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Streaming Media West '15: Xbox Live Behind the Scenes

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At Streaming Media West today, opening keynote speaker Corey Smith took attendees behind the scenes of the Xbox Live Events interactive (XLEi) platform, which Microsoft uses to deliver large-scale live events, such as a recent Xbox One event. Just how big was that event?

“Two billion edge hits,” said Smith, senior service engineering manager for the broadcast solutions team with Xbox Live at Microsoft. Smith said that the origin stream count rose to 44 on a 1 gigabit pipe, noting that the the origin streams were "redlining around 980 megabits per second." Smith said the CDN caused a bit of concern when the overall simultaneous delivery passed 3.2 terabits per second.

Smith broke down the delivery solutions, for both live and on-demand content, on the XLEi platform.

On the live front, Smith said that the company uses an 11Mbps profile, repackaged to three segmented, adaptive bitrate formats: HSS, HLS, and MPEG-DASH.

"We see quite a bit of MPEG-DASH now," said Smith, adding that MPEG-DASH can play back on the newest Xbox console.

Smith also said the live platform allows for advertising stitching (stream stitching) as well as two-way interactive engagement and dynamic user playlist manipulation. He also said that, as of today, there's not much real demand for 4K.

"There’s a lot of talk about UHD and 4K, but I think we’re still years out," said Smith. "There’s not a lot of content being generated in the field right now. I have a theory that HDR 1080p60 will have a faster uptake in the market."

In terms of scale of potential viewers, Smith says that more than 4 million clients are deployed on Xbox One, with more than 10 million clients deployed on Xbox 360.

“Millions of others also watch via our web broadcast client,” said Smith.

In addition, the platform features language localization, linear and on-demand scheduling, and multi-channel audio, including Dolby Digital. Smith stressed that both the Xbox Live Experience and the OTT linear services are FCC compliant with noise reduction and close-captioning.

"Xbox One is now driven with the power of Windows 10," said Smith, demonstrating at one point how he could see the same streaming experience on a Windows 10 device as well as an Xbox console.

For the video-on-demand front, Smith said there was a 61% increase in media processing fulfillment requests over the past fiscal year. The growth is not abating, and Smith said that in the first 90 days of fiscal year 2016, there’s been a 25% increase of in deliverable encoding requests.

Smith also described the growth in another way, noting that today’s video-on-demand platform delivers nearly twice as many assets on a monthly basis compared to fiscal year 2014, with process cue times expected to show 100% improvement in the near term.

Smith also highlighted other on-demand platform features.

"Within the Microsoft ecosystem, there's a lot of excitement around this feature," said Smith, referring to the attempt to do branching narrative experiences, similar to Blu-ray discs that contain that capability.

When it comes to web viewing, which Smith had previously noted was in the millions, the experience needs to be the same.

"We don’t want to miss the monetization experience with those users," said Smith, referring to those who choose a web experience rather than a console experience. Smith’s slides note that the experience for web users and console users should be the same “soon”.

Finally, Smith used an example of the power of e-commerce on both the Xbox and the web, as it relates to interactive advertising offers.

His example was a show called Show X, with actual data around the number of unique viewers. Show X had a unique user base of 66,728 viewers, according to Smith, and more than 35,000 clicked on an overlay click for an interactive offer. Smith noted that more than 50% of viewers clicked on some version of interactive offer for Show X.

Smith finished by doing a live demo of his own keynote, showing a local Xbox playing back content that was delivered via a Zixi-enabled box that is then fed into an encoder in Redmond and played back locally in Huntington Beach within the console.

"Services can no longer survive on a single platform," said Smith. "We have to be inclusive not only to our own platforms but to platforms of anyone we want to get our message to."

Scroll down to watch the full keynote address.


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