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Live streaming is booming: how broadcasters can take advantage

Live streaming’s usage has been growing steadily over the past few years, in large part due to the pandemic, and is expected to increase further in 2023 with its use in e-commerce experiencing a particularly sharp boom. Gonzalo de la Vega, VP strategic products at Fastly, explains how broadcasters can meet consumers’ expectations with their live stream offerings       

Live streaming consumption has significantly increased over the past few years. According to research carried out by Cisco in 2021, video represented 80 per cent of total global internet traffic, with live video accounting for 13 per cent of this. For a range of reasons, this is only going to continue to increase in 2023. 

Brands are increasingly choosing to rely on live streaming to drive their marketing strategies. While YouTube advertising will remain a central pillar of any online video campaign, contenders, such as TikTok, which recently launched Tik Tok Shop, are only going to gain momentum and see use as a channel for B2B marketing, rather than just as a tool to reach customers. The pandemic has caused a fundamental shift in the way consumers approach the buying experience, accelerating the adoption of online shopping, and this is the natural next step in this evolution.

A further trend we’ve seen throughout 2022 has been that the streaming giants have continued to put out content at tremendous pace. Netflix and Disney have worked to satisfy consumers’ thirst for content by investing heavily in constantly renewing their offering, while live streams of sporting events – such as the Premier League by Amazon and Serie A by DAZN – have placed this tech at the forefront of the entertainment industry.

These signs all point towards the continued growth of the streaming industry. Here’s how broadcasters can ensure they keep these experiences running as smoothly as possible. 

Unlocking the power of edge computing and real-time observability

The growing prevalence of live streaming highlights broadcasters’ need for expertise, knowledge and best-in-class technology. These allow the delivery of secure, fast and reliable streaming services.

From a technological standpoint, edge computing brings multiple advantages when it comes to live streaming. Locating servers closer to their target audiences enables broadcasters to improve performance and massively reduce latency. This is because, with edge computing, data flows directly from the edge servers to the user, allowing for request times to be cut by up to 90 per cent. 

This performance increase comes in the context of a rapidly evolving and highly competitive live streaming landscape where user expectations are constantly growing. Efficiency and speed are elements of paramount importance for broadcasters aiming to provide best-in-class services. With so many new players in the market, OTT providers and broadcasters will need to work extra hard to win over undecided customers with reliable streaming services. 

Real-time observability plays a pivotal role in this. Rather than simply monitoring (​​observing the state of a system across a period of time), observability provides the information needed to make decisions in real time. By unleashing the power of real time data, observability enables broadcasters to achieve a deep and comprehensive understanding of a system and of what can be improved. Thanks to real-time observability, it is possible to react to setbacks quickly and efficiently. However, this also has potential drawbacks, due to the range of available data and broadcasters need to learn which metrics should be prioritised to reach their desired results.            

Build stacks to support your streams

Simply leveraging the right technology is not enough to deliver successful live streaming experiences. Broadcasters should dedicate time and energy to carry out a thorough stack assessment ahead of key events. This includes, among other things, load testing and the implementation of configuration changes on-the-fly for all the partners a broadcaster relies on. It’s important to remember that there are no second chances with live streaming. In order to be fully prepared for major events, broadcasters can conduct a dry-run with a smaller event. This gives them the opportunity not only to test technology and processes, but also to gather data facilitating the optimal delivery of more important events.

Making audience projection is also crucial. Although predicting the audience size of a live streaming event with accuracy is a near-impossible task, making an educated guess is highly recommended. Broadcasters should generate audience projections both for the most likely scenario and for the best-case scenario, so as to ensure that there is the necessary capacity reservation in place. The old saying ‘better safe than sorry’ has never been more true.    

With demand for live streaming services soaring, broadcasters need to take advantage of the latest technology and of an effective strategy to deliver fast and safe digital experiences. Shifting away from centralised infrastructures in order to embrace the myriad benefits of edge computing promises to be a major move in 2023.