Live Streaming Visual Quality - The World is Watching

Backlash to poor quality live-streaming is now a thing. Live events are cornerstones of broadcast, and Amazon’s recent experience with the US Open broadcast in the UK is an example of the challenges of hyperscale live streaming. While consumers may have pushed back on the price, content available, and advertising on cable and satellite, they enjoyed a consistent and reliable video experience. Streaming has broken into live broadcast for headline events, broadening access and opening business models. Yet consumer experiences have been inconsistent, challenged with poor video quality and feature gaps creating newsworthy backlash. As expectations grow for live streaming of major events, technical hurdles including core technology, hyperscaling, and user experience remain.

Live streaming is a fast moving opportunity. CISCO predicts live video will grow at an astounding rate, increasing 15-fold from 2016 to 2021, ultimately accounting for 13 percent of  Internet video traffic, with video traffic being 82 percent of all Internet traffic in 2021. Live video sourced from consumers is being curated and broadcast from tens to hundreds of thousands on emerging mobile-social platforms. Streaming broadcasters are picking up sporting events and season coverage. Leagues are rapidly ramping direct access. Comprehensive coverage of complex events is ideal for streaming, allowing viewers to choose the events, stars and matches they want, and seamlessly move between live, delayed, and recorded content.

Video quality matters. Streaming broadcasters are still working to nail the basics of hyperscale broadcast of live events. And consumer expectations are not standing still, with 4K HDR and 360 VR ramping and viewer comparisons to high-quality cable broadcast and VOD streaming. Viewers want click-to-watch simplicity with broadcast quality. And they notice when they have paid for streaming services but those services fail to deliver on simple - but technically challenging - video quality and reliability expectations.

Efficient video encoding promises to reduce bandwidth requirements and improve live stream quality. The emergence of H.265/HEVC and VP9 are making it possible to deliver broadcast quality 2K and 4K video with reasonable bandwidth for recorded content. Unfortunately good software encoders do not run in realtime. Live software encoders supporting H.265/HEVC and VP9 have little or no compression efficiency gains over the legacy H.264/AVC resulting in a huge difference in Visual Quality (VQ) between live and recorded content.


NGCodec has been developing solutions for encoding live streams and has launched cloud and private cloud encoders ready to meet the challenge of broadcast-quality live streaming. At the upcoming International Broadcasting Convention - IBC 2018 - NGCodec is demonstrating HD at 1Mbps using Adaptive Bit Rate encoding with the H.265/HEVC and VP9 codecs. The solution is powered by RealityCodec, an FPGA based solution for video encoding with the best possible performance per watt and scalability for broadcast-quality HD and 4K UHD video.


If you want to discuss hyperscale live streaming, you can meet up me at IBC using the online tool at online.




BlogOliver Gunasekara