The broadcast industry is experiencing a rapid phase of digital transformation, and driving much of the tech-led developments being implemented is the adoption of IP which is proving to be a major enabler of innovation and efficiency. Many companies that previously relied on legacy workflows are adopting IP-based infrastructure to deliver a range of benefits, from operational flexibility and agility to the delivery of reliable broadcast-quality distribution of live video content over the Internet and bottom-line business impact.
In the dynamic world of video streaming, organizations are constantly seeking efficiency and cost-effectiveness to manage their large-scale implementations. The solution that has been revolutionizing the industry is our Software-Defined Video Platform (SDVP®) powered by the Zixi Protocol.
While the pace of change varies from one organization to another, for fuboTV, a fast-growing sports-first live TV streaming platform, IP infrastructure has become a cornerstone of its tech-led strategy. Available on the web, via mobile and connected TV devices, fuboTV is a leading OTT provider, offering a wide range of live and on-demand content across 200+ channels featuring top leagues and teams, as well as popular shows, movies, and news.
The company is a virtual multichannel video programming distributor (vMVPD) that operates a distribution strategy that relies mainly on IP networks. As such, it has broken away from traditional broadcasting workflows for primary delivery of content.
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Solving Live-Streaming for fuboTV
In developing its IP-based infrastructure strategy, fuboTV needed a live video acquisition solution that would securely and reliably provide broadcast quality across its content portfolio. The correct offering would need to ensure a high-quality viewing experience, helping them retain subscribers in an increasingly competitive OTT marketplace.
Its procurement process led to the selection of Zixi as its technology partner to deliver live video over any IP network via its SDVP. Operating as a Universal Video Gateway, fuboTV can leverage a single platform for source acquisition of live linear content across fiber and satellite networks and then normalize content for distribution to digital delivery targets at ultra-low latency.
The Latency Challenge for OTT Live Streaming
As more TV is consumed via streaming, with even linear TV channels now commonly watched via apps on Smart TVs and connected devices, the challenges of latency has become an even more pressing one. Viewers are now watching on a wider spectrum of devices than ever before, as well as consuming sports and breaking news stories via social media platforms, so if the content they are watching is slower to arrive than other platforms it poorly affects their experience.
And, for businesses like sports betting that are increasingly moving to monetizing live events with close to real-time interactions (‘Will Player X score this penalty”, etc.), as well as the growing number of 5G use cases that are being established, both D2C and B2B, ultra-low latency video is mission critical.
Until recently streaming has been much slower, and live video delivery to viewers at something between 15 to 40 seconds latency. This is the result of the additional workflow processes like transcoding that are required as part of delivery, and the challenges of routing video via the public internet.
The widespread adoption of techniques such as Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) streaming, which adjusts the quality of the media stream depending on both available bandwidth and decoding processor speed of the end user, low latency HLS, and low latency CMAF have brought this down to the faster end of the spectrum, but with the increasing adoption of 4K HDR in sports specifically, even 15 seconds can be challenging in some circumstances.
Linear broadcasters and streaming services alike can benefit from greatly reduced latency using existing workflows and a couple of game-changers have helped achieve this.
- CMAF is one, using chunked encoding and transfer encoding to break video down into smaller fragments of a set duration that can be published as soon as encoded and forwarded as soon as received. The result is live video delivery that can take place in near real-time while later chunks are still being processed without the need to build up a large signal buffer.
- Second is SMPTE 2022-7 hitless failover in which data is sent down multiple paths to a single receiver and stitched together by taking whichever version arrives first while maintaining the original sequence.
The Zixi Advantage
The Zixi protocol leverages these technologies and incrementally adaptive FEC, ARQ, network bonding, and congestion avoidance to algorithmically reconstruct data in less than round-trip. It also offers options over and above 2022-7 allowing the data stream to be sequenced or bonded, the latter resulting in a delivery system that combines internet, fiber, satellite, and cellular connections from multiple providers to form a virtual bonded network optimized for speed and reliability.
This contributes to Zixi’s ability to transport live video at ultra-low latency to and from any location globally that can be adjusted to provide additional protection at problematic edge point locations with a high percentage of extreme packet errors without interruption of the live stream as the protocol can recover from up to 40% packet loss.
In any communication system, there is also a three-way tradeoff between latency, bitrate, and resiliency, with video being no exception. We use the optimal tradeoff between latency (target), overhead (FEC), and resiliency (goal) for the lowest latency and highest resiliency, customizable to enable transport of broadcast-quality video according to the unique needs of each individual use case.
This adaptability enables broadcasters to synchronize their services, adjusting the latency to achieve video frame synchronicity to the viewers’ devices at the same time which helps maintain viewer satisfaction and ensures that the action gets to them, if not at the speed of light, then as close to it as we can manage with all production and monetization processes customers still need to insert along the way.
Zixi supports latency to 0 ms with proprietary and tuned congestion aware FEC can be used to achieve latencies as low as transit time with no additional latency for the protocol and the ability to adjust latency in real-time without impact on production stream. While other protocols have a sizable burst of unrecovered packets per given bitrate, studies show that as latency is dialed down below 300ms, Zixi unrecovered packet count stays very low for the most robust delivery available.
The SDVP with the Zixi Protocol has become the industry standard with unmatched compute efficiency that is 14x more compute efficient than any alternative solutions employing other inefficient protocols.
This increased compute efficiency plays a pivotal role in reducing the complexity and cost associated with managing large implementations, delivering more sustainable workflows with significant cost savings by requiring just 7% of the compute requirement of other industry options. The benefits are numerous, with bitrates up to 5Gbps including jumbo frame support, compute cost and energy consumption greatly reduced, and the ability to run on ARM Processers, including AWS Graviton, which are 50% of the cost and energy consumption of others.
Achieving Bandwidth Efficiency
The Zixi Protocol offers bandwidth efficiency through two crucial mechanisms:
- null packet compression and
- video awareness.
Zixi compresses null packets, typical in CBR broadcast streams, removing repetitive packets resulting in lower bandwidth requirements on the network of 30% to 50% than alternative protocols, reducing egress costs at the same rate when the Zixi Protocol is sent to the egress target, and the video delivered perfectly at the same bit rate.
These techniques reduce unnecessary overhead,
- optimizing bandwidth utilization without compromising the quality of the video stream,
- and allowing the detection of the video content and compress unnecessary packets in scenes like snowstorms or dark nights.
This reduction in bitrate requirements translates to lower bandwidth usage.
By cutting the transport stream egress cost in half, we’re enabling organizations to allocate their resources more efficiently, redirecting budgetary allocations to other critical areas. This cost reduction can have a profound impact on the TCO of video streaming implementations.
The superior efficiency eliminates the need for excessive virtual machines, leading to reduced infrastructure requirements and substantial cost savings. By requiring fewer virtual machines to handle the same workload, organizations can significantly reduce operations costs including engineering, operations, and energy consumption.
Multiple security options, including DTLS session-based encryption, static key AES content encryption, and stream name plus password-based access control add necessary organizational content protection.
The SDVP and Zixi Protocol offer an impressive array of benefits that directly contribute to the cost effectiveness and TCO optimization for organizations managing large-scale video streaming implementations. With its unmatched efficiency, reduced infrastructure requirements, bandwidth optimization, and transport stream egress cost reduction, Zixi empowers organizations to maximize their resources, minimize expenses, and deliver high-quality video content reliably.
By leveraging Zixi’s cutting-edge technology, organizations can embrace a future where cost-effectiveness and operational excellence go hand in hand, opening new possibilities for growth, innovation, and enhanced video streaming experiences.
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John Wastcoat has more than 20 years’ experience in senior management with industry-leading media and communications technology companies.
Before joining Zixi John successfully ran the Aspera Business Development group, acquired by IBM in 2014. He was responsible for scaling the business across numerous channels around the world and previously held the positions of VP of Global Business Development at Dexrex and VP Sales at Cantata Technology, which was acquired by Dialogic.
At Zixi, John is responsible for the OEM, technology alliance, and reseller ecosystem as well as overall corporate messaging. John holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science from the University of Montana as well as Japanese language from Nichibei Kaiwa Gakuin in Tokyo.