Streaming Video is a clusterf$$$ right now

For a variety of reasons including the IOS 16 beta, and significant work we are doing for a customer for DEX compatibility, I have been using a variety of devices this week as primary devices.

And that includes streaming Netflix and Disney during leisure hours. And it almost seems as if there is concerted effort to give me a less than optimal experience.

To start…
Netflix’s new series The Sandman. In theory it checks all the “best” video boxes including 4k, HDR, Dolby Digital, 5.1 sound, and so on.

But actually getting even the majority of that on anything other than a relatively recent mid to high end Roku TV is just an exercise in frustration.

To wit…

Playback on the iPad Pro 12.9 2021, looks great overall, including HDR that shows off the benefits of mini LED. But…

The creators decided to use the 21:9 aspect ratio, so on the iPad, there is significant black bars, aka letter boxing.

So no worries, I’ll connect it to a new Samsung 43 inch Ultrawide 5k, mini LED display with all the HDR codecs. But nope, when the iPad is connected to it, this content plays letterboxed within a 16:9 frame of the larger display.

So, ok, IOS16 monitor support is still in beta. How about a M1Pro MacBook 16 connected to this display. So yay!, full 21:9 widescreen joy, but wait… only full definition, but no HDR :frowning: The culprit here is Safari and it’s DRM support which is related to an older version of Widevine DRM.

So, OK, how about a Surface Pro 8, running Edge, which has the latest Widevine DRM support. So on the built in display, it’s highly letter boxed, but at least there is an attempt to display HDR (dolby digital) .

So what about now connecting it to that same Samsung Ultrawide ? Initial joy as it displays in both the proper aspect ratio, and with beautiful Dolby Digital HDR.

(as an aside here, the opening sequence of the first episode is great way to show off and or torture test your high end HDR etc. cable display)

Back to the above though, despite the pretty visuals, apparently I have to settle for 2 channel stereo, no 5.1 surround gets passed.

So, thus challenged, I also tried a Samsung Tab S8 Ultra. The good news here is that other than the letter boxing due to the difference in aspect ratios, it looked beautiful. But again only stereo audio , even when connected to the Samsung and a 5.1 speaker system via HDMI.

And for that matter don’t even think about using DEX unless you are OK with letterboxed, 1080p SDR, stereo only, regardless of what the Ultra is connected too.

I also tried a Surface Studio Laptop. So of course it was even more letterboxed due to the aspect ratio of the display. However HDR (HDR10, the lowest denominator CODEC)was arguably undetectable both due to the limits of the built in display (which is very good for a SRGB device, but not so much for DCI-P3 device).

So how about connected to the Samsung ultra-wide? Beautiful Dolby Digital video, but back to 2 channel stereo audio :frowning:

So I could go on, but my point is that all of this is far more complex than any consumer should rightly expect.

And I can definitely point fingers such as the IMHO abusive nature of DRM or the lack of support for what are supposed to be “standards”…

I guess in a weird way, I should be thankful as figuring all this S$$$ is part of why I have a job, but I’d rather it not be…

Ok, end of another long rant, though In my slight defense, it has been awhile since I’ve gone on one :slight_smile:


This is why I still often go with physical media. And if a show or film is good enough, it will end up with a physical release.

Either the discs are very cheap, or a bit expensive but noticeably better quickly.


So agree to a point, that’s all well and good, but the hardware required to use physical media is far from portable and again you still have the roulette wheel of compatibility when you connect say something like a Sony 4k BluRay to various displays out there, for many of the same reasons.

In the race to rack up subscribers, I suspect several streamers did only what was necessary to get online fast. If they were successful, they may have format inertia resisting moving large content catalogs to different streaming tools. It would also be interesting to understand how much of the existing video archive (all TV, movie, etc.) is in which formats, and how to migrate to a common format or build tools making the quality of the user experience seamless regardless of the original format. And streaming delivery has to be a nightmare for companies like Apple who stick to rigid screen ratios etc. All this before we get into streamers being content creators.

FWIW: I’ve noted activist shareholder complaints at Disney and other places about the cost to create and distribute content vs. the earnings from subscribers. Sort of begs the question: Should content owners also own the streaming distribution systems?

Broadcast outlets/networks used to own sports franchises, but that didn’t end well…

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Yeah I fully realize that it’s a complex topic. And that it’s also a significant downside to open platforms.

But it does get to one of the major reasons that a big function of my groups jobs exist which is the perpetual partial versus full support of what are supposed to be STANDARDS.

There are various reason for it, but it’s still a unicorn event when a device hits 100% compatibility with a “standard” spec :frowning:

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And likely to get worse before it gets better

US Media Distribution History: Follow the Money[*]

  • In the beginning, there was only audio broadcast.
  • Broadcasters had to get licenses from the government (FCC bottleneck)
  • All video lived only in theaters
  • Individual broadcasters became networks
  • Networks learned about scalability (record once, broadcast repeatedly, make bank $$$)
  • Enter TV (visual producers also want scalability)
  • Theater owners dismiss TV as too expensive to penetrate and low quality
  • TV takes off (visual owners get into scalability)
  • Enter Cable (circa 1948, booming in 1970’s)
  • Broadcasters and content owners could bypass FCC licensing
  • Cable scales up (massive infrastructure investment backed by local franchise/monopoly rights)
  • Advertising revenue has to be shared with cable distributors through “carriage” fees
  • Enter satellite broadcasting (no local franchise, towers, poles or wires)
  • Cable begins adding phone service
  • Cable begins adding internet service
  • Music/audio experiences are moving to downloadable ecosystems
  • Fiber and compression technology get internet speeds up to levels that will transmit video
  • Enter video streaming (exit Blockbuster)
  • Cellphone speeds get high enough for lower res video
  • Spectrum auctions explode into billions $$$ (Revenge of the FCC)
  • Begin cord cutting (content owners pull distribution back from Cable and begin streaming their own content, even though huge numbers of end-users need the Cable for that internet speed)
  • Enter 5g (wireless fast enough to do live video streaming)


  • Is 6/7/8g ubiquitous enough to make all end user wiring unnecessary?
  • What happens if content owners discover it’s not profitable to run their own streaming service (the great rebundling?)?
  • How many indie content creators use NFT/Blockchain to bypass bundling streamers selling directly to consumers like indie Music does?

[*] This is not peer reviewed, publishable research. I know it lacks citations, contains my impressions. It’s only my stream of consciousness, so I may have some things in the wrong point in time etc. YMMV.


Regarding the great rebundling. Most of what cable bundles became was due to the merging and growing of broadcast companies. For instance, ABC/ESPN/Disney and all of their smaller channels. When they began merging, cable companies had to negotiate much differently in order to carry ABC and ESPN, as they were the more popular channels that everyone wanted, but Disney as a parent company also forced much less watched programs on the cable companies as part of the package deal to get ABC and ESPN. At one point, the cable company I worked for was told, if you don’t offer ESPN2 to your base subscribers, you can’t have ANY of the packages. This of course made the base subscription more expensive, because IIRC we had to pay a fee per subscriber to the content owners. CBS quickly followed suit with their own demands, and cable prices skyrocketed for basic subscriptions. A few cable companies tried to fight back and actually dropped CBS for awhile, but lost tons of subscribers who switched to someone who could provide CBS. The thing all of these content companies learned was, even though on their own, channels like ESPN2 wouldn’t be profitable, they attracted enough subscribers who would pay for the whole bundle to add overall revenue. SyFy and Thriller is probably my favorite example of this. When we had negotiations with their parent companies who wanted us to include them in lower tiers, and we were trying to make them separate, we had tons of customers saying they would cancel if they couldn’t keep their SyFy or Thriller. Those customers wouldn’t go out and pay $75 a month for just SyFy, but in reality, that was most all of what they watched. They just could justify it when it was bundled with the other channels they never watched.

So to the point in hand, as companies merged and became what they are today, I think they can somewhat afford to be their own bundled service. Disney now offers bundles for Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN as a package. The content is enough for a number of people to keep as their only TV services.

Paramount + now has CBS content as well as other channels and movies as a bundle package whereas you used to just have to pay for CBS All Access separately just for CBS.

I haven’t kept up enough with Peacock to see how they will handle things, but I would guess if they aren’t already bundled with their smaller channels, they soon will be.

I do remember, about 12 years ago, telling my bosses in cable that they needed to look into streaming services quickly, and make a transition to being primarily an internet company or they were going to lose most of their cable subscribers. It was less than 5 years after I was hearing them set goals Not to lose subscribers, or to Only lose 1 subscriber for the year.

Also, RE FCC, for as long as I worked for cable companies (and satellite), we always had to deal with the FCC. I don’t think there was ever a time, or at least not for much time, that the FCC wasn’t regulating cable like it did radio.


Yeah and I’ll add another, the "availability windows’ of content where its there one month and gone the next, all in pursuit of the dollar.

My daughter and son reposted to that by having no compunction about turning on or off various subscriptions based on what they want to view, which creates the very thing that all the streaming services dread which is subscriber churn, which Netflix especially is feeling right now.

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Yeah and just wait until the celluar companies start to get even more regulated as they attempt to broaden their businesses.

eg. in my area you can’t stream certain live sports content via cellular, but the same device on Wifi is just fine?

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I wonder if we’ll see a return of the contract, as cable companies often had. When I worked for Satellite, we had a whopping $300 early cancellation fee at one time before regulators stepped in and said we had to prorate it based on time in contract. I don’t know if consumers will accept it though.
When I worked for cable, we had similar problems, but with individual channels. People would purchase Showtime for a boxing event and cancel the next day. Prorating the charges ended up them paying approximately $0.50 for the match. We eventually added terms that you had to keep “premium” channels for 1 month to avoid those situations.

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You can rip HD and UHD disc media with RedFox’s (formally SlySoft) AnyDVD HD. Once you finish remuxing into .MKVs to retain the original bitstream including HDR metadata, Plex Media Server can stream the original content as if you were playing it straight from the disc itself to your client devices at either native or reencoded (depending on the capabilities of the client device). Practically any device made in the last decade can play Blu-ray remuxed .MKVs straight without reencoding and nearly any device made in the last few years can play UHD Blu-ray remuxed .MKVs straight without reencoding. For example, I can play native with HDR and no reencode the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy from the UHD Blu-ray remuxed .MKVs to my iPhone 12 Pro Max.

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You can also use MakeMKV to rip the Blu-Ray or DVD (it’s free in some sort of permanent beta?) and then use Handbrake to make it into a M4V file which can be read by most media servers (I use unraid on an old PC and then use jellyfin to be my media server.

Then you can use clients on everything from AppleTV, iOS, iPadOS, Win, most everything.

Allegedly anyway…