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There’s nothing like financial incentive to spur innovation

Limelight Networks' Charles Kraus looks at major changes for online video

Over the past year live streaming of major sporting events has taken off, and audiences seem to love it. Why have sports leagues and TV broadcasters embraced streaming so enthusiastically? Simple – more viewers bring in more revenue. Voila! Live streaming simulcast with the broadcast is adding millions of additional viewers. Sounds like a great solution, right?

Well, most live streaming viewers have experienced a problem with this. You’re watching a game on a mobile device as you walk into a sports bar to meet friends, and just as you go through the door everyone in the bar is cheering at a just-happened score, or you could have seen social media posts reporting it ahead of it showing up on your screen. You just experienced the latency gap between broadcast and streaming. Fortunately there are emerging technologies that solve the latency gap. There’s nothing like having a lot of revenue on the line to encourage innovation!

Typical latencies delivering live streams over the internet are in the 30 second to one minute range. This is because the HLS and DASH are HTTP-based protocols, which stream chunks of data. The default chunk size generated is ten seconds, and three chunks are generated before delivery starts, leading to latency of 30 seconds up to over one minute when CDN ingesting, transcoding, distance between source and viewer, and delivery are factored in.

An obvious approach to lowering latency is to reduce the chunk size. This is exactly what Limelight Networks have done with our live streaming video workflow. A configuration option sets the chunk size down to one second, reducing live streaming latency down to about three to five seconds, a significant improvement over existing HLS and DASH live streaming delivery solutions. There are several successful in-production deployments using this configuration that satisfy use case latency requirements. An example is an Asian online gaming company doing this to improve their user’s game play experience by reducing the latency perceived in play.

The video industry focus on solutions is a technology called WebRTC (Web Real-time Communication), which provides for even lower latency – around one second, and is supported by all the popular browsers such as Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. 

Limelight is holding proof of concept trials now to develop and implement WebRTC-based low-latency live video streaming across our global content delivery network. By integrating WebRTC streaming support into the CDN, content distributors will be able to easily implement scalable live video streaming workflows such as gambling, gaming, and sports broadcasting that require the lowest possible latency. Viewers will finally be able to watch broadcast quality live streaming video as close to real-time as possible.

WebRTC is applicable in these scenarios:

· Simulcast Live Sports Events – Reduce the latency difference between a TV broadcast and the online stream delivery

· Live OTT Sports Events – Consistent viewing experience across multi-devices for non-simulcast delivery

· eSports (Online Live Gaming) – Scaling the delivery of low-latency live video delivery to large audiences

· Gambling and Betting – Ensuring a consistent low latency experience to users across a range of devices

The gambling use case for low latency streaming has two important considerations. The most obvious is to deliver consistent low latency to online players, so they all see the action in near realtime on any device, anywhere they are. For the online casino, if the latency to players is reduced, it speeds play, resulting in more dealing rounds and increased revenue.

You can watch the recording of our recent live low-latency webinar and Q&A session with audience members. As we proceed through live evaluations of WebRTC, there will be updates covered in future webinars.