Video: State of the Streaming Market 2021

Streaming Media is back to take the pulse of the Streaming market following on from their recent, mid-year survey measuring the impact of the pandemic. This is the third annual snapshot of the state of the streaming market which will be published by Streaming Media in March. To give us this sneak peak, Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen is joined by colleague Tim Siglin and Harmonic Inc.’s Robert Gambino,

They start off with a look at the demographics of the respondents. It’s no surprise that North America is well represented as Streaming Media is US-based and both the USA and Canada have very strong broadcast markets in terms of publishers and vendors. Europe is represented to the tune of 14% and South America’s representation has doubled which is in line with other trends showing notable growth in the South American market. In terms of individuals, exec-level and ‘engineering’ respondents were equally balanced with a few changes in the types of institutions represented. Education and houses of worship have both grown in representation since the last survey.

Of responding companies, 66% said that they both create and distribute content, a percentage that continues to grow. This is indicative, the panel says, of the barrier to entry of distribution continuing to fall. CDNs are relatively low cost and the time to market can be measured in weeks. Answering which type of streaming they are involved in, live and on-demand were almost equal for the first time in this survey’s history. Robert says that he’s seen a lot of companies taking to using the cloud to deliver popups but also that streaming ecosystems are better attuned to live video than they used to be.

Reading the news, it seems that there’s a large migration into the cloud, but is that shown in the data? When asked about their plans to move to the cloud, around a third had already moved but only a quarter said they had no plans. This means there is plenty of room for growth for both cloud platforms and vendors. In terms of the service itself, video quality was the top ‘challenge’ identified followed by latency, scalability and buffering respectively. Robert points out better codecs delivering lower bitrates helps alleviate all of these problems as well as time to play, bandwidth and storage costs.

There have been a lot of talks on dynamic server-side ad insertion in 2020 including for use with targetted advertising, but who’s actually adopting it. Over half of respondents indicated they weren’t going to move into that sphere and that’s likely because many governmental and educational services don’t need advertising to start with. But 10% are planning to implement it within the next 12 months which represents a doubling of adoption, so growth is not slow. Robert’s experience is that many people in ad sales are still used to selling on aggregate and don’t understand the power of targetted advertising and, indeed, how it works. Education, he feels, is key to continuing growth.

The panel finishes by discussing what companies hope to get out of the move to virtualised or cloud infrastructure. Flexibility comes in just above reliability with cost savings only being third. Robert comes back to pop-up channels which, based on the release of a new film or a sports event, have proved popular and are a good example of the flexibility that companies can easily access and monetise. There are a number of companies that are heavily investing in private cloud as well those who are migrating to public cloud. Either way, these benefits are available to companies who invest and, as we’re seeing in South America, cloud can offer an easy on-ramp to expanding both scale and feature-set of your infrastructure without large Capex projects. Thus it’s the flexibility of the solution which is driving expansion and improvements in quality and production values.

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Speakers

Tim Siglin Tim Siglin
Contributing Editor, Streaming Media Magazine
Founding Executive Director, HelpMeStream
Robert Gambino Robert Gambino
Director of Solutions,
Harmonic Inc.
Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen Moderator: Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen
Editor, Streaming Media

Video: Transforming the Distribution and Economics of Internet Video

Replacing CDNs in streaming would need a fundamental change in the way we store and access video on the internet, but this is just what Eluvio’s technology offers along with in-built authentication, authorisation and DRM. There’s a lot to unpack about this distributed ‘content fabric’ built on an Ethereum-protocol blockchain.

Fortunately, Eluvio co-founder Michelle Munson is here to explain how this de-centralised technology improves on the status quo and show us what it’s being used for. We know that today’s streaming technology is based on the idea of preparing, packaging, transcoding and pushing data out through CDNs to views at home and whilst this works, it doesn’t necessarily consistent, low delay and, as we saw from Netflix and Facebook reducing their streaming bitrates at the beginning of the pandemic, it can be quite a burden on networks.

This content fabric, Michelle explains, is a different approach to the topic where video is stored natively over the internet creating a ‘software substrate’. The result doesn’t use traditional transcoding services, CDNs and databased. Rather we end up w ith a decentralised data distribution and storage protocol delivering just-in time packaging. The content fabric is split into four layers, one of which deals with metadata, another contains code which controls the transformation and delivery of media. The third layer is the ‘contract’ layer which controls access and proves content with finally a layer for the media itself. This contract layer is based on the Ethereum technology which runs the cryptocurrency of the same name. The fabric is a ledger with the content being versioned within the ledger history.

Michelle points out that with blockchain contracts baked in to all the media data, there is inherently access control at all parts of the network which has the property that viewers only need to have an ethereum-style ‘ticket’ to watch content directly. Their access is view-only and whilst this passes through the data and code layers, there is no extra infrastructure to build on top of your streaming infrastructure and each person can have their own individually-watermarked version as delivered with Eluvio’s work with MGM’s online premier of the recent Bill and Ted film.

Eluvium currently have a group of globally-deployed hubs in internet exchange sites which operate the fabric and contain media shards and blobs of code which can operate on the media to provide just-in-time delvery as necessary with the ability to create slices and overlays inherent in the delivery mechanism. When a player wants access to video, it issues the request with its authorisation information. This meets the fabric which responds to drive the output. Because of the layer of code, the inputs and outputs of the system are industry standard with manipulation done internally.

Before finishing by talking about the technology’s use within MGM and other customers, Michelle summarises the capabilities by saying that it simplifies workflows and can deliver a consistently low, global time to first byte with VoD and Live workflows interchangable. Whilst Michelle asserts that previous distribution protocols have failed at scale, Eluvio’s fabric can scale without the significant burdens of file IO.

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Speaker

Michelle Munson Michelle Munson
CEO and Founder,
Eluvio

Video: Don’t let latency ruin your longtail: an introduction to “dref MP4” caching

So it turns out that simply having an .mp4 file isn’t enough for low-latency streaming. In fact, for low latency streaming, MP4s work well, but for very fast start times, there’s optimisation work to be done.

Unified Streaming’s Boy van Dijk refers to how mp4s are put together (AKA ISO BMFF) to explain how just restructuring the data can speed up your time-to-play.

Part of the motivation to optimise is the financial motivation to store media on Amazon’s S3 which is relatively cheap and can deal with a decent amount of throughput. This costs latency, however. The way to work around this, explains Boy, is to bring the metadata out of the media so you can cache it separately and, if possible, elsewhere. Within the spec is the ability to bring the index information out of the original media and into a separate file called the dref, the Data Reference box.

Boy explains that by working statelessly, we can see why latency is reduced. Typically three requests would be needed, but we can save those if we just make one, moreover, stateless architectures scale better.

The longtail of your video library is affected most by this technique as it is, by proportion, the largest part, but gets the least requests. Storing the metadata closer, or in faster storage ca vastly reduce startup times. DREF files point to media data allowing a system to bring that closer. For a just-in-time packaging system, drefs works as a middle-man. The beauty is that a DREF for a film is only a few 10s of MB for a film of many gigabytes.

Unified Origin, for different tests, saw reductions of 1160ms->15, 185ms->13 and 240ms->160ms. Depending on what exactly was being tested which Boy explains in the talk in more detail. Overall they have shown that there’s a non-trivial improvement in startup delay.

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Download a detailed presentation
Speaker

Boy van Dijk Boy van Dijk
Streaming Solutions Engineer,
Unified Streaming

Video: Low Latency Live from a Different Vantage Point

Building a low-latency live streaming platform is certainly possible nowadays, but not without its challenges and compromises. Traditionally, HLS-style delivery keeps latency high because of chunk sizes being between 5 and 10 seconds. Pushing that down to 2 seconds, generally seen as the minimum viable chunk size can then cause problems estimating bandwidth and thus breaking ABR.

Tackling these challenges are a host of technologies such as CMAF, Low-Latency HLS (LHLS) and Apple’s LLHLS but this talk takes a different approach to deliver streams with only 3-4 seconds of latency.

Michelle Munson from Eluvio explains that theoretically you could stream chunks in realtime and the delay would be the propagation time over the internet. In reality, though, encoding and transcoding delay add up, plus the CDN can gradually add to a drift of the signal to 15 seconds. ABR is tricky when delivering chunks in a streamed manner because the standard method of determining available bandwidth by measuring the download time gets broken since all chunks come in real-time.

Tackling this, Michelle introduces her to the decentralised fabric which Eluvio have put together which uses dispersed nodes to hold data acting, in some ways as a CDN but the trick here is that the nodes work together to share video. Each node can transcode just in time and also can create playlists on-demand from the distributed metadata in response to client requests. Being able to bring things together dynamically an on the fly removes a lot of latency pinch points from the system.

The result is a system which can deliver content from the encoder to the nodes in around 250ms then a further 50 or so for distribution. To make ABR easier, the player works one segment behind live so it always has a whole segment to download as quickly as it can and thus enabling ABR to work normally.

Michelle finishes by highlighting the results of testing both over time and at scale. The results show that node load stayed low and even in both scenarios delivering 3.5 seconds of latency.

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Speakers

Michelle Munson Michelle Munson
CEO and Founder,
Eluvio