As the new crown epidemic spreads further in Europe and the United States, the isolation of a large number of ordinary people at home will inevitably increase the number of streaming services, but I did not expect that the first to feel the pressure will be the broadband network as a basic service.
Thierry Breton, Commissioner of the European Union ’s Internal Market and Services, urged streaming platforms to consider limiting video bitrates to avoid overloading traffic and affecting people working from home. On March 19th, streaming service providers led by Netflix stated that, at the request of governments across Europe, the bit rate of streaming media content would be appropriately reduced to reduce the pressure on network bandwidth.
YouTube, Apple TV +, and Amazon Prime Video followed closely behind, reducing the quality of video available to European users. YouTube directly stated in the statement that the video will use the default resolution (480P) and the well-known Apple news blog 9to5Mac found that the Apple TV + resolution has dropped to 670P.
Netflix published a related blog post on the official website on March 21 two days later. The article mentioned that “Last week, the European Union required companies such as Netflix, Amazon and YouTube to ensure that we use the telecommunications network as efficiently as possible. We immediately develop, Tested and effectively applied a method to reduce Netflix ’s traffic on these networks by 25%, and the measures we take can maintain all video resolutions. In Europe, in the next 30 days, in each category, we just Removed the highest bandwidth bitrate. If you pay extra attention to video quality, you may notice a slight decrease in the quality of each resolution. “
Usually this kind of statement will be regarded as the public relations rhetoric of the commercial company, but if you have an understanding of the company Netflix, you will know that with their technology accumulation, it is entirely possible to realize such technology in a short time. The author confirmed through his friends in Europe that he did not notice any changes in the quality of the content on Netflix recently.
For film and television entertainment companies, “content is king” has become a cliché, everyone knows it may not be able to do it, but as technology has become more integrated into all walks of life, cutting-edge streaming companies actually need more Content and technology go hand in hand.
Netflix relies on technology to drive content production and distribution
Although it is located in California with Disney, Warner and other major studios, Netflix was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, where tech giants lined up, and the DVD rental they started with was not a high-tech industry but only at the most downstream of the film and television industry. But in the past two decades, this company has already stood behind the film and television giants of the traditional five major Hollywood studios in the past. More importantly, its betting transformation streaming service has brought it more than 160 million paid users worldwide. And successfully let major technology companies and traditional film giants enter the field one after another.
The successful process of “House of Cards” relying on “big data” has been interpreted layer by layer and has now become a “business myth.” In fact, Netflix executives later also frankly said that it was more like a carefully planned “technical marketing”. US dramas that rely on “big data” have since been proven to rely more on Netflix’s high investment regardless of cost. In the two quarters, a total of US $ 100 million was invested, which was “astronomical” for HBO’s dominant US drama industry at the time.
At the same time, Netflix is really keen to apply artificial intelligence and continuously optimized coding technologies to its products, and these technologies do help it achieve revenue growth in some ways.
The recommendation algorithm and search is obviously the most intuitive example. Many Chinese users often complain that Netflix ’s recommendation is not very accurate, but the data collection that Netflix ’s algorithm relies on is more from the user ’s own browsing habits. However, the amount of data in the Chinese region Limited problems, improvement in this area obviously needs more time.
For most users, the universality of Netflix’s algorithm is more reflected in the accurate push of diversified trailers and content posters. Netflix will “customize” posters and short trailers for related original content based on users ’viewing preferences, in order to achieve a wider coverage of the content.
At the same time, in-platform search is also an important feature. Deloitte has released a report on the state of AI for companies across the United States. In the report, Deloitte specifically mentioned the case of Netflix: Netflix found that their users like to search for movies, but if they search and find a If the movie takes more than 90 seconds, then the user will often give up. After optimizing the search in the station with the help of AI technology, not only can the user experience increase, but also the user can pay faster. Deloitte’s report shows that in just one year, Netflix could make an extra $ 1 billion thanks to AI’s improved search.
Back to the topic at the beginning of the article, Netflix has been committed to optimizing the quality of its content delivery through technology after making a global reputation through House of Cards.
Using artificial intelligence tools developed by engineers, Netflix has recoded its entire content library since 2014. This system is called a “Dynamic Optimizer” and it can use the smallest bandwidth to provide the best image. The application of this technology is not uniform and rough. It will be tailored and refined according to the characteristics of each resource. Different types of works will be suitable for different algorithms. This technology improves picture quality while saving users 20% of bandwidth. Its AI algorithm can effectively compress each frame of the video to increase the speed of video playback, and also ensures that the quality of the video itself is not lost.
Netflix has continuously trained its AI algorithm after analyzing the movie viewing experience of viewers in multiple regions of the world, so that it can compare the effects of different compression ratios of different scenes in the movie. It can even distinguish the different types and complexity of video content, and choose the way to compress the video based on these factors. For example, action movies full of car chases and explosion scenes will be transmitted at a higher bit rate, while some relatively simple anime content scenes will be transmitted at a lower bit rate, so that all users can transmit content with stable quality. And even slow users can watch videos that play smoothly.
”You should not assign the same bit rate to” My Little Pony “and” The Avengers. “Anne Aaron, manager of video algorithms at Netflix, explained. So instead, they decided to define its own coding rules for each name. A simple video like “My Little Pony” will be encoded as a video with a code rate of 1.5Mbps and a resolution of 1080p: this new technology can meet those who have low network speeds or use mobile network connections to enable them to watch Ultra high definition HD quality video. Compared with the past, this part of the audience has to spend more traffic, but can only see 720 resolution video.
At the same time, Netflix will also publish a “Netflix ISP Speed Index” on its company blog every month . Intuitively see what kind of streaming experience they will eventually get after paying.
The content is too difficult to learn. Would n’t Iyouteng learn some technology first?
After the increasing number of paid members, domestic streaming media platforms such as iQiyi and Tencent Video also have over 100 million paid users. From the perspective of user volume, they are indeed shrinking with international streaming giants such as Netflix. difference. But these numbers are only closely related to the commercial companies themselves and the capital market. For users, being able to see high-quality content quickly and steadily is the reason that drives them to pay.
At the content level, various domestic streaming media are still at the stage of relying on the sudden “explosion” to increase the number of subscribers in a short period of time. The inability to achieve stable production of high-quality content is a problem that each platform needs to face, or rather This itself is also a problem that all domestic content creators need to solve.
The issues behind this are of course also closely related to the content review and the overall level of the film and television industry. It is difficult to reverse the overall situation in a short time by the streaming media industry or a single giant platform alone. Even with Netflix as the representative, the stable output of original content has gone through five or six years, and this is still built on Hollywood’s own strong film and television industry.
When it is difficult to make up for the short board of content production in a short period of time, domestic streaming media does not seem to have advanced on a specific technical level. In previous news in Europe that required streaming media to slow down, many comments were mocking the poor infrastructure construction in Europe, and even watching a high-definition video could not be satisfied.
There are actually two reasons behind this statement. Naturally, there is no harm without comparison. The vast majority of domestic users have no chance to experience the services of Netflix or YouTube. For the intuitive feeling of ultra-high definition quality, it is difficult to listen to the parameters. The experience must be seen as reality. On the other hand, the Guoguo video website has long been “hanging sheep’s heads to sell dog meat”. The most classic example is that the major video websites have all used as a major selling point or even the quality of the exclusive rights of paying members.
”High-definition, ultra-high-definition, 4K, Blu-ray, Dolby”, I believe that users who have used Aiyuteng are no strangers to these words. The upper limit will not exceed 720p. But will the quality of the pictures that have been paid really improve significantly, or can you really see the so-called “Blu-ray movie” with a membership fee of more than a dozen yuan per month? 480p, 720p, 1080p and 4K only refer to the resolution of the video. In streaming video, the most important indicator is actually the transmission bit rate. The higher the bit rate, the more data is transferred per second. The clearer the picture quality.
The same is known as 4K video, the bit rate of domestic platforms is generally only 4-7 Mbps, a movie about two hours, only requires 2, 3G traffic. According to Netflix’s ideal requirements, 4K video can consume 7GB of data per hour, and even standard definition (720P) requires 3GB per hour. Before, film and television enthusiasts have done “Wandering Earth” in the same frame comparison on iQiyi and Netflix respectively. The so-called “4K version” of the former can only reach the 1080p level of Netflix. At the same time, at the level of color correction, Netflix It is also recognized as the best Dolby Vision version in the industry.
In June 2017, Gong Qi, founder and CEO of iQiyi, released the corporate vision of “being a great entertainment company driven by technological innovation” at iQiyi World Congress. HCDN technology enhanced by AI deep neural network algorithm, AI ABS adaptive code stream, ZoomAI video enhancement technology are introduced.
As the only professional content video website listed independently in China, iQiyi was once considered a loyal disciple of Netflix in China at the beginning of its listing. Regardless of the content, iQiyi has always been learning from Netflix in the technical direction. It was iQiyi who first proposed to apply AI to video sites in China, but unfortunately it is in the dimension that users can perceive, These attempts seem to stay at the marketing level more.
From the financial report figures, you can also see that domestic video sites are far less enthusiastic about investing in technology than high-priced copyright purchases. According to iQiyi’s 2019 financial report, the cost of technology research and development accounts for 8% of the total cost. From the perspective of the video website itself, iQiyi, under the management of a person with a certain sensitivity to technology, such as Gong Yu, is probably the largest investment in technology research and development among domestic video websites. A reference number is of course Netflix. In FY 2019, Netflix invested $ 2.65 billion in technology research and development costs, accounting for 13% of total costs.
However, from another perspective, just like content, domestic streaming media do have difficulties. The broadband rate of some domestic users may be enough to play ultra-high-definition videos, but the high bandwidth prices set by operators still allow streaming media. We have a headache. At a stage where content costs are high and discounted membership fees are used in exchange for scale, bandwidth costs and technology development costs can be said to be the few costs that can be saved.
Just hope that in such a gap, each platform will spend more energy on content creation and technological innovation in the future instead of constantly polishing those multiple charging models and so-called precision advertising.