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How Open Caching is Enabling Broadcast-Scalable Streaming Success

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The world of live sports broadcasting is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of any broadcaster’s channel line-up. The sheer unpredictability and electrifying tension that live sports programming offers make it an enticing and captivating experience for viewers. However, the same unpredictability is true for service providers who must navigate the difficult landscape of predicting live event demand while simultaneously expanding their network capacity to ensure a seamless streaming experience.

This dynamic is already in play, as streaming has opened the door to direct-to-consumer (D2C) services, pushing audiences’ expectations for broadcast-scale quality streams with minimal latency across all connected devices.  It’s also poised to come into play during the line-up of major live events scheduled for 2024, not least the Paris 2024 Olympic Games – projected to be one of the most-watched Olympic Games in history when it commences in July. A likely record-breaking global audience presents a pivotal moment for service providers to optimize their networks, meeting the uncompromising quality expectations of today’s sports fans who will stream the live event.

The Challenge of Peak Network Traffic

It is no secret that live sports consumption has evolved in line with technological advancements and changing viewer behavior. But while networks can prepare for some predictable spikes in traffic, there are moments when millions of users unexpectedly tune into the same unicast stream, causing monumental traffic peaks. Crafting a network that flawlessly delivers live streaming content is no small feat, especially as service providers transition to all-IP architectures for their managed content services. They find themselves managing unpredictable traffic from live and on-demand over-the-top (OTT) services which competes for the same network and compute resources as their own streaming services.

Many forward-thinking service providers are taking steps to optimize their networks by embracing new technologies, such as Open Caching, which efficiently handles peak demands for live events and outperforms traditional commercial content delivery networks (CDNs) with unmatched quality of experience (QoE). Beyond short-term advantages, Open Caching lays the foundation for long-term goals for service providers, serving as the platform for future edge computing use cases that will inevitably transform service provider networks and their edge cloud offerings.

The Open-Caching Difference

Open Caching dramatically offloads streaming content from the service provider’s core network by positioning it in edge caches much closer to the viewer. This proximity translates to lower latency, higher throughput, and reduced time to the first frame. The result is a lower rebuffering rate and a higher average resolution, significantly enhancing the viewing experience.

Unlike traditional CDN nodes, which are centrally located in the mid-mile, Open Caching nodes are deployed as close as possible to the end-users, often mere miles or even blocks away. This closeness enables applications and content to bypass peering points, historically the largest roadblock to QoE. The tangible benefits are clear: smoother streaming, better quality, and reduced frustration for sports enthusiasts. Together, these benefits add up to a broadcast-like experience that ensures viewers engage with the content for longer and are less likely to abandon a service due to poor performance in latency or buffering issues.

Empowering Content Publishers

Content publishers are keenly aware of the challenges of securing delivery capacity for live events. Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Qwilt surveyed 300 content publishers on the main challenges they find when live-streaming large events at scale. The findings highlighted their concerns regarding CDN capacity and performance, especially during peak viewing times. Over half of the respondents expressed worries regarding their commercial CDN’s capacity and overall performance.

To deliver a successful live-streamed event to an audience of ten million or more, the survey participants unanimously agreed that multiple commercial CDNs would be necessary to ensure peak capacity and high-quality delivery. As sports fans increasingly migrate to online platforms to enjoy their favorite content, including emerging applications such as virtual reality and cloud gaming, the choice of content delivery becomes a critical factor. A multi-CDN approach utilizing Open Caching emerges as the solution to provide top-quality viewing experiences, avoiding the capacity and QoE limitations of traditional CDN models.

The Roadmap to Broadcast-Grade Live Streaming

Streaming services have good reason to use caching services that are deeply embedded in service provider networks and, therefore, as close as possible to consumers. However, managing multiple proprietary caches within the network can become burdensome for service providers as the scale grows. Proprietary or “black box” caches from third-party content providers or traditional CDNs don’t offer service providers visibility or control and add more complexity to the network. Here is where Open Caching rises to the occasion, offering service providers visibility through rich analytics and control via open APIs within a unified platform. This approach addresses the scaling issues in live streaming and streamlines the entire process.

As streaming rapidly becomes the go-to medium for watching live sports, viewer expectations have risen to match those of traditional broadcasts. Ensuring a flawless quality stream now lies largely in the hands of service providers, and Open Caching presents a superior architecture and model to meet these expectations while paving the way for future innovations at the network edge.

Open Caching enables delivery of scalable live streaming, making it the driving force behind the transformation of the live sports broadcasting landscape. Service providers and content publishers alike are recognizing the immense potential of this technology – bringing them together to address the ever-increasing demands of viewers worldwide, and guaranteeing an unrivalled live sports experience for the future.

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

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