MPEG-DASH & the Future of Adaptive Media Delivery


Delivering high quality viewing and listening experiences to diverse audiences across an ever-expanding range of connected, digital devices is a technology and workflow challenge for any media organization. When the complexities of available digital infrastructure in emerging markets are introduce, the challenges become even more formidable.


MPEG Dash in Live Tests on Google Chrome, 8 Oct 2012 via BeetTV on YouTube


MGEG-DASH is an emerging international standard for efficient, high-quality delivery of streaming media over the Internet that takes a universal, open approach to solving this challenge. It offers content producers and technologists an opportunity to simplify their process and provide an improved experience to audiences on multiple platforms and devices with varying levels of bandwidth connectivity.

DASH stands for Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP and takes an open standards-based approach to delivering an adaptive streaming service similar to current solutions provided by Apple, Microsoft and Adobe. This more open approach to the challenge of adaptive streaming focuses on providing formats that enable more efficient delivery of audio, video and related metadata without strict proprietary requirements for codecs, containers and protocols.

While Apple’s HLS for streaming video and audio content to iOS devices, Microsoft’s Smooth Streaming for Silverlight and Adobe’s HDS for Flash all share similar technologies for creating multiple media file segmented encodings of various sizes and bitrates and pairing them with a time-coded manifest file.  They also all rely on methods that are incompatible with one another and require individual configurations on the media player client application to be successfully played-back by the end-user.

With DASH, the plan is to implement the best features found in each of these HTTP adaptive streaming solutions and create a new standard that can be used in all connected devices including mobile handhelds, tablets, laptops and desktops as well as over-the-top devices and connected TVs while remaining agnostic toward the codec (think H.264 vs WebM vs Vorbis) and file format container (MP4 or MPEG-2 TS). This new specification would allow audio and video content producers, content delivery networks, device and software manufacturers to simplify existing workflows and infrastructure while optimizing the user experience on all platforms.

DASH does face challenges on its way to full adoption from key stakeholders in the video delivery ecosystem who have invested significantly in their current technologies. Mozilla, makers of the Firefox browser, also may not support the new specification because of underlying dependencies on patented technologies that require royalty payments.

MGEG DASH in its current form does not present a clear path to a single solution for content producers or technologists targeting the growing multitude of connected devices and HTML5 browsers. It does however offer the potential for emerging international markets to provide flexible audio and video presentations that reach across the entire bandwidth spectrum to engage audiences in new ways without the burdens of high operating costs or over-commitment to any single technology provider.


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(Thank you to Adam Martin for his contributions to this post.  To contact Adam: amartin at bbg dot gov or @adamjmartin on Twitter]

(The foregoing commentary does not constitute endorsement by the US Government, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, VOA, MBN, OCB, RFA, or RFE/RL of the information products or services discussed.)

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Adam Martin

Adam Martin

Adam Martin is the Director of Innovation for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation at the BBG. Follow him on Twitter: @adamjmartin

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