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Content streaming enters unprecedented times

With the forthcoming launch of Disney Plus, and consumers streaming more content than ever, can the internet cope?

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the world, more and more companies are asking staff to work from home, or self-isolate, placing additional burden on local internet service providers and their infrastructure.

As well as people remote working, the internet is also expected to see a huge increase in consumers turning to streaming services in order to keep themselves entertained and, with the launch of Disney Plus in Western Europe on 24th March, how much strain is streaming likely to have on network capacity?

According to Steve Miller-Jones, director of edge solutions and solution architecture at Limelight Networks, the industry is always working hard to provide increased efficiency, scale and capacity. “We do not expect services to fail or become lower quality because of increased use,” he tells TVBEurope. “Robust delivery strategies from publishers, CDNs and service providers with built in contingency and scale are critical to business success on a good day, let alone during a pandemic.”

He predicts the content that could see the biggest spike in traffic will be live news, similar to the spikes recorded in the UK around the Brexit votes towards the end of last year. “Given the public desire to be kept informed about the outbreak, we expect that people will behave in similar fashion, following the latest government updates and advice,” says Miller-Jones. “These events cannot be planned for as much as the launch of new platforms or a new series, which makes always being prepared for them even more critical for OTT services.”

While previous OTT viewing spikes have often been short-term, the current situation is expected to last for some time. “What will be different now is that this does not seem likely to be short lived, and a sustained long-term increase in use of the internet infrastructure from people’s homes is somewhat un-precedented,” says Miller-Jones.

So, the big question is: can the internet cope? Miller-Jones says he has full confidence that the internet can cope with the increasing demand on it. “Content delivery services are well integrated with telecoms service provider networks and so are well placed to ensure that people can access the content that they need to. From a Limelight standpoint, we’ve increased network egress capacity by 70 per cent in the last year and this trend for capacity and redundancy increases is one that has been seen across the industry.”

“All of this underlines the growing importance of connectivity,” adds tech, media and telco analyst Paolo Pescatore. “Sometimes we take this for granted. Telcos will be bracing themselves for an explosion of traffic over their networks (both fixed and mobile) and there are numerous techniques that will be used to re-engineer and optimise networks.

“Overall, I am pretty confident that most, if not all networks, are up to the challenge to handle mass-scale working and entertaining users in homes,” he continues.

Millions of consumers staying at home and looking to be entertained represents a significant opportunity for all video streaming services, and with the launch of Disney Plus to most of Western Europe next week, Pescatore expects to see subscriptions surge.

“However, consumers and households will now be in a better position to reconsider how much they spend on all services and their connectivity needs,” he says. “There are too many services chasing too few dollars. Therefore, expect a lot of pay-TV shaving going on with existing subscriptions.”