CMAF Becoming The De-Facto OTT Video Standard

The online video streaming industry recently received a boost in standards adoption and simplification, thanks to the emerging Common Media Application Format (CMAF). Apple just announced that it is adding fragmented MP4 (fMP4) support to HLS, which is incorporated in the CMAF standard along with other media technologies, while Microsoft announced that it is also supporting CMAF. These announcements are good news, as they signal the convergence to a single file format that will be used by a vast amount of consumer electronics devices for OTT distributors and playback.

CMAF is expected to assure consistent high-quality streaming experiences for viewers, while providing many advantages to video producers, publishers and players. Until now, online content distributors used a combination of HLS and MPEG-DASH to stream their videos across all platforms and devices. The result is that the same video content cost twice as much to package and twice as much to store on origin. The same video contents also competed with each other on CDN edge caches for space, reducing the overall delivery efficiency.

CMAF is very similar to the file container that DASH already uses today. So adopting CMAF from the DASH perspective requires little, if any, change to the packager, workflow or players. For HLS however, it requires parsing a new type of container. But Apple’s plans to support fMP4 in HLS with its operating systems, iOS12, macOS and tvOS gives the industry a clear signal that switching from HLS to CMAF is a safe bet for the future. There are other advantages to supporting CMAF.

HLS is delivered with Transport Stream (TS) containers and MPEG-DASH is delivered with fragmented MP4 (fMP4). CMAF now specifies an fMP4 compatible container format that can be used by both the HLS and MPEG-DASH segmented adaptive streaming protocol, reducing costs and simplifying overall delivery workflow.

CMAF is a more efficient media format. The HLS Transport Stream (TS) containers have high overhead and payload ratios in comparison with fragmented MP4 (fMP4) making them inefficient for segmented adaptive media delivery. Migrating from TS containers to fMP4 will reduce the bandwidth used for video streaming.

CMAF is also compatible with the Common Encryption (CENC) standard. Without CENC, content distributors have to DRM encode and store their content multiple times, once for each required DRM system. With CENC, content is DRM encrypted and stored only once, reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of CDN delivery.

For these reasons, Expway is expecting CMAF to quickly become the de-facto OTT media standard. So we are implementing CMAF support across all our products, including our servers and client software. We are leveraging our deep knowledge and expertise in HLS, MPEG-DASH and fMP4 to deliver CMAF-based video playback of content everywhere: On any device, through any IP network.

CMAF allows premium video quality to be delivered and maintained even through video heavy demand. CMAF also enables low latency, making it the perfect standard for today’s and tomorrow’s video demand.