With the largest international football tournament currently in full swing, all eyes are focused on screens worldwide – and streaming the game will likely be the dominant medium for those looking to keep up with the championship. This is particularly true in regions where the games will be played during working hours, such as North America. According to Nielsen, streaming overtook broadcast TV viewership in North America in July this year and a similar pattern is emerging across the globe as consumers continue to pivot towards the convenience and flexibility of IP-based delivery.
From an industry perspective, getting streaming right depends on the right technology, methodology, and partnerships. But for content publishers, what exactly does it take to deliver a great global streaming event? Where are the pain points, what are the right metrics to watch, and what areas of concern need to be addressed?
To find out, Qwilt conducted a survey of content publishers in conjunction with a well-known streaming industry analyst in which participants were presented with the task of running a live-streamed event for an audience of 10 million viewers. We set some boundaries around duration and coverage and over the course of a month, we gathered over 300 responses to 12 key questions to uncover what really matters most.
One of the key conclusions that impacted almost every response was the criticality of CDN capacity and performance. Although estimating potential audiences is in part based on previous viewer numbers and the depth and breadth of syndication agreements, there is still the potential for spikes based on unforeseen events which make CDN capacity such a fundamental requirement. Take the pandemic as an example, which caused internet use to rise by 70% in the U.S. Even a Twitter trend can result in a spike in streaming viewership, as witnessed when this year’s Oscars audience – many of them watching via streaming – grew by 555,000 after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock during the ceremony and the story trended on Twitter worldwide.
Our survey found that the majority of content publishers were focused on securing sufficient CDN delivery capacity ahead of the hypothetical streaming event, as well as CDN performance during the event. The consensus suggested that at least 50 Tbps (terabits per minute) of global capacity is needed for comfort, and when considering a safety margin for peak traffic, the total capacity rises to a massive 65 Tbps.
To serve 10 million viewers for a 90-minute event in mind, respondents suggested that multiple CDNs and solid load balancing are crucial. This equated to a requirement for at least four or more CDNs, along with a load balancing system that can route traffic in real-time based on QoE, reserve capacity, and Geo.
Another critical question we asked was how respondents define a successful event. In our survey, the number of ‘exits before video starts’ and ‘average bit rate’ were deemed the most relevant metrics to track. However, respondents were equally divided as to whether QoE measurement data should come from in-house client data, third-party QoE platforms, or CDN providers.
The overall report also provided some surprising new insights. For example, around a quarter of respondents were interested in using ATSC 3.0 as part of the streaming output. Although the new standard has little commercial adoption, it clearly has mind-share within the community, at least within North America.
Another surprise was that the maximum bit rate for streaming to broadband selected by the majority of respondents was only 4–6 Mbps (megabits per second), suggesting that 1080p was seen as standard – and few even considered it worthwhile to try and aim for UHD quality at this scale.
Written by Gautier Demond, VP of Sales Content Publishers at Qwilt