Preparing the Edge for a Big Year in Live Streaming
Next year is shaping up to be a big one for live streaming. Typically characteristic of even years, when many major international sporting events take place, increased live streaming in 2021 looks to defy past trends. Akamai is predicting an unprecedented surge in live streaming that will start in late 2020 and continue throughout 2021. During this stretch, we could see 50 million people concurrently streaming a single live event, roughly double the largest number of viewers we've seen so far for such an event. To prepare, we’ve spent much of 2020 readying new capabilities included in the Akamai Platform Update that will help you serve the growing demand for live streaming.
New developer tools to set up live streaming workflows
New Akamai Developer APIs can increase operational efficiency for organizations that need to manage numerous live or linear streams, often simultaneously. These APIs are designed to simplify the process of provisioning Akamai's Media Services Live and Adaptive Media Delivery, which are critical components of many live workflows to ingest streams with high stability and reach global audiences with as little latency as possible. Learn more about the new Media Services Live API and enable your DevOps team to streamline the creation and setup of a live streaming workflow.
To simplify post-production operations, Media Services Live now includes a live clipping feature to simplify the creation and archiving of highlights. A new feature called Instant TV enables streaming providers to define the beginning of a live program and allows viewers to use Restart TV functionality to start an in-progress program when they choose, dynamically.
Cloud wrapper maximizes origin offload across environments
Cloud Wrapper optimizes connectivity between cloud infrastructures and the Akamai Intelligent Edge Platform. With new multiple content delivery network (CDN) support, customers can use Cloud Wrapper as the central hub for their delivery architecture, maintaining shared cacheability, predictable offload levels, and cost savings for origin infrastructures as a streaming service scales. This allows for high performance and low cloud egress costs while increasing flexibility when integrating into increasingly complex and open live streaming environments.
Added support for low-latency live streaming experiences
For quite some time, Akamai has supported initiatives like low-latency DASH that reduce end-to-end latency so you can deliver streaming experiences that are in sync with, not delayed from, traditional broadcast. As part of this platform update, Akamai is announcing support for low-latency HLS (LL-HLS). Alongside several partners, we’ve been working to support the adoption of the updated LL-HLS specification. The specification is intended to provide users with end-to-end latency of three seconds or less and backward compatibility across the Apple video player ecosystem. It will also help drive overall adoption of low latency in live streaming for the most popular streaming format.
Scalable enforcement to combat fraudulent or shared streams
Access Revocation, a capability of Adaptive Media Delivery, is core to Akamai's "prevent-discover-enforce" content security posture, providing content rights owners the power to stop unauthorized video streams. The newest version of Akamai's Access Revocation boasts improved scale to serve larger audience sizes as well as quicker revocation response times, both of which are critical in the case of live sports. The latest version of Access Revocation was recently used during a major sporting event in Asia, with more than 5 million concurrent viewers, during which Akamai's Broadcast Operations Control Center identified that approximately 10% of the viewers were unauthorized.
In addition to these new capabilities, Akamai has continued to build out capacity across the Akamai Intelligent Edge Platform, which now includes more than 300,000 servers in 4,000 locations and nearly 1,500 networks around the globe. This gives customers even closer proximity to audiences for the farthest reach, lowest latency, and highest possible quality for users worldwide. Akamai is ready to handle the surge in live streaming and committed to driving success for our customers.
But why are we predicting this surge?
Consumer habits have changed
Lockdowns, quarantines, and other protective measures enacted by governments and health organizations as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic have driven a sudden and dramatic shift in consumer behavior. Peak traffic on the Akamai platform exceeded 100 terabits per second every day in the second quarter. It was only in October 2019 that traffic exceeded the 100 Tbps threshold for the first time in company history.
Video games, in-game live events, and esports tournaments have gone mainstream, highlighted by the success of the ongoing Fortnite concert tour. According to New Zoo as of September 2020, live stream gaming global viewership had already grown 165% compared to the 2019 yearly total, as measured by hours watched for two leading game streaming platforms. In the U.S., more consumers have adopted subscription video on demand (SVOD) and advertising-based video on demand (AVOD) services as well as increased usage of video conferencing, while the cord-cutting trend has accelerated.
Monetizing live rights is key to broadcast economic recovery
A series of video production slowdowns and stoppages have delayed the release of new, on-demand episodic content. In fact, PwC has estimated that the "under-delivery of episodic content could result in $3.5 billion in lost ad revenue for broadcasters." This is fueling a greater reliance on existing content and live programming to engage audiences and help narrow the gap in lost revenues. According to a recent Gartner report, the broadcast sector is expected to begin restoring revenue growth in 2021, driven by the resumption of sports leagues and local regional news.
Major international sporting events push out
Many major sports leagues have recently returned, with limited or, in some cases, no fans in attendance, and the audiences tuning in have been an order of magnitude larger than before the pandemic. NBC Sports reported the NFL season opener between the Texans and Chiefs was their "most-streamed NFL game, excluding Super Bowls -- up 55% from last year." The opening match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 witnessed 8.4 million peak concurrent viewers, which for the first time was behind a paywall, so the numbers are significant. The concurrency is close to the 8-10 million per match digital viewership mark during IPL 2020, and experts are hopeful the viewership will reach 25-30 million per match toward the end of the IPL. Looking ahead, many major international sporting events such as the Olympics and UEFA EURO tournament have deferred their events until late 2020 or 2021, setting up a perfect storm where many live events are set to take place in tight time windows.
The U.S. is also heading into a major news cycle leading up to the 2020 presidential election in November and inauguration in January. Since the beginning of August, when many sports leagues resumed, Akamai has seen a significant increase in live streaming. We expect this trend to continue.
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