According to Limelight Networks’ State of Online Video Report 2018, it revealed that most Singaporean viewers narrowly preferred watching videos on their smartphones than on any other device.
With the advent of smartphones and other portable viewing devices, Singaporeans are breaking free from the confines of traditional television and instead, are turning to OTT video services and streaming platforms – such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Globally, viewing time has grown by one hour in the last year, and people who watch online content spend an average of six hours and 45 minutes every week doing so. With the growing consumption of such content, the OTT (over the top) and video-streaming industries are expected to thrive in the years to come.
Needless to say, user experience is arguably the most significant factor that determines a content provider’s success or failure –all it takes for a dissatisfied viewer to switch loyalties is a mere click of the button, leaving platforms at a considerable disadvantage to their closest competitors. Consumers are expecting a high-quality, interruption-free viewing experience on Video-On-Demand.
Low latency – which allows a high volume of data to be processed with minimal delays – are also ideal when live video streamings are concerned, as viewers would want to be a part of the action and interact with the events as closely as possible. It is therefore imperative that content is delivered at low latency for an immersive viewing experience. While this has been mitigated by Adobe Flash, support for the ubiquitous plugin will phase out by 2020 on mobile devices and major web browsers.
This is where Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) Technology comes into play. Steve Miller-Jones, Vice President, Product Strategy for Limelight Networks told us more about the future of this groundbreaking technology. He said: “WebRTC is a standardised protocol and video format that addresses the latency challenge. It enables secure, fast and efficient data transfer for media such as video and audio, and incorporates an integrated data channel.”
The low latency with WebRTC is made possible as the audio and video streams do not need to be segmented into chunks, and buffered before delivery – as with HTTP based OTT video delivery. In addition, WebRTC is natively supported on all major browsers including Chrome, Safari and Firefox, and the major operating systems including Android and iOS. This makes it easy for viewers to enjoy real-time streaming without the need for special plug-ins. Most live streams today are delivered by HTTP-based streaming protocols which – in default configurations – induces an additional latency of 30 seconds to even a minute!
“There are options to reduce HTTP stream latency to between two and four seconds with so-called ‘Low Latency Common Media Application Format (CMAF)’ and ‘Low Latency HTTP Live Streaming (HLS)’ as recently announced by Apple”, said Steve. “To get to (a latency of) one second or less, with Global scale, content distributors really need to use the WebRTC protocol and service with a regional and global distribution like Limelight’s Realtime Streaming.”
WebRTC is not new, and most of us may have already experienced it for ourselves. For example, WebRTC is integrated into Limelight Realtime Streaming solution to ensure a high-quality, realtime viewing experience for audiences. Thanks to its low latency and highly scalable solution, live-viewing can become a more interactive social experience.
With an increasing number of people reacting to live events on social media, this has also caused many online users to “spoil” the match results for those who have yet to watch the match. According to the company’s State of Online Video Report 2018, the majority of these viewers said that they would be more likely to watch live sports online if the stream was not delayed from the broadcast.
WebRTC would potentially change the eSports industry as we know it as well. By integrating WebRTC streaming support into gamers’ and viewers’ content delivery network, game distributors will be able to easily implement scalable video streaming workflows that require the lowest possible latency. As explained by Steve, gamers can download their game quickly and play against each other at the exact same time regardless of location. Meanwhile, viewers can stream the gameplay in real-time and interact with other viewers and gamers on a live-chat channel.
He added, “To support the continued growth of eSports and interactive online gaming communities, game distributors need to evaluate the state of their content delivery platform to overcome the challenges of latency, optimize download process and loading speed to provide gamers and viewers with the best online gaming experience.”
To date, there have been no known negative implications for the implementation of WebRTC. It does not require advanced technology infrastructure as well. With the fruition of sub-second latency, Steve pondered on the vast possibilities that the technology could bring. “The revolutionary technology is natively supported by all major browsers and is designed to be flexible in its implementation. This allows operators to experiment with solutions geared toward one to one, one to few, and even one to millions.”
“This means online viewers can watch live sports action as it happens and vote on their favourite play. It also allows operators to provide interactive live experiences such as allowing viewers to choose the camera angle they prefer to watch from; chat with other viewers and even wager on a live event – these interactive capabilities open many new business opportunities.”
Photos by Brandon Neo of the DANAMIC team.