Home Opinions The five pillars for building a successful live streaming strategy at scale

The five pillars for building a successful live streaming strategy at scale

Live streaming consumption has grown dramatically over the past few years. As a consequence, broadcasters are increasingly looking for high-quality solutions to allow them to deliver live events effectively and safely. Gonzalo de la Vega, VP Strategic Products at Fastly, gives his opinion on how broadcasters can take their live streaming services to the next level, outlining the need to observe real-time performance metrics, eliminate single points of failure, enforce control (like authentication and rights management), pre-test and contingency plan.

Gonzalo de la Vega, VP Strategic Products, Fastly
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With the live streaming landscape in constant evolution, it is more important than ever for broadcasters to stay up-to-date with the latest guidance on how to make live streaming successful and safe. Here are the top five tips at the heart of any live streaming strategy.

  1. Eyes on the prize

With livestreams, there are no second chances. Unlocking the power of real-time observability is essential to reacting to setbacks quickly and efficiently. Broadcasters should therefore work closely with vendors capable of providing instant access to log files.

Right from the start, broadcasters also need to decide what data, from error counts to latency and rebuffering events, they want to focus on. Insights will be different depending on the data points taken into consideration. Until broadcasters have enough experience to know what data they need to use, they’ll need to work closely with streaming partners who know which metrics need to be prioritised.

  1. Why eliminating single points of failure is key

The identification and elimination of single points of failure (SPOFs) play an essential role in the delivery of live events. As equipment failure is not a rare occurrence, so redundancy is of paramount importance for a successful stream. Combining several Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) for a multi-CDN architecture minimises the effect of any potential network outage while ensuring content will reach the audience via a larger, stronger and more resilient network.

This approach enables broadcasters to have a backup network, as well as the option to split traffic among several CDNs and reroute traffic around points of congestion, where demand outweighs available bandwidth. Delivery, it should be noted, is an important, but not the only part, of a live transmission. Eliminating a single point of failure extends across your whole streaming stack, and encompasses your entire infrastructure. A comprehensive plan must have as many redundancies as possible built into its architecture.

  1. The benefits of enforcing control

Among the numerous advantages IP-delivery- brings, reaching a global audience easily is one of the most remarkable. Several factors, however, can negatively impact the reach of content, including licensing agreements, which can affect the delivery of content in certain countries. When developing a streaming and content delivery strategy, it is crucial to ensure capabilities like authentication, paywall, and rights management can be instantly configured and enforced at the edge, meaning user experience isn’t compromised by security checks slowing down their streams.

  1. Pre-test to de-stress

Broadcasters need to be ready for anything when it comes to live streaming. This means that testing and securing the entire video delivery stack ahead of a live event is key. This includes load testing and implementing configuration changes on-the-fly for all the partners a broadcaster relies on.

In order to avoid disappointment when a major milestone comes around, it is helpful to carry out dry runs on smaller-scale events. Numerous professional sports leagues, for instance, offer regional games. These smaller games provide broadcasters with the opportunity to experiment with workflow, configurations and processes, as well as to gather data that can be used to optimise the delivery of more important events.

  1. The art of contingency planning

Having a working contingency plan in place constitutes another priority for broadcasters. A well-crafted and documented contingency plan allows you to face unforeseen events with confidence and flexibility. Contingency plans are never set in stone. On the contrary, they must be periodically revised and updated.

As the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’. This is also true for contingency plans. I’d recommend spending the right amount of time and energy testing the plan to find any potential flaws. No matter how much thought has been put into it, a contingency plan is worthless if it has not been rigorously tested.

When it comes to content delivery, a contingency plan must address issues such as the process for load balancing requests across CDNs, how to monitor real-time data, and how to identify potential problems instantly and determine the best way to resolve them.

Although the challenges are well documented, with a strong strategy in place broadcasters can deliver exceptional live streaming experiences without compromising on security. While no two live events are the same, by basing a livestream around these pillars, it is possible to build an effective strategy that can be adapted on a case-by-case basis.

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