Yahoo Attacks Problems of Scale and Bandwidth for Live Streaming

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Streaming hundreds of concerts and movie promotions each year, Yahoo has become an online live event leader. At the recent Streaming Media West conference in sunny Huntington Beach, California, Yahoo's live streaming principle, Chris Mangum, sat down for an interview to explain how his company ensures live events stream without a hiccup.

One of the main challenges Yahoo faces is scaling to its large viewer base. It needs a lot of bandwidth for its six adaptive streams.

"Scale is obviously a fan favorite," Mangum said. "Everybody talks about that one. You've got to have enough bandwidth to support your audience, so on our side it's become a little bit more of a challenge because part of the Live 365 campaign, we want to support OTT devices. We want people watching it on Apple TV, Roku and Xbox on your big screen.

"To make that look good, you've got to pump the bit rate up, so we're going up to just shy of 7 megs on our high end of the stream and then of course for smaller devices, phones and whatnot, we go down to 500k. So you've got a mix of roughly 6 bit rates in there that it can adaptively stream on HLS to provide the best signal for your bandwidth, your download speed."

To learn what else Yahoo does to ensure live streaming success, watch the full interview below.

 

Troy: Hi, this is Troy Dreier coming to you from Streaming Media West in sunny Huntington Beach, California. I'm talking with some of the experts who are speaking on our panels, doing some red carpet interviews. Very excited to talk to Chris Mangum who is the live streaming principal for Yahoo, worked on some very significant things, and I know Yahoo has become a live video leader. Always excited to tune in and see what you guys are doing. Why don't you talk us through some of the things that Yahoo does in live and maybe exciting things that you have worked on.

Chris: Appreciate the intro, Troy. So some of the things that ... we really have a breadth across all of our media properties from news to sports to, obviously, concerts, music. Katie Couric in news has become a much bigger player since she's become a Yahoo employee. We recently did the elections, 2014 elections earlier this month. We started on the music side with our - we call it Yahoo 365 because there's a concert every night of every day for the rest of the year. That started back in July. We're currently running Fantasy Football Live. I believe it's our eighth season to run a fantasy football show on Sunday mornings, and last night we did the Hunger Games movie premier. So we're movies, music, news. I'm drawing a blank on the rest.

Troy: So the Hunger Games premier, that must have had viewership through the roof.

Chris: It was a very ... it was a pretty cool event. I was actually ... I landed here yesterday, and I drove to L.A. and sat in the production truck with Live Media Group who we partner with to do a lot of our shows that are onsite which require a satellite truck and multi-camera setup. But it was neat. It was a very cool event to actually be there in person versus behind the encoder back in Texas.

Troy: I'm glad that you mentioned the Live 365 that you're doing. You're partnered with Live Nation on that, right?

Chris: We did, yes.

Troy: I was at your NewFront Event this year where you guys announced that, and it seemed really exciting. I've been tuning in all the time to see what concerts are coming up. I just watched the Prince Live event. It's a really great series.

Chris: We appreciate that. It was exciting. It's a major workload for sure to pull off, a concert every night, but some of my favorite ones ... we kicked it off big with Dave Matthews. He actually did a ... most concerts run for about 90 minutes. He did a 3-hour show, one electric set and one acoustic set. Shortly after that, we did Kiss. Then after that we did Aerosmith. Those were all ... those were just some of my favorites.

Troy: You have gotten some seriously big names in that series.

Chris: The goal in that ... it's hard to line up a "big" artist every night of the week. It gets stale after a while, but our goal is to get at least two a month. And as a matter of fact, I believe yesterday we announced that we're doing Lady Gaga on the 24th and Usher is coming up on the 30th.

Troy: Excellent. I know it's a one-year program, but I say keep it going. One more year.

Chris: There's a high possibility that it's going to go more than one year.

Troy: Oh, that would be excellent.

Chris: Yeah.

Troy: So you're here to talk about live video in your panel.

Chris: Yes.

Troy: Why don't you talk to us some about some of the challenges of getting a live event to work out because it has to work and it has to work at that moment.

Chris: Yeah. Especially when it's sponsored like our Live 365 show is sponsored.

Troy: Right.

Chris: So the biggest logistical challenges are really, for us, are on-site, and I believe I mentioned that we partner with a company that handles all of the production on-site. They handle the camera shoot. They handle satellite trucks. Those are ... now that the cold weather is coming into play, that's going to come more into play as far as planning and logistics for that; for snow, rain, bad weather, rain fade for Ku satellite uplink is a challenge. We have to figure that out. We're probably going to be dropping fiber in a majority of these Live Nation venues to counterbalance the possible weather.

Troy: Mm-hmm. Other challenges that you have to overcome?

Chris: Scale is obviously a fan favorite. Everybody talks about that one. You've got to have enough bandwidth to support your audience, so on our side it's become a little bit more of a challenge because part of the Live 365 campaign, we want to support OTT devices. We want people watching it on Apple TV, Roku and Xbox on your big screen. To make that look good, you've got to pump the bit rate up, so we're going up to just shy of 7 megs on our high end of the stream and then of course for smaller devices, phones and whatnot, we go down to 500k. So you've got a mix of roughly 6 bit rates in there that it can adaptively stream on HLS to provide the best signal for your bandwidth, your download speed.

Troy: Now in this industry we hear so much about mobile, people moving to mobile, but for live events do people want the sit-down experience? Is it more about the connected TV and the set top box and getting it in the living room? How do people watch Live?

Chris: You know, it's a mix. In the statistics that I look at, it's roughly 20% is on mobile - just for Yahoo. I can't speak for anybody else - but roughly 20% are on mobile or some OTT device, and then the other 80 are on what I can guess is desktops or what I assume is a desktop or a PC or what have you; laptop/desktop. But that's generally the consumption pattern that we see right now.

Troy: So this kind of live destination thing, it's still mostly a bigger screen. People want to really get immersive experience?

Chris: Yes.

Troy: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for joining me, Chris. It's really been a pleasure talking to you. This is Troy Dreier coming to you from Streaming Media West on the red carpet.

Chris: Thank you, Troy.

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