We suffered three years ago during the FIFA World Cup 2018 and this summer we will suffer again during UEFA Euro 2020, and even more so during the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Differences in video streaming latency, the delay from real live (point of recording) to our screens, was a major discussion back then, and it will probably become so also this summer.
This is a blog post by Streaming Media Specialist, Boris Asadanin from Eyevinn Technology.
So how important is video streaming latency anyway? VOD is completely unrelated to live latency, and most linear channels don’t include real live feeds. And for those linear channels that do consist of live feeds, the vast majority of content like news and live cultural events are not really latency sensitive. About sport events, most people still don’t bet on sports, if we just manage to stay disconnected from live Twitter or other real-time update feeds (which we do because we want to watch the game), latency really isn’t the main issue.
So what about the biggest sport events like Soccer World Cup, Super Bowl, or the Olympics games, doesn’t latency matter then? I claim not. The problem isn’t that my stream is further behind the live point than yours is. The problem is that our TVs are close enough so that your reactions will spoil my viewing experience. The TV density in society is just too high for the biggest live sport events.
Since FIFA World Cup in 2018 many technical streaming related things have progressed. Low latency solutions for the main streaming formats HLS (LL-HLS) and MPEG-DASH (LL-DASH) have evolved and converged. The two streaming formats can now reference the same media files and the support for HTTP/2 Push got cancelled in the low latency solutions. The official Apple release of LL-HLS also replaced the “bastard” but well performing Low Latency HLS specification LHLS, then developed by brilliant John Barthos at (then) JW Player.
Note though that low latency does nothing for latency differences. Percentally at least. Two low latency streams may still be just as unsynchronized, but with lower latency overall the difference just can’t be too long. With latencies of well below ten seconds instead of tenths of seconds, no one will react fast enough to spoil my game (as I am somehow always stuck with the latest stream).
The conclusion is that low latency helps by giving less room for latency differences. But the real problem is still unsolved. At least until the watch party trend will get a stream synchronization boost with evolving technologies like Shareplay for Co-watching that Apple announced as part of iOS 15 during WWDC 2021. But for now, we just have too many TVs around us occasionally “tuned” to the same programs.
Focusing on quality of experience, and especially on all sport events between the biggest of them, I suggest we take a closer look at other things. Video quality for instance is something that many of our customers are exploring today. Keep an eye out for my next post on video quality enhancement strategies instead of simple causeries. 😉
Boris Asadanin is a Streaming Media Specialist at Eyevinn Technology. Eyevinn Technology is the leading independent consulting company specializing in video technology and media distribution. Proud organizer of Streaming Tech Sweden, next time hosted on June 2nd 2022 in Stockholm.
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