“Through the looking glass: envisioning new library technologies” streaming video services: future of information, future of libraries – Part 2

Published date07 October 2019
Date07 October 2019
AuthorPeter Fernandez
Subject MatterLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology,Library & information services
“Through the looking glass: envisioning new
library technologies” streaming video services:
future of information, future of libraries – Part 2
Peter Fernandez
This is the second column in a two-
part series that discusses the emergence
of streaming video services to identify
lessons for libraries. This is particularly
relevant as internet speeds become
faster and more accessible. Video
streaming is a data-intensive process
that was once technologically infeasible
and has now been incorporated into the
lives of millions of people.
The previous column focused
primarily on the past, with Netflix
serving as an illustrative stand-in for the
overall trends in video streaming. In this
way, streaming video not only serves as
a concrete way to discuss streaming
technology (which is relevant to many
libraries), but also functions as a stand-
in for data-intensive content in general.
Exactly what the future of high-data
content will be remains unclear, but by
observing some of the developments in
video streaming, it is possible to get
glimpses of the future. This second part
of the series will focus on the future of
video streaming and uncovering what
those trends mean for libraries. It is an
increasingly competitive space, as
divergent companies, like YouTube and
Apple, compete to have a stake in how
people absorb content. Not all of these
companies seek to make a profit directly
off this interaction, but all of them can
teach libraries about the future of
Future technologies
Before high-speed internet became a
mainstream technology, it was possible to
envision at a high level the existence of
streaming video. But until it was real,
nobody had invented the digital rights
management tools, the codecs, the
changes to web browsers, or the business
model to make it work. The reality of it
was a shock to most consumers and the
companies themselves. Moreover, the
related effects on society, to our politics
and culture, of ready access to peer-to-
peer video sharing technologies are issues
that even today we are grappling with.
YouTube and related services have
become tools for radicalization of all
kinds all around the world (Fisher and
Taub, 2019). Before high speed internet
was real, it was possible to imagine that it
would replace many forms of education
that are still thriving, and that it would
become a profitable part of many
newsrooms, until it stopped. Indeed many
media companies did “pivot to video” in
ways that proved disastrous for their
bottom lines (Oremus, 2018). Meanwhile
the exact nature of Netflix’s success in
harvesting information from their users,
creating custom niche content, and the
concept of “Netflix and chill” were quite
clearly not common knowledge until after
they happened.
All of which is to say that predicating
the future of technology and how it
interacts with society is difficult. Will
the next breakthrough 5 g powered
technology be powered by artificial
intelligence? Will it be a virtual
interactive experience? Will it be as
simple as making video calling/
conferencing popular and workable?
Alternatively, something else entirely?
Precisely because of this, it is helpful
to look at streaming media, because it is
concrete in ways that none of the other
possibilities are. At the same time, it is
worth keeping in mind as we seek to
draw lessons that these lessons may be
applicable to a much wider range of
technologies, even ones that are difficult
to conceptualize today.
From Netflix to Hulu
Netflix made the transition from
being a DVD company to a streaming
video company in part by showing how
undervalued streaming content was at
the beginning. It was able to use that
early success in a number of important
ways. As internet service providers
threatened to slow down their
streaming, Netflix was able to pay them
to continue to using their infrastructure.
As content providers reevaluated how
they wanted to distribute their content,
Netflix was able to fund their own
exclusive programming.
Rather than focus on providing a
wide variety of content and letting their
users choose, Netflix began to leverage
their own information about their users’
habits. When they did purchase content,
they were able to be certain that it
would be valuable to their users, since
they had accumulated granular data
about their users’ viewing habits. These
data also informed the development of
new shows and the recommendations
about existing content.
This content is complicated,
expensive, and requires massive
infrastructure to succeed. Books and
most journals are cheap in comparison
to the cost of one season of a TV show.
Making a high-quality streaming site is
technologically complex, as it mines the
data its users leave behind. Having
exclusive content allows any producer
to offer more value to their users. This
naturally leads to an impulse for a
company to want to grow to take
advantage of economies of scale.
Hulu is a great example of a
company that has followed in the wake
of Netflix’s early innovations. It was
started as a joint venture between major
content producers, including
NBCUniversal, Disney, Fox and Time
Warner (Snider, 2019). Rather than sell
their shows to Netflix or another third
party, they would combine and offer a
wide variety of shows on their own
LIBRARY HITECH NEWS Number 8 2019, pp. 17-19, V
CEmerald Publishing Limited, 0741-9058, DOI 10.1108/LHTN-09-2019-0061 17

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