Why sports broadcast is about emotion, not bandwidth
Sport inspires incredibly strong emotion in its supporters; pride, a sense of belonging, hope, excitement – but also despair, frustration and anger. Fans want to live in the moment with these emotions, feeling them as they occur, along with the thirty million people around the globe they are connected with in that moment.
Which is why for us at MainStreaming, talking about things like latency or Quality of Experience aren’t ‘technical’ issues, they’re emotional ones. The viewer on the edge of their seat is not concerned with whether the bits and bytes are flowing like they should.
They don’t care about packets, or routing protocols, or network structures. They care about whether their emotional experience as a viewer is unblemished, seamless and immersive. Nothing should take them out of such a pure moment of emotion.
Linking the emotional with the technological
Of course, recognizing that the end goal of effective broadcast is emotion is all well and good, but we know that the path to this emotion is necessarily technological. As such, whilst we may be masters of emotion at MainStreaming, that mastery sits on the back of industry-leading technological know-how. And a willingness to look at things with fresh eyes.
We’ve taken a look at the way things are done ‘traditionally’ in the field of video delivery. We’ve seen CDNs try to deliver video using legacy systems that were designed to deliver static content. We’ve seen them using ‘best effort’ approaches which fail to recognise that when it comes to video, it’s about succeeding or failing, not ‘trying’: you simply have to meet and exceed minimum thresholds from the start, otherwise you may as well not be trying at all. And we’ve seen the industry deploy cumbersome networks for video delivery that are so unwieldy, it’s almost impossible to track down where problems are arising (and with these legacy network approaches, you can be sure problems are no rare occurrence).
So we’ve looked at this, and quite simply, we’ve said: No. It doesn’t have to be this way. And one of the key elements to changing things is to change where the work happens. At MainStreaming, we’re real believers in ‘the Edge’ – a process of moving the hard work of decision making and processing away from a centralised cloud, and towards the ‘last mile’, where processes can be made more flexible and agile.
And as our rapidly increasing number of clients shows, it’s an approach that works.
Ultimately, the reason Edge-based approaches are not just more ideal but truly necessary for effective live sports delivery is because they are the only approach to truly provide complete governance of connectivity and computational capacity, and which allow the content provider using the network to make use of specialist insight into the closest caches and engage in continuous flow analysis. What this brings is the ability to make decisions in real time.
In addition to this, there’s an inherent structural benefit. By sending data out to the Edge, you reduce network pressure on the core backbone of the network.
This can be particularly important for the issue of localization, where challenging geographical conditions in the last mile (such as island clusters or mountainous regions) mean you don’t want to be dragging the whole network down trying to accommodate them.
Instead, specialist Edge servers at these points can be built to take on the challenges of the locality, leaving the backbone to get on with the real grunt work of the operation.
Managing the Edge
It is this efficiency, reactiveness and specific-to-need ability of the Edge that makes it so valuable. As a recent report by Forrester identifies, the Edge is particularly valuable in the sense that it stops an ongoing ‘pendulum swing’ between networks optimised either for local provision, or for scaling provisions to a global level. Instead, it allows for both to be achieved without compromise.
This global-reach-on-a-local-level approach ultimately leads Forrester to identify that ‘Edge innovation will lead to smarter, faster digital experiences everywhere… helping firms use more local data to build AI-powered experiences that anticipate our needs’.
And of course that’s exactly what we’re doing at MainStreaming with our iMDP. Put simply, it uses AI to facilitate real-time decision making that constantly optimizes viewer experience based on the in-the-moment metric feedback it gains at the Edge, and allows content providers comprehensive, insightful and intuitive end-to-end governance of their network.
Designed to leverage all the benefits of an edge-based topology, and to handle all the very specific demands of video data, we truly believe there is no solution out there better placed to handle live sports video broadcast. And our growing list of globally-competitive content delivery clients would seem to agree…
Seeing the problems before they occur
The aforementioned Forrester report is an insightful and interesting read for anybody who wants deeper insight into the role the Edge will play in the future – particularly in relation to how it will impact the way we use the kinds of remote software which were once accessed on the cloud, but are now increasingly found on the Edge.
But one of the most interesting things about the report is its balanced approach to the subject. Not everything is sunshine and daffodils – the Edge does bring with it its own challenges. Fortunately, at MainStreaming we’ve already anticipated and mitigated a great number of these obstacles.
For instance, the Forrester report identifies that an increasing worldwide move to the Edge has the potential to increase computing’s impact on the environment. But we’ve identified that with our approach to network management, we actually reduce their energy consumption – which is great for the environment and the bottom line.
They also identify that ‘trust’ will become harder – with Edge based approaches leading to a market full of fragmented vendors with complex and immature solutions, with no guarantee for customers that these providers have the expertise or knowledge they need.
But at MainStreaming, we’re already well ahead of the curve; we’ve been working with Edge-based infrastructure for years, and our iMDP represents a technology with a proven track-record of deployment on some of Europe’s biggest live sports broadcasts. Indeed, it’s interesting to note that some of Forrester’s predictions for trends that will emerge in three to five years relate to exactly what MainStreaming is doing right now – particularly in the way we’re helping data centres to change their operational models, and become more edge-based and agile.
One thing’s for certain, you’ll be hearing about the Edge more and more in the upcoming few years. But at MainStreaming, there’s nothing new about it – because we’re masters at staying on the cutting Edge of video delivery technologies.