Forget Adaptive Bitrate; 700Kbps is the Online Video Sweet Spot

One of the things I’m constantly seeing from those deciding on an online video platform is a desire to offer live HD content. But HD is overrated, what HD really means on the web is still undefined – on the low end a bitrate of at least 1.7Mbps is required. And even if live HD over IP could be delivered efficiently in the U.S., the ROI doesn’t justify it.

HD propaganda is everywhere online these days and everyone saying they offer it is offering something different. For on-demand progressive download as YouTube offers all that’s needed is some patience for the download to complete. But for live video, the only guys offering a good experience are those working with adaptive bitrate technology. The truth is that in the U.S. most connections still can’t sustain this high of a connection speed so adaptive bitrate technology is required to provide a high quality, flawless user experience. But adaptive bitrate is expensive, the chunking of video required to do it means you’re looking at a significant delay and as much as advertisers may like higher quality offering adaptive bitrate isn’t going to make online video advertising profitable today.

So forget buying that $10,000 Spinnaker encoder, forget paying the exorbitant CDN fees adaptive bitrate requires. You can provide a high quality stream nearly everyone in the U.S. can view at 700Kbps at a very low cost, using a free encoder on a decent computer. So do that, build a great user experience around it, and you will be offering the best possible quality to the greatest number of people at the lowest cost, and that is all that anyone could ever ask when doing web video in the first place.