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SME '17: Live Linear Channels—The Next Frontier

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All four panelists on the "Live Linear Challenge" panel at the Live Streaming Summit at Streaming Media East agreed on one thing: They're happy when their streams are working, and everything else is secondary. Of course, making sure the streams work isn't always a simple task.

Sports broadcasters are no longer living in the world of 24/7 satellite delivery as viewers move online. "I would say (the biggest problem is stability of) source acquisition," said Andre Vawdrey, director, partner solutions, NBC digital sports technology. Online content acquisition is just not as stable or predictable.

Technology vs. Human Expectations

The technological reality of multiplatform delivery means broadcast and digital have different workflows, metadata, and acquisition issues. Then there's the also the mental leap from broadcast to digital.

"The way you handle actually creating the network is different. We have customers [for whom] we originate their linear channel based on some file-based VOD asset, plus maybe a live event. Then we have others [for whom] we downlink their originated stream from Encompass," said Igor Oreper, senior director, product management, Comcast Technology Solutions.

"Someone who comes from a broadcast world and says 'I need these networks up because we're launching a new digital product,' their expectations what that user experience and how consumers use it is very different than somebody who came from the digital space who hasn't done digital before."

All About Latency

There's a desire to create an experience online that is similar to broadcast, but one of the things that keeps this from happening is latency. "Latency is a killer. There's nothing worse than watching a football game and having someone tweet that there was a touchdown [before they see it onscreen], " said Vawdrey. The panel talked about both technical and creative solutions to the latency challenge. 

"We're working with our own CDN at Comcast, but we partnered with Akamai as well to come up with different ways of packaging HLS video, reducing it down to a 2-second fragments and then repackaging it in a UDP delivery," said Oreper. Akamai showed 8 seconds end-to-end to at an NAB demo of their new Live Origin service.

"There are tricks some of our customers have used which I think are really creative. They don't decrease the delay, but they give users something to do and look at before the video starts. I think there are ways to help, but there are no silver bullets," said Oreper.

Show Me the Money

"The cost of doing live streaming [we can't] justify," says Guy Tasaka, VP and chief digital officer, Calkins Media, a local media company who may have as few as 200 viewers at any one time online. Their choice is live-to-tape broadcasting for online delivery. Even with their "almost live" content, they are still able to get high ad rates—though their audiences might be small, advertisers are able to target on a more granular level than with a larger audience. 

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