February 22, 2018

The secret to true live sport streaming experiences

By Filippa Hasselstrom, Director of strategic alliances and product marketing, Net Insight

First published in TVBE February Issue on page 6.

Filippa HasselstromOTT platforms are becoming increasingly important for live sports events. However, many content owners and broadcasters find themselves battling technical challenges. As research shows, highlighted by Limelight Networks, re-buffering and overall poor quality are two of the most frustrating aspects for consumers. For live events, re-buffering is especially frustrating because latency excludes the OTT audience from online conversations.

Due to latency issues, OTT viewers can fall minutes behind live broadcasts. Viewers will also be out of sync with each other, and the longer they watch the more out of sync they will be, due to the introduced drift. Some streaming providers address the problem by reducing the chunk size. This is a method that reduces the latency but also lowers reliability and overall QoE. As HTTP streaming was designed for VoD workflows and not for live services, it takes a lot to force a behaviour that doesn’t introduce latency.

UDP-based streaming is another option. Designed for live, with no buffering, it provides the possibility to deliver a few seconds of latency. For a UDP-based solution to be robust in best effort internet conditions, a reliable UDP is required to handle lost packets. UDP also comes with other benefits. It does not degrade throughput (video quality) with distance as HTTP/TCP does. Longer distance and less distributed streaming is therefore possible, requiring less infrastructure given sufficient network I/O. Taking control over the latency, regardless of method, will give service providers the opportunity to provide everyone with the same experience at the same time – regardless of what viewing device they’re on.

For live sports synchronisation is also key to offering a premium user experience. This is driven by the fact that the role social media is playing in consumers’ lives is significantly increasing. Moreover, many consumers are using social channels to communicate about their media consumption, including the programmes they’re watching on TV, especially for live sports. Most importantly, viewers don’t want to get a notification of a goal from their Twitter feed before they see the goal on their screen. Implementing a solution that solves both latency and sync will guarantee a flawless, true live experience on the OTT platform. It will unite the broadcast and OTT viewers, making sure that they can continue to share their experience on all social platforms. It will also open up new immersive experiences, where the second screen can act as an extension of the first.

NEW REVENUE STREAMS

With ad fatigue being a growing problem on the OTT platforms, exploration of other options to monetise the second screen have become important. Addressing latency and sync issues opens opportunities for ingame betting, voting, polling and other applications that require sync to be successful. An audience that is completely in sync also has the potential to open up possibilities to use the second screen to provide complementary content, such as player/driver cams, additional camera angles, or 360-degree formats. Looking at the progress that has been made in 2017, OTT streaming solutions that enable true live sport TV experiences are already available today. 2018 will be the year when we see them in action.

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