Live event streaming offers an exciting opportunity to build viewership and revenues. By offering streamed coverage of live events, content providers can meet media consumers' demand for fresh news, sports and entertainment and give them unprecedented access to niche events unavailable via linear broadcast channels. By building audiences across multiple over-the-top (OTT) streams and targeting advertising to specific audience segments, content providers can build viewer numbers and related ad revenues.
Despite the clear benefits of offering live event streams, most OTT providers depend on platforms that are optimized for video on demand (VOD) rather than high-quality broadcast-like live video. As a result, they are ill prepared to address the vagaries of producing and streaming video from live events. With a better understanding of the requirements for live events, content providers can ensure they choose a platform and provider that can support successful live streaming services.
When streaming a live event, you have just one chance to get it right.
Engagement is essential to building and retaining an audience, and it demands a high-quality video stream and high production value throughout the live event.
Source content often comes from remote locations with less than optimal connectivity. The live streaming platform and associated content delivery network (CDN) must have the technology to ensure reliable signal acquisition, with a small bandwidth footprint, and delivery so that when consumers hit "play," they are instantly engaged. The infrastructure supporting streaming also must have the headroom to scale up and down as viewer numbers fluctuate and even spike, rising potentially into millions of concurrent sessions.
While quick access to the live stream is key, so too is the quality of the content delivered before, as and after the event takes place. Before the event, a series of dynamic slates or a countdown clock will show viewers that the live stream is functional though not yet broadcasting live content. This approach builds trust with the viewer in a way that displaying a static frame or blank video player screen cannot. During the event, the operations team must be able to address delays and interruptions with agility, switching smoothly between live action, slates or advertisements as the action unfolds. At this time, on-site talent and resources can help maintain viewer engagement. By deploying additional cameras to capture interesting angles or behind-the-scenes views, the production team can more easily overcome downtime and delays, enriching content and enhancing the overall viewer experience.
Live event differs from the traditional pillars of over-the-top (OTT) streaming. For a live event, the streaming platform takes a single source coming from the content provider. From that single source, a single stream goes out across multiple platforms. Before the event, the viewer sees slate. During the event, they see the event. And after the event, they see a VOD asset. A good streaming platform is able to deliver live content to any device with a single streamlined workflow.
Finally, the platform should facilitate instantaneous automated conversion of the live stream into a VOD asset that is immediately available to viewers following the event.
Throughout it all, during live and on-demand streaming, server-side ad insertion stitches fully dynamic, targeted ads into the video stream, effectively avoiding the threat of ad blockers while providing a more seamless viewer experience with more relevant ads. Insertion of these ads via the cloud eliminates multiple points of failure, including software development kits (SDKs), video encoding formats and digital rights management systems, and ensures that content producers get more eyeballs on their ads.
Live event streaming can—and should be—at the core of OTT services. It's all about working with the right partners and technologies that address the complex live event ecosystem at every step of the process.
Peter Gallagher is chief operating officer at Verizon Digital Media Services.