By: Darren Lepke, Head of Video Product Management, Verizon Media
COVID-19 has left an indelible mark on live events. Live sports have been sidelined due to various lockdown orders, which has affected viewers worldwide. The National Basketball Association has considered streaming the 2020 playoffs without fans. Major League Baseball is discussing how they can start their season from a central location. Many concerts, churches, and other large gatherings are continuing to experiment with live streaming to replace face-to-face events.
Whether you've been swept up into the live sports hiatus, or are facing the challenge of rapidly scaling your video workflow, this is a great time to take stock and consider how you can evolve to meet the needs of the new normal. Here are five Verizon Media Platform innovations that can help you deliver a great viewing experience for all types of live events now and in the future.
1) 4K HDR
In a recent research report on live streaming, audiences ranked picture quality as their number one must-have by a wide margin. And it's easy to see why. The majority of televisions are now equipped for 4K. Many consumers are looking for streaming services that can deliver live events in brilliant 4K HDR, which is something that traditional television offerings are unable to give them, outside of a few events a month.
This is why Verizon Media spent the past year enhancing our ingest, encoding, and delivery capabilities to deliver live content in 4K HDR. Now audiences can not only enjoy a quality experience through their streaming service, but content owners can rely on our platform to deliver it to audiences at the largest scale.
2) 10+ million concurrents
As audiences shift to streaming platforms, content owners need to be prepared to support an influx of viewers. However, architecting a tech stack to handle unpredictable audience size is a complicated and costly undertaking.
The Verizon Media Platform is built to scale with a global capacity of 100+ Tbps. But network capacity is only part of the equation. Smartplay, our manifest technology, generates a unique manifest for every viewer and manages the entire session, delivering an ultra-personalized experience for millions of concurrent viewers. This means we have the bandwidth and capacity to deliver TV-like quality experiences – from content to ads – for every viewer that presses "play."
3) Real-time streaming
In the same study mentioned above, audiences ranked low latency as their second most important live streaming need. As new applications such as trivia, social viewing, interactivity, and wagering are integrated into the next generation of live events, reducing stream latency, or time behind live, will be an even more important part of the live streaming tech stack.
Real-time Streaming is a new capability of our encode feature that will offer content owners the ability to deliver sub-second latency to end users. This technology gives our customers the flexibility to manage their streaming business based on the needs of any given live event without having to manage multiple vendors or streaming platforms.
Real-time Streaming takes advantage of our content workflows and is great for gaming, betting, and other streaming use cases that rely on having a real-time connection with audiences.
4) Live Event Markers
Live events are powerful. But their shelf life is relatively limited. To get the most out of a live event, it's critical that content owners enrich live streams with metadata so they can maximize the value of the content during and immediately after the event.
Verizon Media provides a self-service dashboard for live event operators to stop and start events, trigger ad breaks, and create clips of the event. The dashboard has been updated with a new Live Event Markers feature, which enables operators to tag events of interest during any live event, for example scoring plays or end of quarter breaks.
The ability to tag and track significant points that occur during a given program or event is invaluable to live event operators. With a simple click by the operator, a timestamp is logged and can be utilized in a number of different ways, such as publishing event marker metadata alongside video streams so that content owners can design new features for on-screen overlays and interactivity. Customers can benefit from the ability to improve audience insights by tracking trends in viewership against the markers set during a live event.
5) Managed Slicer
Technology is critical, but no matter how sophisticated your stack is, live events need operations staff to manage them. And since most live events happen sporadically and outside business hours, putting staff in place and keeping them there ready to execute is an expensive and challenging proposition, especially in a cash-strapped economic environment.
Verizon Media has two great services that can have you up and running quickly and include the expertise needed to make any live event a success.
The first is our new Managed Slicer Service. Managed Slicer offers content owners the ability to handoff their feeds directly to the cloud or a Slicer PoP fully managed by Verizon Media teams. This gives anyone with content the ability to take full advantage of our platform without the need to put any technological solutions in place to manage it on their own.
Second, Verizon Media's Live Event Operations is already in place, ready to take on all the tasks you need to stream live events successfully. Our live events team manages ad breaks, monitors stream quality, adds slates for weather and technical delays, and coordinates fixes for technical challenges. We have the tools and experience to ensure your live events are streamed flawlessly and keep up with audience demand, no matter how many concurrent viewers tune in.
Our scalable team is available to help businesses stream their live events 24 x 7 x 365. And because we handle all the staffing, you can focus on producing great live events with less overhead, especially if your event schedule is seasonal or sporadic. Or you're streaming live events for the first time.
If uncertain economic times have you questioning your streaming platform investment, we invite you to consider how the Verizon Media Platform can help. We've enhanced our services to deliver high-quality, personalized streams through our massive global network. We've created new features that reduce latency and enable you to enhance the value of your content. We can help you minimize the cost and expense of building and managing tech stacks so you can quickly launch and grow your live event streaming service.