Twitch To Present Best Practices For Streaming High-Bitrate Video

logo-cd148048b88ce417a0c815548e7e4681Video content has seen significant improvement by the introduction of UHD video, high frame rate and high dynamic range. At the Streaming Media West show, [taking place November 1-2 in Huntington Beach, CA] Tarek Amara, Video Systems Engineer at Twitch will showcase the improvements these features add to the video watching experience. The presentation will also cover the video encoding techniques (encoding standards, bitrates and encoding parameters) used today to deliver high bitrate demanding video to the end consumer and challengers this process faces. Finally it will go through some recommendations for the encoding stage for both VOD and live streaming applications.

Register online using the code 200DR for a free “Discovery Pass” and get access to the keynotes, exhibit hall, discovery track sessions, and receptions at #smwest – at no cost – or get $200 off a full conference pass.

Google To Present Latest Advances in Open Source Compression Technology at #smwest Show

googlelogo_color_272x92dpAt the Streaming Media West show, [taking place November 1-2 in Huntington Beach, CA] Jamieson Brettle and Jai Krishnan from the Chrome Media group at Google will cover how open source, royalty-free codec development is providing an alternative to traditional patent pools and standards bodies to increase the speed of development and power the future of video and audio streaming.

Google has invested heavily in open compression formats, with the WebM project for video, WebP images, and Opus audio. From first time internet users in emerging markets to new VR experiences on mobile devices, video is pushing the limits of existing network bandwidth. Upgrading infrastructure is a slow, expensive process, so new compression algorithms are necessary for handling the growing load.  Additionally next generation media experiences, including VR, require new techniques in audio compression, such as ambisonics, to create truly immersive experiences. Learn about all of this and more during Google’s presentation.

Register online using the code 200DR for a free “Discovery Pass” and get access to the keynotes, exhibit hall, discovery track sessions, and receptions at #smwest – at no cost – or get $200 off a full conference pass.

New Report Reveals that Ad Blocking is Pervasive Amongst Millennials Who Choose Illegal Streaming Over Linear Television

Millennials are watching video content, but in most cases it’s on-demand video, not live TV. This is one of the reasons why, when content aggregators build television channels for them, they don’t show up. A truism that eventually shuttered Pivot and explains why Vice’s average viewer is 40 years old and their ratings aren’t quite as strong as H2, the channel they replaced.

While many studies have explored millennials’ clear preference for streaming content over linear TV, Anatomy just released a report that takes a closer look at how young millennials (18-24) are viewing their video content and they specifically explored if they pay for what they stream with their data, dollars or demographics. They surveyed over 2,500 young millennials to get some hard data around their behaviors and opinions. Anatomy looked at this subset of the millennial population because as Anatomy’s CEO Gabriella Mirabelli told me, “we feel that this cohort is the engine behind the disruptive behaviors that will be rocking the media landscape down the road. As this population ages they don’t adopt regressive technology, but rather propagate their behaviors up and down the demographic spectrum.”

Anatomy’s Millennials at the Gate report found that young millennials represent the bloodiest cutting edge of ad block adoption. In fact, two out of three young millennials use an ad blocker. Why do they do it? 64% say it’s to avoid intrusive video ads. They also want to speed up their browsing and increase their privacy. In a nutshell, they do it to improve their viewing experience.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-3-37-52-pmGabriella Mirabelli, Anatomy’s CEO, notes, “This isn’t particularly surprising because the mantra for those looking to monetize content is create a premium user experience, or lose viewers. While much of this is common knowledge, it’s surprising that the most established video publishers aren’t doing anything about it.” An ad block wall is a website feature that detects ad blocker software and prevents a user from accessing site content until the ad block software is disabled. Of the 17 broadcast networks Anatomy surveyed; only one (CBS) employed an ad block wall. This failure by content owners means lost revenue, plain and simple.

After the Olympics, some articles suggested that NBC’s online viewership may have cut into their linear ad revenue. Other articles laid the blame squarely at the door of millennials who, they complained, didn’t show up. Well, maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. But of the young millennials who did show up, we know that two-thirds had their ad blockers on, so the ad content was stripped out and the potential revenue never obtained.

Of course NBC is not alone. Other than CBS, none of the networks tested had an ad block wall in place. And, it’s worth noting, CBS affiliates didn’t benefit from their network’s best practice and there’s really no excuse for that. Of course, it might be that the networks are aware that if they put in an ad block wall, they will need to simultaneously monitor and manage the viewer’s streaming ad experience. Nothing will be more damaging to their brand or detrimental to the user experience than to force feed viewers ads that are irrelevant and repetitive and yet I have been complaining about this exact thing for years.

Streaming Meetup Dates Announced: Oct. 25th / Nov. 8th

BarcadeNewYork_header2015-2Save the dates! The next meetup of streaming media professionals in NYC will take place on Tuesday October 25th, starting at 6pm. Due to the holiday, November’s meetup will take place at the beginning of the month, Tuesday November 8th.

Tuesday October 25th (sponsored by Cedexis and Varnish)
Tuesday November 8th (sponsored by Bitmovin and 3Q SDN)

If you would like to sponsor a meetup, by covering $500 of the bar tab, please let me know.

Both meetup’s will be at – 148 West 24th Street between 6th/7th. Come network, drink and play videos games for free.

Barcade has over 50 old school video games, 25 beers on tap and some great food. There is no RSVP needed or list at the door. Just show up with a business card and ID and you are in! You will need a wristband to drink, so introduce yourself to me when you show up.

I’ll keep organizing these every month so if you want to be notified via email when the next one is taking place, send me an email and I’ll add you to the list.

Akamai Rolls Out New “Fast Purge” Solution; Questions Remain About Speed and Scale

For well over a year, customers of Akamai have been complaining about Akamai’s cache invalidation times, which has impacted manifest caching, real-time news feeds, and any time sensitive content. Historically, Akamai purges use to take at least 15 minutes and sometimes, in a couple of really terrible cases, I’ve heard of hours. Competitors like Fastly have been quick to jump on Akamai’s purging limitations and have been winning deals in the market based on Fastly’s ability to purge content within hundreds of milliseconds.

It seems that some CDNs caching strategies are old school and based around the idea that you have little to no real-time control of your caches. You set a TTL and if you need to invalidate, it can’t be mission critical, you just have to wait minutes or hours. So you set your caching strategy by identifying what you can afford to behave like this and then build against that, so your home page, news feeds, api’s, dynamic elements, HLS manifests etc. can’t be cached. Customers tell me that with Fastly, they have turned the caching strategy on its head. They cache everything (except truly uncacheable content like PII or specific to a single user), and then invalidate it as needed. It’s the difference between 90% cache hit rate and 99.999%. New York Times is a classic example of an Akamai customer, which serves all their HTML from origin and only caches images on Akamai because they don’t have this capability.

Akamai has been aware of the major limitations of their platform when it comes to purging content (see their blog post from January) and has been building out a new system, which allows purging as low as a few seconds. That is a dramatic improvement, but content owners have been asking me how widespread Akamai’s new system is, if it is available on their entire platform, or if there’s any rate limiting. Some Akamai customers tell me they are still in the 15 minute purge range. By comparison, when they compare Akamai to Fastly, their entire platform supports instant purge, they don’t rate limit and you can purge the entire cache if you want and it’s all API driven. Fastly customers tell me they have 150ms or less purging capabilities.

So with all these questions out in the market, I had a chance to speak to Akamai about how they are addressing their purging issue and got details from the company on their new platform, made available this week, which looks to address some of their customer’s purging complaints. Akamai’s new “Fast Purge” solution enables Akamai customers to invalidate or delete their content from all of Akamai’s Edge servers via API and UI in “approximately 5 seconds”. With Akamai’s Fast Purge API, the company said their customers “can automate their publishing flow to maximize performance and offload without compromising on freshness.” With this “Hold Til Told” methodology, Akamai customers can now cache semi-dynamic content with long TTLs, and refresh it near instantly as soon as it changes.

Akamai says the Fast Purge UI will complete the roll out process this week to all customers, and is already available to 85% of them. Fast Purge API has been adopted by almost 100 Akamai customers so far and they said it supports a “virtually unlimited throughput of over 100x that of our legacy purge APIs per customer.” Its early adopters include major retailers caching their entire product catalog and major media companies caching news stories and live API feeds for day-to-day operations. In Q1 2017, Akamai says Fast Purge will support purge-by-cpcode and purge-by-content-tag. With Fast Purge by content tag, customers will be able to apply tags to content, and then with one purge-by-tag request, refresh all content containing that specific tag. For example, eCommerce customers will be able to tag search result pages with the SKUs on them, and then when an SKU is out of stock, with one request remove all pages referencing it.

It’s good to see Akamai finally offering a better purging solution in the market, but only customers will determine if what Akamai now offers will fit the bill or not. The keys to instant purge are speed and reliability at scale. Customers say their experience on the “Hold Til Told” approach suggests that you need to trust that purges will happen and they need to be reliable across the world and at scale. If your site depends on being updated in real-time to ensure you don’t sell something you don’t have or provide outdated information the users need to trust it will work. If purges do not happen reliably, it creates mistrust and damages the entire premise of “hold til told”. So customers of any CDN should test purge times under many different conditions and in various regions on the production network to ensure it actually works as advertised. Even more so for Akamai customers, since we don’t know what scale or reliability their new Fast Purge solution has. While Akamai said they now have a 100x increase on the throughput from the legacy system, the old system was so limited that it’s possible that a 100x increase simply isn’t enough and would not meet the needs of many large customers.

Another unanswered question is what Akamai has done to integrate their underlying purging system into major CMS vendors and platforms, so that you get this feature as part of your basic install of the CMS. Akamai has not traditionally worked with the partner ecosystem well and it will be interesting to see how they plan to be on by default in the key CMS and platforms. Competitive CDNs have historically been developer friendly and have well-documented APIs for integrating with other platforms, and that has traditionally been a challenge for Akamai.

On the speed front, it’s good to see Akamai improving, but many businesses would not function with 5 second purges times. For example, customers that have real-time inventory that cannot be oversold. I see this 5 second limitation and the unknown scale and reliability of the system being a huge challenge for Akamai in a market that is truly milliseconds based. It is great they went from minutes to seconds but the performance game is now measured in milliseconds. Scale, reliability and speed are words everyone uses when it comes to delivering content on the web but for purging of content, customers use real-world methodology to measure the impact it has, positive or negative on their business. Customers are the ultimate judge of any new service of feature in the market and at some point, as more look to adopt Akamai’s Fast Purge solution, we’ll find out if 5 seconds is fast enough or not.

If you are a customer of Akamai or any other CDN, I’d be interested to hear from you in the comments section on how fast you need purging to take place.