In case you’ve been living under a rock, I’ll take a second to remind you: video is taking over the Internet. Everyone remembers ROI (Radio On Internet), but what’s the future of VOI?
Video streaming continues to explode, but the magnitude of its rise is still incredible. The rate of growth suggests that this trend isn’t about the end either. Consider that:
- Netflix accounted for 37% of peak internet bandwidth in North America during 2015
- Facebook reported that its users watched 8 billion videos a day at the end of 2015, double the 4 billion that the company had reported in April
- Snapchat recently stated that it had also joined the 8 billion club, up from 2 billion less than a year ago
- YouTube users are watching hundreds of millions of hours of videos every day
And yet, VOI doesn’t include very much live streaming. For now, watching live broadcasts is still something mainly done on TVs. Perhaps this is part of the reason broadcasting rights for sports are becoming so much more expensive (see NFL and EPL). But more importantly, why isn’t live streaming moving online? The answer lies in technology.
To those of you who like to try to live stream events, this will come as no surprise to you. Whether you were trying to stream the Oscars, the Super Bowl, March Madness or Game of Thrones, you very likely experienced some technical difficulties. Even Apple has failed to deliver at times.
Scaling live video streaming is a huge struggle. If it’s incredibly difficult to successfully scale to a few million concurrent viewers or even to normal daily peaks, imagine trying to broadcast to huge Cable TV audiences for big events. Roughly 115 million people watched the Super Bowl in 2015. Currently, technology companies just haven’t figured out how to operate at that kind of scale.
“To sustain two million, that’s two major [content delivery networks] really chugging.” -Bob Bowman, MLB’s President of Business and Media
For example, one of the most advanced companies in streaming technologies is MLB Advanced Media. They handle online video streaming for MLB, ESPN, HBO and numerous other big name clients. But even as an industry leader, MLBAM has struggled at times. Just last month, after taking over digital responsibilities for the NHL, NHL.tv’s launch left much to be desired. One fan even went so far as to document their issues in a concise 10 item laundry list.
So how will this scaling problem be solved? That remains to be seen. Many people in the streaming world are simply waiting. If servers are the solution, they simply need to wait until hardware improves. This seems to be the MLBAM approach:
“Eventually we’ll get there when we have the hardware to be able to distribute 10 million concurrent streams… But you can’t sustain it [right now]” -Bob Bowman
But viewers want to cut the cord and live stream events now and as streaming continues to grow, so will the problem. Perhaps hardware may be able to handle the current capacity problem eventually, but when? And by then, the capacity problem may be significantly bigger and, therefore, still unsolved.
This is why many technologists believe that it’s time we stop using old technology to solve new problems. We need a new type of solution. The clearest alternative seems to be using a peer to peer architecture. When users load content from each other, they significantly reduce the load from servers and actually create a faster, stronger and more efficient network that can operate on a massive scale.
For now, it seems viewers are destined to deal with suboptimal live streams. VOI is taking over the world, and it’s unlikely that a client-server model will be able to scale in a meaningful way any time soon. Expect non-conventional models to be tested more and more in the near future. Hopefully they will bring us closer to a live streaming utopia.
Peer5’s Serverless CDN supports massively-scaled live and on demand video streaming. Our unique hybrid approach combines a secure P2P delivery layer with an HTTP server-based backend. This turns the issue of peak demand into an advantage: the more viewers that watch a stream, the stronger the stream becomes. By significantly increasing the delivery capacity of content providers (by up to 20x), Peer5 ensures perfect video playback for over one million viewers a day. Try Peer5’s CDN by registering for your free trial here.