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A Guide to Live Video Streaming

May 4, 2021
5-Minute Read
Director, SaaS Business Development

There are numerous players in the live video streaming world today, including SVOD service providers, telco operators, and broadcasters. Everyone wants a market share of the live streaming sector, and for good reason: global video streaming revenues continue on a trajectory of growth, with one industry report expecting them to reach $100 billion by 2025.

If you’re looking to take advantage of this rapidly growing industry segment, offering an outstanding live video streaming experience to your subscribers is a must. And, to offer the best viewing experience, you need the perfect combination of cost-efficient cloud-based media processing services and exceptional video quality.


Use Cases Are Growing for Live Streaming

Live streaming applications are expanding. Today, you can stream a variety of live content, including premium sports events, reality TV, game shows, concerts and even church services. Outside of traditional video service providers, sports leagues, virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) and TV networks are also embracing live video streaming to gain audiences.

There are a few reasons why the number of live video streaming applications is increasing: Video streaming solutions are now more accessible to content providers, and consumer demand for live streaming services continues to accelerate.

But before jumping into offering a live video streaming service, you need a comprehensive solution that can meet today’s demands.


Live Video Streaming Requires the Right Lineup of Technologies

live streaming solution has a lineup of key players that determine how good the solution is. From ingest to delivery, you'll want proven solutions that are ready to meet real-world challenges, such as scalability during peak viewing, low latency, and exceptional streaming quality from source to screen. To stay profitable, you’ll also need to ensure your costs don’t spiral out of control.

With a large number of live video streaming services available today and increasing new market entrants, you need to be agile to stay competitive and retain customers. A cloud-based live streaming solution works best to enable you to scale resources and infrastructure up or down at any time. A cloud-based live streaming platform will also keep your OPEX and CAPEX low by eliminating continuous investments in hardware.

No matter the type of content you’re offering, the quality of experience must be extraordinary if you want to keep viewers watching. Providing low latency for live streaming is essential, especially during sports events. You don’t want any noticeable delay between the broadcast and video streaming service, to avoid viewer dissatisfaction.


Key Components of the Live Video Streaming Workflow

Let’s delve a bit deeper into the live streaming workflow. Each element of the streaming workflow has an important job to perform. Here’s a closer look:

  • Ingest: After capturing your live video content at the source (either via camera or contribution link) it is processed and then moved directly to the cloud. Delivering a high-quality live streaming experience begins at ingest.
  • Encoder: Viewers today demand exceptionally high-quality experiences. Content is encoded to ensure every device can access the highest quality and/or target bandwidth. The encoder is a powerful component in the live streaming workflow to determine video quality. You need an encoder that can handle even the most complex content, reduce latency, and substantially reduce the bitrate without impacting the quality of content. Your encoder should also take advantage of the latest video compression innovations including AI and low-latency standards like CMAF, to keep viewers satisfied with the quality of your offering.
  • Packager: The packager creates content bundles for efficient delivery of flawless live video. The packager combines multiple streams of video and audio into the most popular HTTP adaptive bitrate protocols to stream live video on various devices.
  • Origin server: The origin server is another essential component in live video streaming workflows. The role of the origin server is to push your live video to content delivery networks (CDN).
  • Delivery: The delivery phase can have a significant impact on the final live video streaming experience. The CDN caches content to improve the viewing experience, ensuring low latency, which is often a critical requirement for live streaming, especially for sports. The CDN scales to suit the peaks and troughs of consumer demand, as viewership can be unpredictable during a live event. If you’re expecting a large number of viewers, a multi-CDN approach is necessary, which allows you to tap into more than one CDN, to ensure real-time scaling. The final step is for the CDN or CDNs to take the content from the origin server and deliver it to the smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and gaming consoles where the live video stream is being watched.


How to Further Optimize Live Video Streaming

The critical workflow components mentioned above provide you with a solid foundation for a video streaming service. However, there are technologies to enhance live video streaming and improve the quality of your service offering.

  • Analytics: Stats are integral today to track content and gather information about what's being watched and how. Data can help you make important decisions about how you stream live video, increase subscribers, evolve your service offering, save costs and be successful at live video streaming.
  • Backups: When you stream live video, services like disaster recovery and business continuity are necessary to be prepared for unexpected events. You want your video streaming services backed up and ready to go at a moment’s notice without viewers noticing there was a hiccup.
  • Multi-cloud Environment: You can also take steps to assure high availability and reliability of your live streaming service by choosing a solution with 1+1 geo-redundancy and support for multiple cloud platforms. Having a cloud-neutral video streaming platform will allow you to seamlessly move applications and data from one cloud environment to another helping you stay agile as your business needs change.
  • Support: To stream live video successfully, you need an outstanding support team. Working with motivated and knowledgeable experts from the beginning, to taking your offering live and beyond, will keep your streaming service viable and strong.


Live Streaming Is Evolving

Live video streaming is poised for even more growth in the future through innovations in enabling technologies in video delivery, such as artificial intelligence (AI).

Live sports, in particular, are expected to have a huge impact on streaming. 
Research shows that almost two-thirds (63%) of consumers would pay more to stream live sports. But viewers want a personalized user experience and greater control over their live streaming experiences such as slow-motion replays and the ability to switch between camera angles.

IndyCar is a good example of how to engage viewers with live sports streaming services. A leading U.S. racing organization, IndyCar is streaming live events, including its popular Indy 500 race, using a cloud-based, end-to-end live streaming platform from Harmonic. The platform allows IndyCar to easily launch additional streams and scale up at peak viewing. Through the IndyCar app, they are providing viewers with high-quality in-car video and pit-crew audio during auto races to boost fan engagement.

Multicamera viewing is another evolution for live streaming. It involves showing multiple streams of a scene with different angles to create a more engaging and realistic on-screen experience. Multiview live streaming is all about letting viewers choose what angle they want to watch to personalize the live streaming experience. Now TV is an example of a forward-thinking video service provider that is using multiview live streaming to boost engagement.


Streaming Live Video from the Cloud with Real-World Results

From ingest to delivery, you'll want a live streaming platform that is reliable and ready for the real world. Take the example of leading Indonesian telecommunications operator Telkomsel. It launched an OTT service for sports content and within the first month boasted almost 4 million new subscribers. They needed a solution that could get content from satellite to the cloud, make sure it was mobile-ready for their app, and deliver that content to 550,000 concurrent viewers on a major game day. They deployed a cloud-based, end-to-end live streaming platform from Harmonic. Today, they’re able to stream an excellent experience with the lowest latency, and they’re saving almost 50% on storage and delivery costs. That's a major win.

Similarly, SuperSoccer is using Harmonic’s live streaming platform to stream an average of 560 hours of live HD events per month, with each event attracting around 20,000 viewers. Relying on a cloud-based live streaming platform made the most sense for SuperSoccer because the cloud provides agility, scalability and ease of use, while also ensuring the superior video quality.

We know that you have a lot riding on your success. Harmonic understands the importance of each customer’s needs. It's why we developed our live streaming and services with the ultimate flexibility. 

Talk to Harmonic today about your plans for OTT. We can help you build your winning solution.

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