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  • July 30, 2021
  • By Nick Rockwell Senior Vice President of Engineering & Infrastructure, Fastly
  • Blog

Every Day I'm Buffering: The Future of Streaming Movies Needs Edge Cloud Computing

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It'll come as no surprise to hear that streaming services have seen an increase in popularity over the last year. With more people staying home and combating lockdown boredom, subscriptions to streaming services have surpassed one billion globally. However this demand is not just for TV series and movies, but also for high-quality box office premieres.

Whilst entertainment venues have started reopening their doors to audiences, many people are choosing to continue streaming new releases from the comfort of their homes. Last month, Warner Bros released the movie adaption of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 musical, In The Heights, on HBO Max. Whilst the film underperformed at the box office, In the Heights accounted for a greater portion of time spent streaming during the three days following its premiere date than previous Warner Bros day-and-date movies.

Growing Audiences  

In a recent survey of 20,000 U.S. adults by What if Media Group, 20% of the respondents said they have no intention to return to the movie theaters even now that a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, while another 10% said they are somewhat unlikely to return. This implies that there is a lot to play for in the streaming world and that the winner will be decided not just by great content, but by great delivery of service.

Getting streaming platforms to embrace edge technology will help them to process data nearer to the source, reduce operational strain and increase security and privacy. Solutions at the edge can be used to help users who have large content libraries, including streaming media as well as gaming and software companies who rely on delivering huge levels of data rapidly and at scale. Original manifest files are cached closer to the user and customised versions for different devices are generated on-the-fly, resulting in fewer origin round-trips - essentially, a much smoother viewer experience. 

The Speed of Streaming

The Cisco Annual Internet Report predicts that by 2023, fixed broadband speeds will more than double and 5G speeds will be 13 times higher than the average mobile connection. This increase will make security and infrastructure even more critical as hacking will be able to happen faster and take more data than ever before.  

Streaming services need to deliver films to audiences in high-speed when it matters most on premiere days. One of the keys to a clean, clear live-streaming experience is properly managing network congestion and packet loss to avoid performance issues like video buffering or reduced stream quality.

Edge cloud technology can deliver faster sites, apps, and broadcast videos in the highest quality, and provides real-time visibility. Built-in network automation systems can be used to resolve performance issues by diverting a small portion of traffic in order to keep the streaming link under congestion thresholds. This traffic can then be automatically rerouted via alternate best paths to the given internet service provider (ISP). This can happen multiple times in a matter of minutes. This means the stable connection is maintained, eliminating the need for the viewer to restart a session from scratch.

Real-time observability is also essential to be able to react when something goes wrong. To give yourself the best possible odds for a successful stream, work with vendors, including CDNs, across your stack that offer instant access to log files. There is no do-over in live streaming, and you need to be able to see critical metrics live in order to react and resolve issues as quickly as possible. 

The Sofa or the Big Screen?  

More needs to be done to help streaming services achieve that cinematic experience from home devices. Tech giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney + and NOWTV will need to continue to evolve in order to deliver high-speed, high-quality releases to a growing audience. Only then will they be able to match the quality of a cinematic viewing experience, well, without the expensive popcorn...

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from Fastly. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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