Op-Ed: A Better Way To Fight for Live-Stream Success

What lessons can be learned from the streaming struggles of Mayweather-McGregor?

The Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, one the most anticipated live sports events of the year, was streamed live to global audiences. By some accounts, millions of viewers paid to watch via live streaming. That success was to have been a great validation for internet-based distribution of live, high-quality programming after a few other high-profile shows had problems. Unfortunately, the fight event suffered a very public delay to accommodate significant failures in digital workflow.

Eric Bolten, VP, strategic accounts, Zixi

Twitter and other social-media outlets lit up with customers blaming everything in the distribution chain, from local ISPs to the program originator. At least one lawsuit has been filed, and rumors are spreading wild and fast across the industry about the cause of the problem. Whatever the cause turns out to be, the bad news is that customers and journalists seem to think streaming technologies might not be ready for big media events in general.

We know that just isn’t true.

Of course, setting up live feeds for distribution on the open internet is not easy, despite what you might see on social media. It’s one thing to do a quick feed from a conference call or cellphone but quite another to provide broadcast-quality video and sound with anti-piracy safeguards, live commentators, and the many other elements required to successfully live-stream a premium large-scale event.

The public and even many of the journalists writing about streaming problems have focused on the high-profile delivery failures of shows like Game of Thrones and last Saturday’s fight event. Although people understandably focus on these few infamous problems, little to no information about the causes of these issues is examined or well-understood by the general public. Instead, the hype of complaints on social media, as well as in follow-up stories, leave the public with a false sense that somehow IP-based technologies are unstable or failing across the board. In fact, thousands of hours of live and VOD programming is delivered via the open internet — without fail — around the world every minute of every day.

Despite a very few high-profile problems, the technology behind high-quality live streaming is actually robust and dependable, providing new viewing experiences to migrating audiences while delivering millions in new revenue streams and distribution opportunities not possible on traditional distribution systems.

There are field-tested, show-hardened operational best practices that enable media businesses to count on revenue from IP-based, high-quality, live-video experiences for millions of consumers. The company I work for, Zixi, provides software created by IP–video-delivery experts based on years of research and development to nail down exactly how to successfully handle video on unmanaged IP networks and how to set up and manage failover signal paths, geographic redundancies, and multiple CDN ingest points.

We work with the very best broadcast OEMs and media companies in the world to provide the security, reliability, performance, and quality required by our industry. The result is a technology platform that broadcasters count on for high-profile events in live production with five 9s of reliability. That kind of reliability used to belong only to satellite and fiber solutions, but we have consistently delivered the same reliability over the public internet for years at less cost.

Despite another failure that seems to validate unease with streaming technology on a wide scale, we know that live streaming over the open internet is a viable, efficient, and dependable delivery option for content creators. For IP-based delivery to reach its full potential, content owners and creators must be able to trust their contribution, distribution, over-the-top delivery, backup, disaster recovery, broadcast monitoring, ENG news, and sports workflows to rock-solid technology.

We are helping the broadcast industry set the standard for distance-agnostic, high-quality, reliable, and error-free content delivery. We all understand that IP-technology stability is the deal-breaker. We must make the economics of live production and streaming work for broadcasters, content creators, rights owners, and, of course, viewers.

Live event broadcast streaming isn’t easy, but, with the right tools and know-how, live streaming can — and will — continue to dependably serve millions of viewers around the world, extending the range of programming and depth of coverage expected as television evolves in the cloud.

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