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Facing the Challenges of Live Video Streaming
by Damien Lucas, co-founder and CTO, Anevia

Some of the biggest media companies in the U.S. have spent massively in terms of time, effort and money to deliver a great live streaming experience. Yet stream interruptions impacted millions of viewers at critical moments in each of the last four Super Bowls. Why?

There is one thing that all these productions had in common: they relied on traditional commercial content delivery networks. That’s a problem. CDNs were not designed to support the scaling, low latencies and efficient use of resources that are essential to successful live streaming.

Even with multiple CDN providers engaged to maximise global reach, handle usage surges, and provide redundancy in the event of failures, there were at least two large-scale service disruptions. And latencies at different locations were measured at anywhere from 12 to 60 seconds, compared to broadcast latencies averaging 6 seconds. 

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to getting it right. When playback errors occur with over 2% of views on a platform, new user churn rates can go as high as 50%. And a 5% boost in customer retention rates has been found to correlate with a 25% increase in OTT service profits. Clearly, enabling a great user experience directly impacts the top line.

Meanwhile, the bottom line is becoming increasingly important. As the swelling ranks of providers squeeze cash flow margins ever tighter, it has become essential to contain costs. Providers of live streaming can no longer compete with an infrastructure where 94% of CDN capacity is only used at moments of peak demand. And with the surge in demand for live streaming – mainly led by sports and news – traffic flow fluctuations are set to become even wider and less predictable.

So what can media companies do to ensure growing revenues with happy viewers, while keeping costs down?

A number of technical solutions exist – including multicast ABR, peer-to-peer, and elastic CDN. Each of these is promising in terms of traffic management and cost containment. But some introduce new problems, or could even leave the service provider by the wayside of the next TV revolution – personalised TV.

So what are the pros and cons of each solution - and which one should you be looking into?

Anevia has recently published a whitepaper to share its insights on these questions. It can be download from: https://anevia.com/live-streaming-elastic-cdn

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