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How Disney Streaming Approaches Media Delivery at Scale

Learn more about live streaming at scale at Streaming Media East 2022.

Read the complete transcript of this clip:

Alexandria Sealy: What I do, and what my team does is, we serve an important role at Disney Streaming, where we really sit at this intersection of this media output, the media delivery strategy. We're specifically tasked with determining and building these dynamic capabilities that we need to navigate challenges while streaming, VOD, and particularly live media, where it can be a little more challenging. So in a way, VOD can also be challenging, especially if you have an highly anticipated premiere or a rush of traffic all at once. But I've worked in streaming for a while, starting at MLB Advanced Media in 2010, and I've seen first-hand how both our operations and technology innovations have shaped how live streaming can happen. And I definitely learned the hard way how to scale and evolve. But we've taken a lot of that into account with the solution that we have and where it's at today.

By and large, I think today that the best strategy is a similar combination of a strong investment and really powerful technology solutions that give us the automation that we need, but also leading into a wealth of knowledge that that's been acquired over years of experience and incorporating that into the capabilities and the technical solution, while also understanding the business operations and configurations that can be driven by operators to stabilize and add strategy to our automation. So I wanted to talk a little bit about how, from the technology perspective, it's important to incorporate the best of both worlds in particular to navigate live streaming challenges.

One of the things we want to make sure we do is to make sure we know all of the possibilities of what we have to serve. So are there ads, does this content have DRM? What physical origins are we writing the media to? This is pertinent for VOD as well as live. And what what characteristics of live do we need to take into account? Is this a single event? Is this a linear channel? Because we may have to offer alternatives during the stream.

So at Disney, it's teams like mine that are determining how to deliver media to our customers. We have to be on the same page with all the services that are in that playback request path about how we communicate this information. So this is really crucial when you're trying to navigate sticky situations like outages at a CDN or an origin.

So it's really important to go wide and make sure that that contract that you have to represent your media presents clearly the most options that you have so that, when the going gets rough, your systems can be as flexible and prepared as possible. We also need to make sure that the solutions responsible for determining and delivering the right distribution scenario. So a combination of origin and mid-tier solution and CDN are bound to the guidelines that the business wants.

Since I started in streaming, that's definitely evolved from capabilities where it was more common to lock in the same configurations every time because they were predetermined and the user base was potentially more predictable, but I think that there's still quite a lot of value in setting balance that the business will generally want to keep in mind so that that automation can be more fine tuned for more real-time data sources. And I think here's really where we can do more to hold services even more accountable and intelligently adapt as more users request streams.

So it's crucial to develop highly informed sources and pipelines that are really plugged into data sources that make sure you're actually getting it right. It's essential to make sure that the system is consuming logs back from your own servers, telling you the actuals of what's being served out. Consuming data you're getting back from your clients confirming that you actually hit your marks and with the level of detail and fidelity that you need.

So by correlating this data from our own servers and what our clients are telling us you can develop a solid picture of that traffic you're seeing, and you can also do something important, which is understanding where you need to account for adjustments in the data. So you can do things like introducing learn-corrective factors, if necessary, to continue using data that you may have less control over.

So it's vitally important to not just gather as much data as possible to see the ultimate picture, but to also figure out where you sort of need to introduce your own understanding of what that means. Specifically, things like consuming CDN metrics and their raw logs lead to a more tuned picture of what we're actually serving so that the service is managing traffic can hone into our goals as closely as possible.

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