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Posts Tagged ‘streaming’

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 StreamingMedia.com 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 StreamingMedia.com; used with permission

External Factors Impact User Experience with Video

February 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Twice over the last two days I had the opportunity to leverage streaming content for some entertainment. Both times I faced streaming challenges, and it’s a reminder that no matter how good the content we develop, we’re often subject to external factors that can completely change how the end-user feels about our work.

I started out on Saturday with the DVR recording I made of the USA-Russia olympic hockey game. Thanks to my cable provider’s channel guide mistake, I got an extra 30 minutes of commentary that resulted in the recording cutting out in the middle of overtime. So I switched over to the laptop to load up the replay from nbcolympics.com. Plenty has been written about the business model behind the access to the content – if you haven’t heard, you only get access to the full scope of content if you have an existing cable/satellite provider. This of course shuts out many people who don’t have those services, and I’m not convinced that it’s a successful model to use.

Regardless of those issues, I do have a cable subscription and the results were horrible. I needed to catch up on the end of overtime and the shootout that followed – no more than about 10 minutes of video total. It’s safe to say I spent at least double that time waiting for the content to buffer and begin playing. I’d get a minute or two of playback followed by a long spell of buffering. If I had not been committed to seeing the end of the game I’d have given up within the first couple of minutes.

Sunday night was movie night with the kids (well, one of them – the other two refused to watch). We agreed on a movie and ordered it from Amazon video. And the movie loaded. And loaded and loaded. And still loading. And almost but not quite loaded. We gave it about 5 minutes before shutting down the TV and restarting to get it working. The rest of the playback was mostly OK with only some buffering, so overall the experience was pretty good.

The point of all this is that as a creator and manager of content, your users’ experience is dependent on a lot of things that you often can’t control. The issues I faced over the weekend could have occurred in a half dozen places along the path from provider to me. It could be a router somewhere along the internet, my internet connection or the connection between the device and my home router. But I understand the networking issues better than most users, especially as it applies to online video delivery. More importantly, I had an investment in the pieces I was trying to watch. I lived with the issues I experienced because I really wanted to see the video, and I never would have taken the time I did for something I was looking at casually.

As a content provider, you need to be aware of the possible problems with delivery. A lot of corporate video is, frankly, not must-watch video – will your users stick with it if they are facing streaming quality issues? There isn’t unfortunately a lot that can be done about downstream problems – it’s often a user by user situation and you can’t solve that problem for everyone.

You can, however, take certain steps on your own end – use a streaming service provider that has a robust network with multiple sourcing points and plenty of capacity. Contract with them for better service if you’re delivering a high profile live event. Encode your videos for optimum playback without overdoing the bitrates and video sizes – a smaller video that plays cleanly is better than a larger one that buffers constantly. You really, really have to spot check your content to see how it behaves, especially across multiple devices in multiple network situations. A hardwired connection will behave differently than over the air or wifi, iPhones will behave differently than PC desktops. Above all else, if you can possibly provide contact information alongside the video, you give users the chance to learn more even if the video fails for any reason – instead of definitely losing an opportunity, you’ll have the chance that they’ll reach out to you.

The problems with playback often have nothing to do with your work as the content provider, but the result is that you take the blame for it. They don’t say “oh, that lousy telecom and their service”, they say “this stupid company can’t figure out how to deliver a video?” It may not be fair, but the result is the same – your great content doesn’t appear, and sales and communication opportunities are lost. Do what you can to keep it working, and know when it’s not working so you can get it fixed as soon as possible.

Mobile Video and the Enterprise

February 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Long Tail Video has an interesting post today about the state of live streaming to mobile devices and specifically issues with the Android platform:

The Pain of Live Streaming on Android

The group over there know their streaming, and if you’ve never heard of their flagship JW Player, head over to their site and check it out. I’ve worked with it before and it’s a highly configurable, simple and elegant solution for video playback.

What Ed Wolf points out in the blogpost is probably one of the greatest pain points for online video delivery across the enterprise – delivering quality video experiences to end users regardless of platform. It’s by no means a simple solution for on-demand viewing, but it becomes even more complex for live events. The introduction of HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) was (as Ed indicates) supposed to solve this issue and make the delivery across platforms and devices simple, but as in all technology simple is a relative term.

As the bring your own device (BYOD) universe in the enterprise increases exponentially, the need for simple, manageable standards for delivery become even more critical. Of course, developing standards across competing brands and OS universes is not simple, and at the best of times standards-making bodies don’t act swiftly. So what’s an enterprise production house supposed to do to handle the inevitable requests for viewers using specific platforms?

The answer depends on your organization and your approach to video. The simplest, though not necessarily most cost-effective solution is to deliver video using a third-party provider and work closely with them to make certain they can handle the most popular devices. There are many reasons to use a third-party anyway, so it’s one more question to raise with them when evaluating vendors. Like every other decision, make sure you test it out thoroughly with all of the key platforms before committing to the vendor right before the big live event with the CEO.

The other option is simply not to offer it at all.  Again this depends on your organization, the maturity of your online video efforts and the company’s position on BYOD. I’ve been in the position of managing live event streaming, but we did it so infrequently to such a small audience that struggling with multiple platforms wasn’t worth the effort. We offered recommended configurations and warned users that it was likely to be a problem if they were outside that scope.

Long term this isn’t really an answer for a company and program that are serious about online video delivery – you will eventually have to find a way to offer the same content to users regardless of platform. Unfortunately we’re still a ways away from finding a single approach that will work universally, but at least there are some options to deliver live content everywhere.

Video Schmooze Recap

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment

I had the opportunity to go to the Video Schmooze [sic. it’s not the spelling I’d use, but…] event this morning in NYC. Other than leaving the house in the pitch dark to make it there for an early start it was well worth the time to go in and hear from some of the industry folks on the state of online video. It was pretty light on sales-pitch presentations which I appreciated (especially for a half-day event) and I was pleasantly surprised to see some contentious discussions throughout the morning. Not that anyone was rude, but there was some real give and take amongst the participants on the nature of the online video universe.

Some key thoughts:

  • The growth in the pay-tv (ie cable, satellite) market is very slow; it’s more likely that economic issues rather than “cord-cutting,” the universe of people who have gone fully mobile/wifi that’s behind that growth curve.
  • The economics of the multiscreen world are very much unclear – business models are not proving to be gold mines, but instead it may turn out to be a long time before people find a steady way of making money from this new universe
  • Watching at home but on a mobile device is not exactly cord cutting, it’s just using a different kind of TV set
  • Unlike the existing TV world, you can’t afford to support bad programming with good programming; again, the economics are such that you don’t have the revenue streams coming in to allow that
  • Rights for online content have become a much more important conversation in negotiations between carriers/aggregators and content creators – there’s more value in them than there was once thought.
  • The family TV is often a gathering place but different than it used to be – each person probably has a second screen with them and may be having a completely different experience of the show from the person next to them. One may be looking up song lyrics while the other is participating in social discussions.

As you can tell, most of the discussion was centered on the consumer market rather than the enterprise market. There were some takeaways of note, both technical and strategic:

  • The word fragmented came up a number of times to describe the viewing marketplace, and that is clearly true. While this makes things extremely hard in the consumer market for anyone trying to make a profit, my feeling is it’s a bit less critical in the corporate/enterprise world. Very often corporate video is designed for niche audiences anyway, and the costs are a bit lower than developing a series for TV or the web. In a lot of ways you’re not trying to build an audience up, rather I think you need to capture a particular group of people already in the market for your type of goods or services. As I’ve said before, often you just want the right people watching – those who make the purchasing decisions.
  • Online content, for all the issue with video metrics, is far more measurable than TV, allowing more data-based decision making.
  • Upgrade cycles in an online world are shorter, so you can experiment with changes and implement them far more quickly, especially when your tools are software based.
  • According to one presenter (a vendor) they have about 2 seconds to authenticate users, verify devices and begin delivery of a video stream. 2 seconds. To complete all the handshakes and approvals to deliver content or users will often give up and look elsewhere.
  • Changes to security, formats, operating systems and all the rest mean a lot of complexity for distributing content. Disruption is a term that was applied here.

So that’s that. Again I might have liked to hear more about the enterprise market, but I learned some things and it was good to have my head exclusively in video for a few hours.

Categories: Distribution Tags: ,

New Conference Announced

June 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Life has intervened, interfering with important tasks like blogging, but this was worth coming out of hibernation for:

Announcing the Enterprise Video Conference, Two-Days Of Content Focused on Enterprise and Edu Video Deployments

I’m delighted to see that Streaming Media has extended their already valuable conference to include this very critical area of online video.  If there was one thing about the Streaming Media East conference I found lacking it was the focus on enterprise-level video creation, production and delivery.  The sessions on YouTube and monetizing your videos are fine, but there are very specific nuances & needs for the enterprise, and I’m glad they’ve seen fit to expand the conference for that audience.  While I expect some growing pains, this is a great opportunity to really debate, discuss and share the key aspects of online video affecting large organizations.

They’ve also announced the list of advisory board members for the show, and I’m delighted with the selection.  I know two of the members from both past shows and from a vendor-client relationship, and I think it’s a great group of people that will help build a strong conference focused on the needs of enterprise managers.  Unfortunately I doubt I’ll be able to make it to the West Coast for this one, but perhaps they’ll extend it to the SM East conference next year.  If you’re out in LA in October, I’d add this to your schedule.

Categories: resources Tags: ,

Mobile Data Traffic

February 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Very Cisco-oriented couple of days – thanks to the brilliant Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) I stumbled across a series of presentations yesterday for Social Media Week (http://socialmediaweek.org/) from the Cisco group, which led me to follow a bunch of twitter accounts, so I have a bit of ammunition for some blogging. There was a terrific presentation from Jeanette Gibson (@jeanetteg) that I wanted to talk over, but I can’t find a link yet so it’ll have to wait a bit.

One piece to come out of yesterday’s event was a link to Cisco’s new Visual Networking Index containing their predictions for mobile data traffic over the next several years. There’s a lot in there about usage, devices, trends, etc. but the tweet that caught my attention referenced this line as written in their exec summary:

Two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2016. Mobile video will increase 25-fold between 2011 and 2016, accounting for over 70 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of the forecast period.

The emphasis is theirs, not mine, but it is worth noting. As I posted last year in reference to their report on internet traffic, I feel it’s necessary to distinguish between the volume of traffic and the value of that traffic to the enterprise. Once again, more data does not necessarily mean better or more important data.

What it does mean for the enterprise media manager is the importance of ensuring cross-platform availability of your content. You need to go where the eyeballs are, and those viewers are at least equally if not more likely to be on mobile devices as on desktops. For your outside viewers your opportunity to reach them and gain traction in the marketplace depends on their ability to find your content no matter where they are. Similarly, your inside audience will be accustomed to receiving their video content anytime, anywhere and will expect the same behavior from their corporate learning, messaging and communications.

Practically speaking, there are some necessary considerations to prepare or maintain important work processes:

  • Transcoding needs to be built in or scaled to ensure the ability to deliver multiple output formats
  • Streaming servers or vendors need to be prepared for proper format delivery and increased volume
  • Online learning platforms may need to be upgraded or configured for mobile delivery

While it may be a brave new world, the mobile universe is just one more delivery outlet media managers will need to understand and prepare for.

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