iSIZE Technologies was interviewed by Digital Innovation to talk about its “New Phase of Growth” with two new members recently joining its executive board: Paul Massara, ex-CEO of NPower, and Maria Ingold, ex-CTO of Disney-Sony joint venture, FilmFlex Movies. Here Maria Ingold explains her reasons for accepting this role and the potential she sees in iSIZE.
What is it about iSIZE that first attracted you?
A number of years ago, I started evaluating bitrate reduction as a solution for OTT delivery for the lower living standards measure in South Africa. At the time, there were minimal fixed line broadband connections and mobile phones were predominantly used for viewing. Downloading video via BitTorrent was the most popular consumption method until the data rate got high enough to make streaming possible, then YouTube dominated. We needed to figure out how to keep data rates low and quality high.
At the time, there were limited options, but I’ve kept track of innovation in this space. I was impressed with iSIZE’s openness, including (what they said in ) their 2019 talk and paper on how they achieve bitrate reduction while increasing perceptual quality.
How is your previous experience proving valuable in your new role?
As a recognized expert in the VOD and OTT space, I’ve shared how iSIZE’s bitrate reduction can help with the increase in traffic we’ve seen since Covid-19. I was part of the panel for the DTG Webinar: Covid-19 – Transforming the TV Industry: The Resiliency of the Internet. I’ve also written an article on Covid-19 and Beyond: Opportunities for Video Streaming. I explain the impact Covid-19 has had on traffic and video streaming, the long-term opportunities, and how to cut costs but maintain customer satisfaction using a bitrate reduction product like iSIZE, which I had independently vetted by streaming expert, Jan Ozer.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted on the business?
Covid-19 has impacted the entire industry and iSIZE’s BitSave product is more relevant now than ever. Akamai, a leading content delivery network (CDN), saw global internet traffic increase by 30 per cent in March. that’s an entire year’s growth in a few weeks. Sandvine, who regularly analyses this space, discovered home consumer traffic grew by 38 per cent globally. Video still took up about 60 per cent of that traffic, but Sandvine predicted it would have taken up 70 per cent if the major streaming providers hadn’t taken steps to reduce bitrate by about 25 per cent. Netflix stopped using the highest ‘bitrate ladder’ combination of bitrate and resolution for a given tier like Standard Definition (SD), High Definition (HD) or Ultra High Definition (UHD). YouTube set its defaults to SD. Users really noticed with AppleTV reduced resolutions and heavy compression introduced blocky artefacts.
While they’ve mostly returned to normal quality, this means they also returned to normal streaming costs. They could keep lower streaming costs and give customers the same quality perceptual experience by using bitrate reduction that also increases perceptual quality metrics, like iSIZE’s BitSave.
(Read more in Maria’s article Learnings from Lockdown: Sustainable Streaming)
How important is sustainability for iSIZE Technologies?
Sustainability is the vision for iSIZE: “Enable sustainable online entertainment by leading video AI technology”. Sustainability is essential to the video streaming industry. Netflix’s 2018 environmental impact noted that they used 451,000 megawatt hours (MWh), an 84 per cent increase over 2018, compared to a 20 per cent user growth. While Netflix is using some renewable energy and matching non-renewable power with renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets, expending less energy in encoding or during distribution would save the energy from being used in the first place.
Any final thoughts?
I’m thrilled to be part of iSIZE at such a relevant time. With nearly 30 years of technical expertise in the entertainment and media industry, I am well-placed to see the potential iSIZE has to revolutionize the sector, and I am delighted to be part of its future.