Video: Getting Back Into the Game

The pandemic has obviously hurt live broadcaster, sports particularly but as the world starts its slow fight back to normality we’re seeing sports back on the menu. How has streaming suffered and benefited? This video looks at how technology has changed in response, how pirating of content changed, how close we are to business as usual.

Jason Thibeault from the Streaming Video Alliance brings together Andrew Pope from Friend MTS, Brandon Farley from Streaming Global, SSIMWAVE’s Carlos Bacquet, Synamedia’s Nick Fielibert and Will Penson with Conviva to get an overview of the industry’s response to the pandemic over the last year and its plans for the future.

The streaming industry has a range of companies including generalist publishers, like many broadcasters and specialists such as DAZN and NFL Gamepass. During the pandemic, the generalist publishers were able to rely more on their other genres and back catalogues or even news which saw a big increase in interest. This is not to say that the pandemic made life easy for anyone. Sports broadcasters were undoubtedly hit, though companies such as DAZN who show a massive range of sports were able dig deep in less mainstream sports from around the world in contrast with services such as NFL Game Pass which can’t show any new games if the season is postponed. We’ve heard previously how esports benefited from the pandemic

The panel discusses the changes seen over the last year. Mixed views on security with one company seeing little increase in security requests, another seeing a boost in requests for auditing and similar so that people could be ready for when sports streaming was ‘back’. There was a renewed interest in how to make sports streaming better where better for some means better scaling, for others, lower latency, whereas many others are looking to bake in consistency and quality; “you can’t get away with ‘ok’ anymore.”

SSIMWAVE pointed out that some customers were having problems keeping the channel quality high and were even changing encoder settings to deal with the re-runs of their older footage which was less good quality than today’s sharp 1080p coverage. “Broadcast has set the quality mark” and streaming is trying to achieve parity. Netflix has shown that good quality goes on good devices. They’re not alone being a streaming service 50 per cent of whose content is watched on TVs rather than streaming devices. When your content lands on a TV, there’s no room for compromise on quality.

Crucially, the panel agrees that the pandemic has not been a driver for change. Rather, it’s been an accelerant of the intended change already desired and even planned for. If you take the age-old problem of bandwidth in a house with a number of people active with streaming, video calls and other internet usage, any bitrate you can cut out is helpful to everyone.

Next, Carlos from Conviva takes us through graphs for the US market showing how sports streaming dropped 60% at the beginning of the lockdowns only to rebound after spectator-free sporting events started up now running at around 50% higher than before March 2020. News has shown a massive uptick and currently retains a similar increase as sports, the main difference being that it continues to be very volatile. The difficulties of maintaining news output throughout the pandemic are discussed in this video from the RTS.

Before hearing the panel’s predictions, we hear their thoughts on the challenges in improving. One issue highlighted is that sports is much more complex to encode than other genres, for instance, news. In fact, tests show that some sports content scores 25% less than news for quality, according to SSIMWAVE, acknowledging that snooker is less challenging than sailing. Delivering top-quality sports content remains a challenge particularly as the drive for low-latency is requiring smaller and smaller segment sizes which restrict your options for GOP length and bandwidth.

To keep things looking good, the panel suggests content-aware encoding where machine learning analyses the video and provides feedback to the encoder settings. Region of interest coding is another prospect for sports where close-ups tend to want more detail in the centre as you look at the player but wide shots intent to capture all detail. WebRTC has been talked about a lot, but not many implementations have been seen. The panel makes the point that advances in scalability have been noticeable for CDNs specialising in WebRTC but scalability lags behind other tech by, perhaps, 3 times. An alternative, Synamedia points out, is HESP. Created by THEOPlayer, HESP delivers low latency, chunked streaming and very low ‘channel change’ times.

Watch now!
Speakers

Andrew Pope Andrew Pope
Senior Solutions Architect,
Friend MTS
Brandon Farley Brandon Farley
SVP & Chief Revenue Officer,
Streaming Global
Carlos Bacquet Carlos Bacquet
Manager, Sales Engineers,
SSIMWAVE
Nick Fielibert
CTO, Video Network
Synamedia
Will Penson Will Penson
Vice President, GTM Strategy & Operations,
Conviva
Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director,
Streaming Video Alliance

Video: Making Streaming Video Better

The streaming community is one of the most vibrant in the broadcast, media & entertainment with many examples of individuals and companies sharing knowledge and working together. The Streaming Video Alliance is a great example of this continued effort to ‘make streaming video better’, a group of, now, 90 companies that are working together to push the industry forward.

Streaming Video Alliance executive director, Jason Thibeault, discusses their work with John Porterfield on the JP’sChalkTalks YouTube channel. A technology consortium not unlike the VSF, AIMS, IABM or SMPTE, Jason says that the SVA doesn’t work on standards since the fast-paced iterations of the streaming industry don’t match the relatively long standardisation timelines. Naturally, that’s not to say streaming doesn’t need standards. SCTE 35 and 224 ad markers are vital to many workflows and the whole foundation from codecs to IT technologies such as HTTP and TCP is based on standards. But we see from the success of TCP and HTTP what the end game of the Streaming Video Alliance is. These standards laid down a way for any company to interoperate with another and now we don’t consider the possibility that a piece of networking kit speaking TCP won’t work with another. Jason explains that the key for the SVA is enabling interoperabiloty and removing vendor lock-in. This creates a healthier industry which is better for streaming providors and vendors.

John asks about how 2020 saw progress streaming. Jason explains that much of the growth seen due to the pandemic was actually the result of a lot of work that was already ongoing meaning that many companies were already working on scaling up for the future; the future came early. Going into the year, there was a lot of talk about low latency streaming, and there still is, but SVA members were cognisant of the fact they still couldn’t guarantee a consistent experience which they’d much prefer over low-latency. This reliability and resilience question deals with repeatability of experience and, for example, playback remaining stable in one ABR rung.

Jason looks ahead at 2021 talking about the work being produced by the alliance. Live streaming end-to-end best practice is being examined and will be released as a published document. Follow up validation in the lab of the recommendations is then planned with any learnings going back into the original document. Another piece of work is examining how new technologies out of the streaming industry can be adopted such as 5G and the push to the edge. Particularly in edge computing, there is a lot of potential which simply hasn’t been explored yet. On the interoperability theme, the group’s Open Caching guidance will continue to be expanded. Open caching opens the possibility of putting your cache in the edge. Jason asks where the boundary of the edge is as there is work ongoing examining pushing open caching out even to the smart TV.

The Streaming Video Alliance produces monthly webinars, many of which are covered here at The Broadcast Knowledge.

Watch now!
Speakers

Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director,
Streaming Video Alliance
John Porterfield John Porterfield
JP’sChalkTalks YouTube Channel
Owner, Social180Group

Video: Layer 4 in the CDN

Caching is a critical element of the streaming video delivery infrastructure, but with the proliferation of streaming services, managing caching is complex and problematic. Open Caching is an initiative by the Streaming Video Alliance to bring this under control allowing ISPs and service providers a standard way to operate.

By caching objects as close to the viewer as possible, you can reduce round-trip times which helps reduce latency and can improve playback but, more importantly, moving the point at which content is distributed closer to the customer allows you to reduce your bandwidth costs, and create a more efficient delivery chain.

This video sees Disney Streaming Services, ViaSat and Stackpath discussing Open Caching with Jason Thibeault, Executive Director of the Streaming Video Alliance. Eric Klein from Disney explains that one driver for Open Caching is from content producers which find it hard to scale, to deliver content in a consistent manner across many different networks. Standardising the interfaces will help remove this barrier of scale. Alongside a drive from content producers, are the needs of the network operators who are interested in moving caching on to their network which reduces the back and forth traffic and can help cope with peaks.

Dan Newman from Viasat builds on these points looking at the edge storage project. This is a project to move caching to the edge of the networks which is an extension of the original open caching concept. The idea stretches to putting caching directly into the home. One use of this, he explains, can be used to cache UHD content which otherwise would be too big to be downloaded down lower bandwidth links.

Josh Chesarek from StackPath says that their interest in being involved in the Open Caching initiative is to get consistency and interoperability between CDNs. The Open Caching group is looking at creating these standard APIs for capacity, configuration etc. Also, Eric underlines the interest in interoperability by the close work they are doing with the IETF to find better standards on which to base their work.

Looking at the test results, the average bitrate increases by 10% when using open caching, but also a 20-40% improvement in connection use rebuffer ratio which shows viewers are seeing an improved experience. Viasat have used multicast ABR plus open caching. This shows there’s certainly promise behind the work that’s ongoing. The panel finishes by looking towards what’s next in terms of the project and CDN optimisation.

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Speakers

Eric Klein Eric Klein
Director, CDN Technology,
Disney+
Dan Newman Dan Newman
Product Manager,
Viasat
Josh Chesarek Josh Chesarek
VP, Sales Engineering & Support
Stackpath.com
Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director, Streaming Video Alliance

Video: Demystifying Video Delivery Protocols

Let’s face it, there are a lot of streaming protocols out there both for contribution and distribution. Internet ingest in RTMP is being displaced by RIST and SRT, whilst low-latency players such as CMAF and LL-HLS are vying for position as they try to oust HLS and DASH in existing services streaming to the viewer.

This panel, hosted by Jason Thibeault from the Streaming Video Alliance, talks about all these protocols and attempts to put each in context, both in the broadcast chain and in terms of its features. Two of the main contribution technologies are RIST and SRT which are both UDP-based protocols which implement a method of recovering lost packets whereby packets which are lost are re-requested from the sender. This results in a very high resilience to packet loss – ideal for internet deployments.

First, we hear about SRT from Maxim Sharabayko. He lists some of the 350 members of the SRT Alliance, a group of companies who are delivering SRT in their products and collaborating to ensure interoperability. Maxim explains that, based on the UDT protocol, it’s able to do live streaming for contribution as well as optimised file transfer. He also explains that it’s free for commercial use and can be found on github. SRT has been featured a number of times on The Broadcast Knowledge. For a deeper dive into SRT, have a look at videos such as this one, or the ones under the SRT tag.

Next Kieran Kunhya explains that RIST was a response to an industry request to have a vendor-neutral protocol for reliable delivery over the internet or other dedicated links. Not only does vendor-neutrality help remove reticence for users or vendors to adopt the technology, but interoperability is also a key benefit. Kieran calls out hitless switching across multiple ISPs and cellular. bonding as important features of RIST. For a summary of all of RIST’s features, read this article. For videos with a deeper dive, have a look at the RIST tag here on The Broadcast Knowledge.

Demystifying Video Delivery Protocols from Streaming Video Alliance on Vimeo.

Barry Owen represents WebRTC in this webinar, though Wowza deal with many protocols in their products. WebRTC’s big advantage is sub-second delivery which is not possible with either CMAF or LL-HLS. Whilst it’s heavily used for video conferencing, for which it was invented, there are a number of companies in the streaming space using this for delivery to the user because of it’s almost instantaneous delivery speed. Whilst a perfect rendition of the video isn’t guaranteed, unlike CMAF and LL-HLS, for auctions, gambling and interactive services, latency is always king. For contribution, Barry explains, the flexibility of being able to contribute from a browser can be enough to make this a compelling technology although it does bring with it quality/profile/codec restrictions.

Josh Pressnell and Ali C Begen talk about the protocols which are for delivery to the user. Josh explains how smoothstreaming has excited to leave the ground to DASH, CMAF and HLS. They discuss the lack of a true CENC – Common Encryption – mechanism leading to duplication of assets. Similarly, the discussion moves to the fact that many streaming services have to have duplicate assets due to target device support.

Looking ahead, the panel is buoyed by the promise of QUIC. There is concern that QUIC, the Google-invented protocol for HTTP delivery over UDP, is both under standardisation proceedings in the IETF and is also being modified by Google separately and at the same time. But the prospect of a UDP-style mode and the higher efficiency seems to instil hope across all the participants of the panel.

Watch now to hear all the details!
Speakers

Ali C. Begen Ali C. Begen
Technical Consultant, Comcast
Kieran Kunhya Kieran Kunhya
Founder & CEO, Open Broadcast Systems
Director, RIST Forum
Barry Owen Barry Owen
VP, Solutions Engineering
Wowza Media Systems
Joshua Pressnell Josh Pressnell
CTO,
Penthera Technologies
Maxim Sharabayko Maxim Sharabayko
Senior Software Developer,
Haivision
Jason Thibeault Moderator: Jason Thibeault
Executive Director,
Streaming Video Alliance