Apple’s Live Webcast Fails, Akamai’s HLS Stream Dies

Apple’s live webcast of the launch of their new iPad mini was a failure today after multiple users, including myself, had problems getting the stream to start or staying connected to the stream once it began. I tried the stream in the Safari browser at 1pm ET and got the spinning wheel with the player trying to load, but it took till 1:14pm for the stream to work. Once it did load, it worked for a few minutes before I lost all audio. When the audio came back, the video looked bad with lots of pixelation and twice the video re-wound and went back to a point in the stream it had already played. At 1:26pm, the stream died for me completely and I could not get it back.

Akamai was delivering the live stream for Apple and clearly had problems. While I hear from customers all the time that Akamai’s HLS delivery is often not reliable, I’ve now experienced it for myself. While I only tested it on Safari, other viewers I was live chatting with during the event also experienced problems on the iPhones and Apple TV. Looking at Akamai’s chart at 1:43pm ET that shows the number of real-time connections to their network for live and on-demand videos showed 943,000 concurrent live video streams, for all of their customers combined. And their 24-hour peak was 1.3M. So either Akamai was not counting Apple’s live stream numbers in their chart, or it shows just how few people were able to get the live stream as Apple’s webcast alone should be in the multiple millions of concurrent connections.

As an industry, we’ve been streaming live events since 1996. This technology has been around for 16 years now and there is no excuse whatsoever for a live webcast not to work. Yet this is the same technology that Akamai and others keep talking about that is supposed to rival broadcast TV in terms of quality and reach? I don’t think so.

  • Dig Med

    Dan, why do you think this is still so problematic?

  • In the browser streaming with no client to support the playback…this is where HLS falls down. It’s a hobbyist standard that’s been expanded FAR PAST it’s useful life.

    • jnoam

      I think you are incorrect here. If I understand the probelm correctly it had little to do with end user device and all to do with Akamai’s HLS ingest. Why do you think video streaming in the browser (its not exactly “client-less” since the browser is A CLIENT) cannot work?

  • Robert

    Wow,hard to believe these two power houses did such a poor job. We deliver HLS Webcasts everyday but we have built in to our CMS the ability to switch on the fly to an alternative delivery.

  • I really like products like Conviva in the mix for large live streaming events. Having empirical data that shows exactly who and how many users were having an issue is hugely valuable.

  • Rob

    RealNetworks really should have done the live stream, they are very good with mobile video and PC video. Did you know Verizon vCAST and Metro PCS video all come from RealNetworks?

  • What was the backup plan?

  • Hugo

    Couldn’t agree more!

  • Arno van Mosel

    HLS chunk delivery errors on Akamai’s side, nothing new here.
    It’s sad that a large CDN still has issues with post requests.
    I get at least four errors during a three hour show and it alsways starts to happen after an hour and a half in. I tried everything on the encoder side even using a different stack, but they all seem to run into this issue.

    • jnoam

      Do you think it is related to HLS push via HTTP post? we work with multiple CDNs and provide HLS streaming but usually feed the streams over RTMP and let the CDN segment the video and create the HTTP assets (*.TS files). Never used Akamai’s POST stream.