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HEVC Market Perspectives: Broadcast and Streaming

With new codecs on the horizon, now is the time to look at what’s going on with HEVC in 2020.
July 2, 2020
2-Minute Read
Vice President, Video Strategy

There is a lot of talk in the industry about AV1 and all of the new MPEG codecs coming out this year: VVC, EVC and LCEVC.

We’ve examined  the use of HEVC from a different perspective. First, we have looked at the total installed base of HEVC capable devices, which is different from activated devices. We make the distinction because device manufacturers are paying the licensing companies for capable devices.

The second aspect we considered is the total of HEVC broadcast and streaming services. Here, we make two sub-categories:

  • The percentage of services using HEVC.
  • The percentage of subscribers watching an HEVC service.

HEVC installed base in numbers

We have considered all the major devices that can decode HEVC: Mobile, tablet, STB, TV, PC, streaming media devices, and gaming consoles. We then calculated the installed base of those HEVC capable devices. Those numbers were collected through various reports (SNLStrategy Analytics). The numbers may vary because the information from the different sources differs. With that in mind, we estimate the installed base that can decode AVC is around 8.623 billion devices. From that number, we estimate that 3.644 billion are HEVC capable, which leads to a 45% market share. Again, we are talking about HEVC capable devices, and in that category mobile phones dominate at 71%.

HEVC services in numbers

In a recent survey Unisphere Research did for Harmonic, 25% of the 625 participants said their OTT streaming services were using HEVC. Compared to recent reviews of the number of channels recently launched over the past several years on Harmonic platforms, we estimate that HEVC in the broadcast space seems to be less common than HEVC in the OTT space.

HEVC subscribers  

To get these estimates, we have taken into account all the different streaming services, based on Statistica's world numbers, and have calculated the HEVC share from the number subscribers. Only just a few years ago, we estimated, that there were 473 million OTT subscribers. Keeping in mind of course that a subscriber might have several devices.

In the OTT space, we see HEVC being used mostly to deliver UHD to TVs. We base this on the 17% UHD asset ratio versus all the assets at both Netflix and Amazon Prime (according to the Ultra HD Forum service tracker). Then we take into account the estimate from Parks and Associates stating that 30% of Netflix subscriptions are for the UHD package. With this data, we estimate that UHD OTT services represent 59.55 million subscribers.

As a result, the HEVC subscriber’s share is around 13%.

HEVC share has big growth potential

The study shows that the HEVC share can vary greatly, depending on what you focus on. Whether it be the devices (48%), the live services (11%), or the OTT subscribers (13%). Since the ratio of subscribers to devices is four times greater, we estimate that HEVC still has large growth potential, especially as streaming fees are waived from patent pools. Meanwhile, 93% of HEVC capable devices are connected devices, making HEVC a major force over the internet. Yet, the biggest competition for HEVC, at least with regard to VOD, will come from AV1. Stay tuned for more as the market continues to evolve.

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