Streaming Media Reaches New Heights

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Streaming Media Reaches New Heights

Since this is my first blog post, I decided to write about two things that I’m passionate about – NFL Football and Streaming Media. I’ve been an avid Buffalo Bills fan since I was 7 years old and I have devoted the past 20+ years of my career to innovations in streaming technologies and the growth of the overall streaming industry. Being a Bills fan has been a painful existence at times but I remain completely loyal to them. When I joined RealNetworks in 1998, I believed 100% in Rob Glaser’s proclamation that the Internet would be the next mass medium. I don’t think anyone can argue that Rob’s prediction has played out although the path has taken many unexpected twists and turns. There are so many new and creative ways to consume content and there are many more to come that we haven’t even thought of yet.

At Streaming Media West in LA, I attended a presentation from Yahoo! about the first ever Live NFL game that was available exclusively as an Internet streaming event. This game took place on October 25th at London’s Wembley Stadium and had my beloved Bills facing the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Yahoo! guys did a fabulous job of sharing some really interesting technical and experiential information about this watershed event. I’ll try to keep it brief by highlighting the parts I found most relevant.

Yahoo! delivered 33 million streams to 15 million unique users. They offerred 5 different player options based on the Yahoo! property you were viewing from. This spanned a 300×200 resolution player embedded in the upper right corner of the Yahoo! Mail client up to a 720P, 6.7Mbps full screen version on the Yahoo! Sports app. They delivered the game to 14 different types of connected devices. I personally watched on my iPad, Mac, iPhone and Roku. Dan Rayburn tweeted that he watched it on at least 8 different devices and all worked flawlessly. They also delivered to 5 different browsers. That’s 350 (5x14x5) variations of the stream. The streams were available in multiple languages, with optional closed captioning and with alternative audio tracks for fantasy sports enthusiasts. The cost, complexity and management overhead involved in creating such a rich user experience can be massive. Yahoo! had several teams allocated to this event and a war-room of senior leaders ready to react to any issues they encountered. Better tools and technologies are needed for most content providers and service providers to pull this off, especially as a normal course of doing business. I led a team that created technology to help deal with this problem of needing seemingly unlimited renditions of the same content to deliver the most compelling user experience possible. At Concurrent, we call this Dynamic Content Adaptation. I wrote a whitepaper on this if you’re interested in reading more about it and how it applies to this type of event.

Yahoo! showed that it’s possible to deliver a live event to millions of viewers with TV-like quality. This event provided an excellent example of how compelling content can be combined with other modern technologies to create new and enjoyable (i.e., highly valuable) experiences for a global audience. Unfortunately for me, in typical Bills fashion, they lost in the closing seconds after roaring back from a big deficit. On the bright side, while streaming media reached new heights with this event, it also showed that we have more work to do to enable the mainstream to create this type of event and experience. Solving these types of problems are the reason we in the streaming media industry are excited to come to work every day. To talk to one of our streaming media experts click here.