rate? part V: centralized control | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
I have seen over the last few weeks much speculations and claim with T-Mobile's Binge On service launch and these have accelerated with yesterday's announce of Google play and YouTube joining the service. As usual many are getting on their net neutrality battle horse using fraught assumptions and misconceptions to justify their argument.

I have written at length about what ABR is and what are its pros and cons, you can find some extracts in the links at the end of this post. I'll try here to share my views and expose some facts to enable a more pragmatic approach.

I think we can safely assume that every actor in the mobile video delivery chain wants to enable the best user experience for users, whenever possible.
As I have written in the past, in the current state of affair, adaptive bit rate is often times corrupted in order to seize as much network bandwidth as possible, which results in devices and service providers aggressively competing for bits and bytes.
Content providers assume that highest quality of content (1080p HD video for instance) equals maximum experience for subscriber and therefore try and capture as much network resource as possible to deliver it. Browser / apps / phone manufacturers also assume that more speed equals better user experience, therefore try to commandeer as much capacity as possible. The flaw here is the assumption that the optimum is the product of many maxima self regulated by an equal and fair apportioning of resources. This shows a complete ignorance of how networks are designed, how they operate and how traffic flows through these networks.

An OTT cannot know why a user’s session downstream speed is degrading, it can just report it. Knowing why is important because it enables to make better decisions in term of the possible corrective actions that need to be undertaken to preserve the user’s experience. For instance, a reduction of bandwidth for a particular user can be the result of handover (4G to 3G or cells with different capacity), or because of congestion in a given cell or due to the distance between the phone and the antenna or whether a user enters a building, an elevator, or whether she is reaching her data cap and being throttled etc.… Reasons can be multiple and for each of them, a corrective action can have a positive or a negative effect on the user’s experience. For instance, in a video streaming scenario, you can have a group of people in a given cell streaming Netflix and others streaming YouTube. Naturally, the video streamed is in progressive download adaptive bit rate format, which means that the stream will try to increase to the highest available download bit rate to deliver the highest video definition possible. All sessions will theoretically increase the delivered definition up to the highest available or the highest delivery bit rate available, whichever comes first. In a network with much capacity, everyone ramps up to 1080p and everyone has a great user experience.

More often than not, though, that particular cell cannot accommodate everyone’s stream at the highest definition at the same time. Adaptive bit rate is supposed to help there again by stepping down definition until it fits within available delivery bit rate. It unfortunately can’t work like that when we are looking at multiple sessions from multiple OTTs. Specifically, as soon as one player starts reducing its definition to meet lower bit rate delivery, that freed-up bandwidth is grabbed by other players, which can now look at increasing even more their definition. There is no incentive for content provider to reduce bandwidth fast to follow network condition, because they can become starved by their competition in the same cell.

The solution here is simple, the delivery of ABR video content has to be managed and coordinated between all providers. The only way and place to provide this coordination is in the mobile network, as close to the radio resource as possible. [...]

This and more in my upcoming Mobile Edge Computing report.
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{Core Analysis}: Mobile QoE White Paper

{Core Analysis}: Mobile QoE White Paper | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
 Extracted from the white paper "Mobile Networks QoE" commissioned by Accedian Networks. 

2016 is an interesting year in mobile networks.  Maybe for the first time, we are seeing tangible signs of evolution from digital services to mobile-first. As it was the case for the transition from traditional services to digital, this evolution causes disruptions and new behavior patterns in the ecosystem, from users to networks, to service providers.
Take for example social networks. 47% of Facebook users access the service exclusively through mobile and generate 78% of the company’s ad revenue. In video streaming services, YouTube sees 50% of its views on mobile devices and 49% Netflix’ 18 to 34 years old demographics watch it on mobile.

This extraordinary change in behavior causes unabated traffic growth on mobile networks as well a changes in the traffic mix. Video becomes the dominant use that pervades every other aspect of the network. Indeed, all involved in the mobile value chain have identified video services as the most promising revenue opportunity for next generation networks. Video services are rapidly becoming the new gold rush.

“Video services are the new gold rush”
Video is essentially a very different animal from voice or even other data services. While voice, messaging and data traffic can essentially be predicted fairly accurately as a function of number and density of subscribers, time of day and busy hour patterns, video follows a less predictable growth. There is a wide disparity in consumption from one user to the other, and this is not only due to their viewing habits. It is also function of their device screen size and resolution, the network that they are using and the video services they access. The same video, viewed on a social sharing site on a small screen or on full HD or at 4K on a large screen can have a 10 -20x impact on the network, for essentially the same service.

Video requires specialized equipment to manage and guarantee its quality in the network, otherwise, when congestion occurs, there is a risk that it consumes resources effectively denying voice, browsing, email and other services fair (and necessary) access to the network.
This unpredictable traffic growth results in exponential costs for networks to serve the demand.
As mobile becomes the preferred medium to consume digital content and services, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), whose revenue was traditionally derived from selling “transport,” see their share squeezed as subscribers increasingly value content and have more and more options in accessing it. The double effect of the MNOs’ decreasing margins and increasing costs forces them to rethink their network architecture.
New services, on the horizon such as Voice and Video over LTE (VoLTE & ViLTE), augmented and virtual reality, wearable and IoT, automotive and M2M will not be achievable technologically or economically with the current networks.

Any architecture shift must not simply increase capacity; it must also improve the user experience. It must give the MNO granular control over how services are created, delivered, monitored, and optimized. It must make best use of capacity in each situation, to put the network at the service of the subscriber. It must make QoE — the single biggest differentiator within their control — the foundation for network control, revenue growth and subscriber loyalty.
By offering exceptional user experience, MNOs can become the access provider of choice, part of their users continuously connected lives as their trusted curator of apps, real-time communications, and video.

“How to build massively scalable networks while guaranteeing Quality of Experience?”

As a result, the mobile industry has embarked on a journey to design tomorrow’s networks, borrowing heavily from the changes that have revolutionized enterprise IT departments with SDN (Software Defined Networking) and innovating with 5G and NFV (Networks Functions Virtualization) for instance. The target is to emulate some of the essential attributes of innovative service providers such as Facebook, Google and Netflix who have had to innovate and solve some of the very same problems.

QoE is rapidly becoming the major battlefield upon which network operators and content providers will differentiate and win consumers’ trust.  Quality of Experience requires a richly instrumented network, with feedback telemetry woven through its fabric to anticipate, detect, measure any potential failure.
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Google reveals more progress with Project Loon

Google reveals more progress with Project Loon | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
Google VP Mike Cassidy believes commercial deployment of the company’s ambitious Loon project is “getting close”, as scepticism around the technology begins to disappear.

Cassidy, who heads up the project which attempts to use helium filled balloons to provide internet access in remote parts of the world, told Mobile Wold Live that “more people are starting to believe”, with the company last month announcing an agreement with the Sri Lankan government to begin testing the technology as part of a joint venture.

In October, the company struck its first Loon partnership in Malaysia with Telkomsel, Indosat and XL Axiata to deliver 4G trials in remote areas of the country. India is reportedly next on the agenda.

“The balloons have now flown almost 20 million kilometres around the world, some of the balloons have gone around the world nineteen times,” stated Cassidy. “And we’ve done complete interoperability tests with some of our telco partners.”

Cassidy also said the company can now land balloons within 500 metres of a target after flying for 10,000 kilometres. And download speeds of 50Mb/s are being supported by the 4G balloons.

Cassidy was however unable to put a specific timeframe on deployment, with Loon sitting under the company’s ‘moonshots’ segment (an innovative lab dedicated to research and development of certain products/projects).

Operators including Vodafone, Telstra and Telefonica have also tested the technology and Cassidy said telcos are open to the idea of Loon, which he described as a “low technology solution”, given the huge cost savings it could potentially bring in comparison to the rollout of traditional infrastructure in rural areas.
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AT&T boosts multiplay strategy with three new streaming plans

AT&T boosts multiplay strategy with three new streaming plans | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
AT&T has bolstered its multi-play strategy with the launch of several new content streaming services.

Tailored to serve users operating almost any internet-connected device on practically all bandwidths, AT&T says its new service is designed to deliver premium content formats in an affordable way.

The service will launch in three flavours across the DIRECTV brand: “Now”, “Mobile”, and “Preview”, ranging from premium services for the former to freemium, sponsored-supported access for the latter.

“Now” features on-demand and live scheduled programming with premium add-ons, available across any wired or wireless, compatible internet device. As suggested by its title, “Mobile” is the smartphone-only option consisting of premium video and made-for-digital content available through dedicated applications. “Preview” content, meanwhile, is more limited but completely ad-supported.

Sponsored, advertisement-based access to data services is a growing trend for telecoms operators as they adjust to more tailored yet diverse content offers. 29% of operators who responded to the Intelligence Annual Industry Survey this year said sponsored data services paid for by content providers or advertisers will be launched in 2016.

CEO of AT&T’s Entertainment group, John Stankey said the new service launch is a response to consumer demand for simplified content streaming at a more transparent price-point.

“These new video subscription models reflect the flexible content choices, viewing options and simple, transparent pricing that consumers want. AT&T intends to be the first company to deliver that flexibility, along with an effortless customer experience,” said John Stankey, CEO – AT&T Entertainment Group. “These offers will provide a broad range of customers with greater freedom and choice to watch, binge and even buy premium content, regardless of how and where they enjoy their entertainment.”

The announcements indicates a further shift towards mobile or alternative video consumption, as AT&T says the new service will come without the need for set-top boxes, satellite dishes, and most significantly, without contacts.
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Sprint joins zero-rated data bandwagon with Copa America streaming video campaign

Sprint joins zero-rated data bandwagon with Copa America streaming video campaign | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |

Sprint (NYSE:S) is taking a page from T-Mobile's (NYSE:TMUS) playbook and enabling customers to watch every live match of next month's Copa América Centenario soccer tournament on their phones without incurring data charges.

The campaign marks Sprint's first foray into zero-rated data via its primary Sprint brand, a carrier spokesperson confirmed.

Customers of the nation's fourth-largest mobile operator will be able to stream Spanish-language broadcasts via Univision and fuboTV, a service that bundles live sports and entertainment channels. After a 60-day trial Sprint users can pay $10 a month to keep fuboTV; Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile users can access a 30-day trial before having to pay for the service.

The tournament, which is being held in the United States for the first time, consists of 31 matches that will be held in June at sites around the country. Sprint is aggressively using the event as a marketing tool, conducting 5G demonstrations at two venues and executing promotional giveaways. The carrier also will launch bilingual TV commercials featuring soccer star David Beckham.

Zero-rated data offerings are quickly gaining favor among carriers as a way to differentiate their offerings and sometimes to generate revenue. T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to experiment with the model with the launches of Music Freedom for streaming music and Binge On for streaming data, and Verizon has followed FreeBee Data, which enables content providers or other parties to pay the cost of delivering content and services. AT&T continues to dip its toes into the sponsored-data waters as well.

But this isn't exactly the first time Sprint has ventured into the zero-rated data space. The carrier's prepaid services, Boost Mobile and Virgin, launched zero-rated music services late last year.

Such services have come under fire from net neutrality proponents, though, who claim they allow deep-pocketed media companies to pay for access to mobile subscribers, giving them an unfair advantage over smaller players. Sprint's campaign isn't likely to have the broad appeal of some other offerings -- it's a limited-time offer for soccer broadcasts in Spanish, all of which will surely limit its impact -- but it may still run the risk of drawing flak from net neutrality backers.

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BitTorrent launches live OTT platform with free channel line-up

BitTorrent launches live OTT platform with free channel line-up | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
Peer-to-peer video sharing platform BitTorrent has launched a multichannel app for live and linear programming at the INTX event in the US.

BitTorrent claims that its BitTorrent Live app solves the problems associated with provisioning and latency of live online broadcasting.

The platform, which will offer a mix of content spanning news, sports, music, technology and youth culture, will use BitTorrent’s proprietary peer-to-peer live streaming protocol to enable the delivery of live video with, it says, a sub-10 second latency and without the need for expensive CDN distribution and pre-provisioning.

“This allows the video stream to remain strong and for the broadcast to be as scalable as traditional Over-the-Air TV,” said the company in a blog posting.

BitTorrent Live will include a free tier of programming with linear channels that contain live events.

Launch partners include AWE, formerly known as WealthTV, about how wealth is achieved, used and enjoyed, new youth channel Clubbing TV (see separate story), action and adventure channel Heroes TV, conservative-skewed news service Newsmax TV and conservative-skewed political analysis channel OANN, music channel NUsicTV, sports service One World Sports, talk radio service OpenNews TV, hunting and fishing channel Pursuit Channel and technology channel

The service will also include a raft of channels from SPI International: extreme sports service Fast&Funbox, combat sports channel Fightbox and movie channel Filmbox Arthouse.

“Last year Bob Bowman [head of Major League Baseball Advanced Media] told [Wall Street Journal journalist] Walt Mossberg, in regards to the difficulty of large scale live video streaming of sports, declaring, ‘Is that a business model or is that a stunt? I don’t know.’ Well, BitTorrent Live is the platform that can turn large scale live streaming into a business model,” said Erik Schwartz, vice-president of media, BitTorrent Live
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AT&T to acquire Quickplay from Madison Dearborn Partners 

AT&T to acquire Quickplay from Madison Dearborn Partners  | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |

AT&T* plans to acquire Quickplay Media, Inc., a leader in powering over-the-top (OTT) video and TV Everywhere services, from Madison Dearborn Partners. The acquisition builds on the companies’ existing relationship. Quickplay’s platform currently supports AT&T’s U-verse TV Everywhere offering and will support the streaming offers — DIRECTV Now, DIRECTV Mobile and DIRECTV Preview — that AT&T plans to introduce later this year. These new plans will let viewers stream DIRECTV content over the Internet to virtually any device. “Our strategy is to deliver video content however, whenever and wherever,” said John Stankey, CEO, AT&T Entertainment Group. “Quickplay’s multitenant IP distribution infrastructure, combined with AT&T’s leading scale in IP connected end points, will allow us to host and distribute all forms of video traffic. We intend to scale and operate an industry-leading video distribution platform, and viewers will get the high-quality online video viewing experience they desire.” “We’ve spent more than a decade developing an advanced technology and service platform that can deliver premium video content to any device and over any network. Our solution is highly automated and scalable. With AT&T, we’ll have the resources we need to further scale, grow the business, and continuously enhance that platform,” said Wayne Purboo, founder and CEO, Quickplay. “Our team is proud of what we’ve built so far and excited to join the AT&T family. This combination will help us power the next generation of video services.” AT&T plans to retain Quickplay’s more than 350 employees and contractors. “Quickplay’s talented team of people is critical to our success,” Stankey said. “Their knowledge and skills are a key part of executing our video strategy.” AT&T plans for Quickplay to maintain its high level of service and continue to support and expand its global customer base, grow its managed platform services and continue to enable other companies — from video providers to content distributors — to deliver premium video to any device and over any network. The transaction is subject to pre-merger review under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act in the U.S. and the Competition Act in Canada and to other customary filings and approvals. AT&T and Quickplay expect to close the deal in mid-2016. The companies did not disclose financial terms.

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Netflix: VR not compatible with binge-viewing 

Top Netflix execs are not buying the clamour for virtual reality experiences.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said fully immersive content is not compatible with the streaming service’s binge-watching model.

With VR, “you’re exhausted after 20 minutes,” he said. “We are more focused on a lean-back, relaxing experience.”

“I can’t imagine putting on a VR headset while sitting on the couch with my wife for two hours and just disappearing,” added Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos.

Netflix also echoed a common view that quality VR content is scarce. “The problem with VR is that there’s not enough people on the platform to support the investment in that kind of content,” said Sarandos.

Hastings predicted VR would be “huge for the video game market”, but would not begin having an effect on the on-demand market “for the next couple of years”.

Netflix did create a VR app with Oculus last year, allowing subscribers to access Netflix content through Samsung Gear VR headsets in 2D format.

The likes of Facebook, YouTube and Discovery Communications are pushing heavily into VR content, but debate remains as to how useful it will prove to the video market.
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Hulu confirms live TV streaming plans

Speaking at the company’s Upfront yesterday, CEO Mike Hopkins said the on-demand service will start making “live programming from broadcast and cable brands” available from next year.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story earlier this week. At that point ABC, ESPN and Disney Channel, Fox News, FX and Fox’s sports channels were thought to be part of the plan, although Hopkins did not reference specific channel brands.

He did say, however, that the streaming options will cover live sport, news and events.

Hopkins added that viewers will not need an existing cable subscription to watch the content.

Hulu’s current on-demand streaming service offers hundreds of thousands of hours of TV programming and movies to subscribers with limited commercials for US$7.99 per month or with no commercials for US$11.99 per month

At the same Upfront event, Hulu announced the creation a new feature docs banner, Hulu Documentary Films, and bought a Ron Howard film on the Beatles as part of the factual move.

Hulu Documentary Films will house original and exclusive feature-docs. Its first acquisition is for the upcoming Ron Howard and Brian Grazer film The Beatles: Eight Days A Week, which will launch theatrically this autumn and then on Hulu.

At the Upfront, Hulu told the assembled advertisers that its subs base had increased 30% year on year and will hit 12 million this month.
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Nokia Technologies in VR deal with Disney 

Nokia Technologies has struck an agreement with The Walt Disney Studios to provide technology to support the creation of virtual reality content to complement the company’s cinema releases.

Nokia Technologies will provide its OZO virtual reality camera and associated software to give Disney marketers and filmmakers tools to create engaging VR content.

As part of the agreement, Nokia Technologies will work with Disney to provide equipment and VR technologies to support the creation of special VR content for a range of Disney films. Most recently, Nokia and Disney used OZO to create two 360 videos for the April premiere of Disney’s The Jungle Book – the red carpet and cast interview.

“We are very excited to collaborate with Nokia Technologies to help explore the creation of VR content for our theatrical releases,” said Jamie Voris, chief technology officer, The Walt Disney Studios. “We aim to bring extraordinary experiences to audiences around the world, and specially-created VR content is one more way we can transport people even further into the worlds our filmmakers create.”

Ramzi Haidamus, president at Nokia Technologies, said: “Virtual Reality represents a new frontier in storytelling, and we’re thrilled to be bringing this VR technology to the team at Disney. OZO will help Disney bring their film properties to life in new ways through immersive entertainment experiences, and our focus will be on helping them get the most out of VR as they begin to uncover all that it has to offer.”
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Vasona Networks Raises $14.6M in Series C Venture Capital Funding

Vasona Networks Raises $14.6M in Series C Venture Capital Funding | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
Vasona Networks, Inc., a San Jose, CA-based provider of platforms for mobile network capacity, resource management and edge intelligence, raised $14.6m in Series C funding round.

Backers included Bessemer Venture Partners, New Venture Partners and NexStar Partners.

The company, which has raised $48m in total, intends to use the funds to continue to expand its international deployment and increase its research and development efforts.

Founded in 2010 and led by CEO Biren Sood, Vasona Networks works with global mobile network operators on improving mobile broadband experiences via the SmartAIR™1000 edge application controller that addresses congestion conditions in real time and via the SmartVISION™ analysis suite for visibility about application activities within each cell of a network. The company recently introduced the SmartAIR Edge Services Platform, which virtualizes functionality of existing offerings and Guided Video Rate and improve communications between content providers and mobile network operators to reduce stalls in streaming video content.
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Ofcom: EE best UK mobile operator for video streaming

Ofcom: EE best UK mobile operator for video streaming | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
EE is the leading UK mobile operator for watching YouTube content online, according to new research by Ofcom.

The UK broadcast regulator’s Smartphone Cities report said that a test clip successfully streamed in high definition in 97% of attempts on EE’s 4G network, compared with 87% on Three, 86% on Vodafone and 85% on O2.

The video clip, which was the trailer for the James Bond film Spectre, failed to load at all on 7% of occasions on O2, while EE had the lowest failure rate, at 1%.

The Ofcom study, which was conducted in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London and Norwich, found EE to lead its competitors across a number of tests.

In terms of download speeds, EE was the fastest with an average speed of 20 Mbps on a 4G tariff, followed by Three at 15Mbps, Vodafone at 12Mbps and O2 at 10Mbps.

On average EE also had the most consistent 4G download speed performance. Speeds in excess of 2Mbps were delivered in 92% of tests, compared with 87% for Three, 82% for Vodafone and 69% for O2.

In addition, the BBC homepage loaded quickest on EE’s 4G network, taking five seconds compared with six seconds for all of the other operators.

“The UK is increasingly becoming a smartphone society, with 70% of all adults owning a smartphone, making the performance of mobile networks more important than ever,” said Ofcom.

Overall it said that 4G services provided faster download speeds than 3G services consistently and across all networks, with the average 4G download speed 17Mbps compared to 6Mbps for 3G technology.

The news comes a day after Ofcom revealed that BT was the most complained about pay TV service provider in the UK during  Q4 2015, receiving 15 complaints for every 100,000 pay TV customers compared to an industry average of just four.
Patrick Lopez's insight:
I have mentioned for the last two years that video quality will be a defining factor in consumer network loyalty in the future, it's starting to happen now.
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Netflix to launch ‘data saver’ feature for mobile apps 

Netflix to launch ‘data saver’ feature for mobile apps  | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
Netflix is due to launch a “data saver” feature designed to help users control their data use when streaming content over mobile networks.

The feature for Netflix’s mobile apps is due to launch in May and will let users either stream more video under a smaller data plan, or increase their video quality if they have a higher data plan.

“We believe restrictive data caps are bad for consumers and the internet in general, creating a dilemma for those who increasingly rely on their mobile devices for entertainment, work and more,” said Netflix.

“In an effort to protect our members from overage charges when they exceed mobile data caps, our default bitrate for viewing over mobile networks has been capped globally at 600 kilobits per second. It’s about striking a balance that ensures a good streaming experience while avoiding unplanned fines from mobile providers.”

Netflix said that according to its own research, many subscribers worry about exceeding their mobile data cap and “don’t need the same resolution on their mobile phone as on a large screen TV to enjoy shows and movies”.

“As we develop new technologies, we want to give all our members the choice to adjust their data consumption settings based on their video preferences and sensitivity to their ISPs data overage charges. We’ll provide more details as we get closer to launch,” said Netflix.
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T-Mobile adds YouTube, adult content and more to Binge On

T-Mobile adds YouTube, adult content and more to Binge On | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) finally added YouTube to Binge On, filling a noticeable void that existed since the program's launch in November. But that isn't the only new Binge On content partner that's sure to raise eyebrows.

YouTube generates the largest amount of data traffic among all mobile applications, according to Strategy Analytics, but its content hadn't been included in T-Mobile's Binge On until today due to technical reasons.

YouTube dominates total data traffic (including Wi-Fi and cellular) in the "entertainment" category among Strategy Analytics' AppOptix U.S. Android sample.

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And Google's online video property complained in December that T-Mobile's zero-rated mobile video service degraded all mobile video, not just the content from providers that are part of the program.

T-Mobile has also been criticized for not being sufficiently transparent about its Binge On policies with users. But YouTube Product Management Director Christian Kleinerman wrote on Google's Public Policy Blog today that the carrier has made progress by making it easier for users to opt out of Binge On, incurring full data charges in exchange for the ability to access higher-quality video.

The operator is also working to give video providers more control over their own content, according to YouTube.

"While T-Mobile has always stated that any video service can join the program at no charge, prior to our discussions, video services were not given a choice about whether their streams would be managed by T-Mobile if they didn't not join the program," Kleinerman wrote in announcing YouTube's support of Binge On. "Going forward, any video service meeting traffic-identification requirements will be able to opt-out, and T-Mobile will stop including them in the Binge On program and will no longer modify their video streams. In addition, T-Mobile will now work with video services that wish to optimize their own streams, using an average data rate limit. This allows video services to offer users an improved video experience, even at lower data rates, by taking advantage of innovations such as video compression technology, benefiting T-Mobile, their customers, and video providers."

YouTube is one of several new Binge On partners T-Mobile announced; others include Discovery GO, Fox Business and Red Bull TV. But the carrier was noticeably circumspect about the apparent new addition of MiKandi, a self-described "adult app store" offering adult-themed videos, games, comics and chat. MiKandi wasn't listed as a new provider in T-Mobile's announcement, but a spokesperson confirmed that it is the first adult content provider to apply to the program and meet the technical requirements.

"As we said at launch, we're committed to free and open Internet, and part of that commitment means Binge On is open to any lawful video service that would like to join and meets our technical requirements," the spokesperson said in confirming the addition of MiKandi.

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Amazon looks to add VR to Amazon Video

Amazon looks to add VR to Amazon Video | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |
Amazon is working to add a “Virtual Reality experience within Amazon Video”, according to a job ad posted to US recruitment site Glassdoor.

The web giant is looking for a senior software development manager to lead its Virtual Reality (VR) team, according to the ad for the California-based post.

“Entertainment is evolving rapidly. The future will not be limited to passive 2D experiences,” according to Amazon.

“The Virtual Reality team will explore and create the platform and interface for immersive storytelling. This will include an ingestion and playback platform for Virtual Reality experiences.”

The news, which was reported first by VR news site UploadVR, comes less than a month after Facebook said it is setting up a dedicated social VR team and announced plans to launch its 360-degree video streaming technology on Samsung Gear VR headsets.

Google is also developing an “all-in-one virtual reality headset” that runs independent of a smartphone, games console or computer, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report, and has reportedly set up a dedicated Virtual Reality (VR) division and has appointed company executive Clay Bavor to run the unit.

Virtual Reality will celebrate its first billion-dollar year in 2016, driven by approximately US$700 million (€645 million) in global hardware sales, according to Deloitte. The professional services firm’s ‘Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2016’ report claims that approximately 2.5 million VR headsets and 10 million games will be sold this year.
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Facebook's live video push sure to spur data traffic on mobile networks

Facebook's live video push sure to spur data traffic on mobile networks | Mobile Video, OTT and payTV |

Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) has altered an algorithm to push live video streams to the top of users' news feeds. And the move is sure to ramp up traffic on mobile networks.

Facebook launched its Live Video feature for iOS users in January, and the offering is gradually being deployed on Android devices. The Periscope-like offering enables users to broadcast live video to other Facebook users and watch the broadcasts of others without needing a separate app.

"Now that more and more people are watching Live videos, we are considering Live Videos as a new content type -- different from normal videos -- and learning how to rank them for people in News Feed," Facebook employees Vibhi Kant and Jie Xu wrote in a blog post. "As a first step, we are making a small update to News Feed so that Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher in News Feed when those videos are actually live, compared to after they are no longer live. People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that's no longer live."

Facebook is second only to YouTube in the U.S. among online video content properties ranked by unique video viewers, according to comScore, with roughly 88 million total unique viewers. And its mobile video traffic is enormous: The company said in April that 75 percent of its users' video consumption was on mobile devices, and in November it said it was delivering 8 billion video views per day, doubling the 4 billion views it delivered in April.

And wireless network operators have noticed. Facebook's recent decision to auto-play advertisements on its mobile service dramatically increased the video load on mobile networks, according to executives from carriers and other companies.  

Indeed, ever-increasing demand for mobile video is a primary reason Cisco predicts mobile data traffic will increase 800 percent over the next five years. Video will have the highest growth rate of any mobile application, Cisco predicts, and demand for increased resolution, more bandwidth and processing speed will drive adoption of 4G devices.

Facebook recently said it was developing a dedicated service that would give videos a more prominent position on its site in a move that could place the company in more direct competition with YouTube as well as carriers' own video offerings. As the social network continues to drive mobile video consumption, operators will be playing very close attention.

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