Posts Tagged ‘live events’

Other People’s Platforms

June 17, 2016 Leave a comment


Mashable posted an article about an attempt by the Australian government to hold a live political debate via Facebook. Sadly for anyone interested in watching the debate, the quality of the livestream was terrible, largely due it seems to the low overall quality of connectivity in Australia (the article lists them as 48th in terms of global internet speeds).

There are some lessons to be learned from this exercise for the enterprise user. First, it’s important to consider the likely end user experience, and be extremely aware of the outside factors that can influence it. They cannot be controlled, but they must be accounted for. If you’re going to deliver a live event, are you prepared for the possibility that end users might have a terrible experience? What steps can you take, perhaps with your CDN provider, to provide extra capacity to ease the loads? Are you set up to field complaints properly, both by phone and social & email outlets?

Second, are you prepared to put yourself at the mercy of someone else’s infrastructure? Not everyone can or should build or buy livestreaming capacity, especially if it’s not something you intend to do very often. But are you prepared to risk a major (or even minor) live event on Facebook’s or YouTube’s live delivery options? These are wonderful platforms to be on, and your audiences are certainly there to be reached, but there are risks involved in depending on these tools as your sole delivery mechanism. You have to trust that in the midst of everything else these platforms are doing, your event will receive the attention it deserves.

Finally, think about the level of support you want to have when something goes bad. As the Mashable article indicates, even a Buzzfeed chat with President Obama went sour and they had to shift away to a YouTube feed. If a major media source and the President of the United States couldn’t get their problems sorted by the provider, how much better service will your organization get? Companies like Ustream and Livestream do this as a sole function (and I’m not shilling for either) for large-scale events; they can provide one-off services if these are only needed occasionally; and as part of an arrangement with them it’s reasonable to expect a high level of service in the event of a failure.

By all means leverage every tool at your disposal, and go where the audiences are. But be sure to understand the potential for problems is high, and in the end you get what you pay for.

Image courtesy of Mashable from the article Australia’s first online leadership debate marred by buffering complaints


Periscope: Concerns for the Enterprise

November 12, 2015 Leave a comment


I sat down with some old friends yesterday to chat about all kinds of things in the streaming universe, and at one point we got into a discussion about Periscope, the livestreaming tool available through Twitter. It got me thinking about the revolutionary nature of these new tools and how they might impact the Enterprise.

Make no mistake here – allowing users to livestream with nothing more than a phone they’re carrying anyway is a major game changer. It’s by no means a replacement for a proper setup for anything serious, but the ability to deliver live content even at the relatively low-level of a phone is still an amazing opportunity for users of every kind. The question is, how does this new tool get adopted in large organizations, and what might be some of the concerns facing business owners and IT teams?

There’s no question Periscope, Meerkat and the few other options out there will find quick adoption among smaller companies, and small groups within larger organizations. Enterprise-level adoption, however, almost always demands a deep look into the impact of a new tool and the overall value to the organization. The first concern I think most companies will have is security – can the tool be brought in without increasing the risk of hackers using it to break into systems? With these apps, I believe it’s too early to tell how this might impact other systems which tells me it’ll be some time before widespread adoption.

The second concern is the development of a strategy and a set of use cases to help the organization fit livestreaming apps into their overall business. Why do you want on-the-fly live events? What are they meant to accomplish? Who do you want delivering these events? For large organizations, both internal and external communications can be tightly controlled, and the entire purpose of these apps is to spread the opportunities around to as many people as you can. Adding them to the company’s arsenal requires an ability to surrender control which can be a hard sell to company leadership. It also means developing policies & procedures for using the tools, and that can delay deployment while the necessary documents are created.

A third issue is impact of the technology on existing IT systems & resources. Is some sort of central administration needed? Who will provide user support? With budgets and personnel already stretched farther than advisable, smart IT leadership will ask these questions before committing to including these tools.

It’s hard to wait on interesting and powerful technology, but most large enterprise organizations take their time about adoption until it can be worked into their overall business strategies. Interestingly, the Mayo Clinic is one organization that has begun to experiment with Periscope. I find it notable because health care is one of the most highly regulated industries and providers can be very wary of how they share. I will say that I know some people at Mayo and they’ve been very forward-looking in their adoption of new communication tools, and it’s good to see them taking advantage of Periscope.

Overall I expect these tools will join other social outlets used by large organizations, but probably in a very controlled and limited way. It doesn’t mean employees aren’t already leveraging them, but I’d be surprised to see any major adoption in the near future.

Yahoo Livestreams the NFL

October 27, 2015 Leave a comment

NFL on Yahoo

So the NFL and Yahoo teamed up to stream last Sunday’s Bills-Jaguars game from London. As usual Dan Rayburn of Frost & Sullivan and has done the best work of reviewing the entire exercise, including a review of the technical aspects here. I won’t cover all the ground he already did, other than pointing out this tweet:

This has been around for quite a while and the hype factor in so much reporting is just silly.

I do want to examine the business side of the exercise and put some thought into the long-term impact of the idea. Broadly speaking I don’t see a future for regular streams under the current universe of the NFL’s delivery model. There’s simply too much money involved in delivering the games via the traditional TV outlets. Many billions are involved between the League, the broadcasters and the advertisers, and this kind of major shift is at best a long, long way off. ($5 billion alone is the cost to the 4 networks currently signed to deliver the games through 2021).

So there won’t be any major restructuring going on, but over the remaining 5 years of the TV deal I would expect to see more experimenting with online delivery. I suspect the London game was selected as among other things, the arcane blackout rules & complications of NFL broadcasts could be avoided – no local market would be affected in terms of coverage. I do think the NFL was paying a LOT of attention – like anyone else they can see the shifts in the marketplace towards more online delivery. Cord-cutting is overhyped by a long shot, and live sports remains the last firm bastion of cable & satellite delivery – users like me who might otherwise give up on cable are keeping it to be able to watch their teams play.

The difficulty for a lot of fans is the ability to see a non-local team play; if they live in one place but support a team in another location, they’re hard pressed to get to see those games without additional cost via the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package. Live streaming is routinely available there for anyone willing to pay for it; the question becomes – is the NFL prepared to offer streamed games for ‘free’ (e.g. an advertiser-based rather than subscription model) more broadly? Again, there’s a lot of money involved and none of the parties to this will alter the arrangement unless better opportunity comes up via streaming.

Live sports in particular demands perfect performance during play or people will go crazy if they miss something important. I consider this past weekend an experiment; a relatively safe way to test the waters on totally online delivery. Yahoo hopefully learned something from it, which should be that live streaming is difficult to do correctly, especially with a lot of people watching a game. The NFL (and the other leagues watching closely) wanted to see how the event went for future thinking about contracts and game delivery. Fans wanted things for free online (ignoring data charges), and got a taste of a possible future. It won’t matter now, but check back in 5 years and we’ll have a better sense of how streaming impacts live sports delivery.

Categories: Distribution Tags: ,

Streaming Media East Wrap-up

May 19, 2014 Leave a comment

StreamingMediaEast_LGI took the time to head over to Streaming Media East last week for the first time in a few years. I used to go regularly with a previous employer but circumstances hadn’t permitted over the last few shows. I thought it was time to get back over there to see what was latest & greatest in the world of online video.

The short summary is that I learned an awful lot, and it’s still kind of the wild west out there. While a lot is going on in terms of distribution options and content development, there just isn’t a single way of achieving success with a program. My preferred space of the enterprise was not as well represented as I’d like which is probably a combination of few proposals and not a ton of interest from the rest of the audience. The vendor floor was also much thinner than I expected based on previous experience – participants I remember seeing for years weren’t there and the space seemed emptier than I recall.

Key takeaways? Cloud cloud cloud; when some organizations are talking about large live events, they mean over 750,000 concurrent users; the technical infrastructure for ad serving is incredibly complicated. In the end I learned a lot, saw some old friends and made some new connections along the way – which is all anyone could really ask of of a conference. I only managed to get there for Tuesday, so I can’t say this is a full overview, but here’s my detailed wrapup:

Tuesday Keynote – Matthew Szatmary, Twitch

Call the keynote my big OMG moment – it’s only occasionally that I hear something that makes me stop and say “wow, I had no idea, but it makes a lot of sense.” Twitch, in addition to being next on Google’s list of acquisitions is among the largest delivery systems for live video anywhere, and all those people are watching other people play video games. One of my kids is a fan of those videos and I thought it was just her – turns out there are a LOT of people who enjoy being spectators to online gaming. Dan Rayburn shares some of the numbers here from Szatmary’s presentation and they’re astounding. Granted there are more people total watching the some of these events when TV is added to the mix, but online there’s no comparison. Frankly, 1 million broadcasters a month is the giant number to me – I haven’t heard of anyone that comes even close. He explained a lot of the behind the scenes needed to get this many broadcasts to work and it’s just one more facet of the streaming universe that has grown so enormously over the last 10-15 years.

Session B101: Big Streaming: Technical Challenges of Large-Scale Live Events

Not my bread and butter here as I’ve never streamed to the kinds of large groups that MLB and WWE do, but it turned out to be a great session on the specific challenges of streaming to large groups of people. The “how large” issue was another “whoa” moment for me – they explained they mean over 750,000 live viewers and above. As the panelists pointed out, there’s a huge gap between many small events and the giant events baseball and wrestling are called on to deliver. It’s not a simple question of scale, but a whole other way of thinking about how you deliver your streams. Some of the keys here are thorough pre-planning, contingency planning and on-the-fly metrics reviews. The latter was an interesting point – you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with reporting or you won’t get what you need in timely fashion; you also don’t want every jot and tittle or you won’t be able to separate the important information from the junk. Social is also a big key – hints about which games are heating up can tip the production teams off about likely increasing demand for those games. One last thought that should be applied in all cases – when your viewers are paying for a premium product, they expect the best experience possible and you just have to deliver excellently.

Session A102: Content Management Strategies for Enterprise Content Platforms

Surprisingly, not my favorite session of the day. It was one of the few targeted specifically at the enterprise user and I think I was expecting a bit more than I got. The presenters were fine, but a lot of it seemed to focus on how they built their programs and not on the content management process itself. I admit I know more that some people on this subject, but to me the meat of this would be in the content decision making process and the internal/external production debate. Every organization goes through those kinds of exercises – what stays in house, what goes out and why? More discussion about the use of user-generated content would have been welcome as well.

Session B103: Choosing a Corporate YouTube System

A pretty good session overall, though it turned into more of a comparison of available systems and specific implementations of those systems than I think I was expecting. I’m interested here in the strategic thinking – do we allow user generated content or not? What restrictions do we put in place? How is it administered? What kind of security is needed? Again, more strategy here would have been welcome, but in retrospect I don’t think that was the intent of the session.

Session A105: Server-Side Ad Insertion: Reducing Video Player Complexity & Improving Reliability

Another wake-up call for me in this session. I know much less about the ad-delivery world than I should, and based on this session there is an enormous amount to learn. The technical aspects of this are quite complicated and I admit freely I was lost at more than one point during the discussion. For a lot of companies on both ends, however, this is life & death. For the content owners, revenue depends heavily on the ads; for the advertisers, the eyeballs are what they care about; and for the ad serving companies, there are a lot of moving pieces to ensure that both forms of content (ad and programming) are delivered smoothly and correctly. I don’t have a lot of interest in the ad delivery side of things, but it was a good session to go to as a reminder of the huge impact advertising has on the streaming ecosystem.

Image courtesy of; used with permission

Planning for Live Streaming

July 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Eric Norell over at Streaming Media Producers offers some great tips for preparing for a live streamed event:

Six Tips for Planning a Professional-Looking Live-Streamed Event

All of these steps are critical to ensuring the technical aspects of the event are smooth and as trouble-free as possible. You always want your viewers to notice your content, not your technology – if it works well, they won’t be talking about the stream. If it works poorly, it’s all they’ll talk about, assuming they stick around.

What he’s underlining here is the need for thorough and careful preparation. What he’s not talking about (since it’s not his focus) is the same preparation needs to go into managing the talent and content that will appear during the show. You can have the best technical setup on the planet, but if your principal presenters are not ready for prime time it doesn’t matter how smooth the stream was delivered.

Here are a few things to think about and prep long before the day of the event – as a video manager you may not have direct control over every aspect, but it’s important to get involved in the process as early as possible and make sure these things are considered. And if you don’t have the CEO’s ear, find someone who does and lay out the details for them, make sure they understand it and hope they communicate it to the on-camera talent.

  • Slides/graphics – often these are at least laid out long before the day of the event. In general slides used for web viewing should be clean and uncluttered, all the more so if they are a portion of the live event. If you’re not the one preparing them, get to whoever is and make sure they understand the value and power of clean, easy to read slides. Test the connections to the slide presentation if you will be switching between a video view and the slide source – is everything readable and the switches are made cleanly? The visuals and delivery of those visuals both matter, and this is something you can check early.
  • Microphones and camera placement – Mr. Norell covers much of this in his post, but from a content perspective this is important as well. Does your speaker turn his head a lot when he talks? Will this have a negative impact on the sound quality? Does she move around a lot when she speaks, requiring a very attentive camera person to follow them as they ping-pong around the stage? The presentation can be affected by a lot of idiosyncrasies and it’s important to be aware of these before the day of the event. One caveat: don’t crimp your speaker’s style – the goal here is to make them look great, and better to adjust the video team’s planning than to force the CEO into a less comfortable format.
  • Switching & graphics – again this is more technical and covered in the original article, but put some content thought into this as well. Will they distract from the messages or enhance them? Are you switching views just to switch views, or is something meaningful being conveyed? Don’t lose sight of the keys here – let your principals deliver the messages they’re here to deliver and use the technology to make that a great show.
  • Audience awareness – make sure both the technical team and the speakers are aware that there’s a virtual audience in the room with them. There can be a sensation sometimes, especially if there’s no live audience, to think they’re speaking to themselves. I was on a live event recently where the cameras were made live – with no sound – 5-10 minutes before the start of the event. We watched the participants chat among themselves as if they were off camera, which of course they weren’t. Keep your speakers aware of the crowd out there watching, and ask them to behave as if they were live until they’re told otherwise. Obviously everyone needs to watch their language and actions throughout the process, but even without expletives and other issues it’s best to act as if there are people in the room.

Again, much like the technical preparation, the content preparation is critical for the best live show possible.

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