How To Deal With The Unpredictable Demand Of Live Sporting Events

In a previous post, Fans Want To Stream Live Sports But Is The Industry Ready? we referred to one of the key challenges in ensuring a high quality viewing experience when streaming live sporting events...

One of the key challenges is ensuring a high quality viewing experience, no matter the level of demand. Sporting events typically last a while (from a couple hours for a soccer match to an entire day for a cricket match) and the size of the audience varies throughout the event. It would be ideal to predict the number of viewers at any point in time, particularly when viewing will peak since it is typically during those times when the systems get overloaded, resulting in problems like those experienced in this year’s Super Bowl and last year’s USA-Germany match. But unfortunately, predicting demand is difficult to do with precision.

The approach typically taken to stream live sporting events is to use traditional CDNs (and backup CDNs) to have enough throughput available to handle what is expected to be the peak level of demand; what we call a “peak-level infrastructure.” There are a couple problems with this approach:
Since CDN servers are deployed in fixed locations and have fixed capacity, they are limited in the performance they can achieve. The results are user experience problems during peak-demand time and mediocre results in many geographic regions that are difficult to serve.
Supporting a peak-level infrastructure at all times is very expensive, particularly since many of the CDN servers are not used extensively for significant periods of time.

A different approach is needed. An approach that is elastic so varying levels of demand can be handled and that does not require paying for a peak-level infrastructure at all times. Such an approach is now available with what is called a hybrid model. The hybrid model combines traditional CDN server and peer-to-peer (P2P) network delivery capabilities. It consists of:
A minimal baseline of traditional CDN servers. When demand is low, these servers are highly utilized.
A peer-to-peer (P2P) network delivery layer that complements the CDN servers. When demand increases, resources from the P2P network are utilized to offload demand from the servers.

One of the key benefits of the hybrid approach is that as the number of viewers gets larger and demand increases, the resources available on the P2P network also increases so additional stress is not placed on the servers. As a result, the CDN server infrastructure required is minimal and inexpensive.

5day live streaming usage with Peer5 Figure1: P2P (blue) vs Server (green) usage over time - Taken from the Peer5 dashboard

Historically, there have been concerns about P2P solutions, particularly in the area of security. These concerns are going away, thanks to the availability of new secure technologies (like WebRTC). It is a matter of time before P2P becomes widely used in the streaming of content, as service providers like Netflix look to adopt the approach.

Peer5 enables the streaming of live video content. With a unique hybrid approach that combines a secure peer-to-peer delivery layer with an HTTP server-based backend, the Peer5 CDN solution lets content providers deliver an issue-free streaming experience to users, with much lower infrastructure requirements than traditional CDN offerings. Try out the Peer5 solution by registering here.

Hadar Weiss

Peer5 Co-Founder and CEO

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