Qwilt survey highlights CDN performance concerns for live events

By NewscastStudio

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As streaming-only live events become increasingly common, platforms like Peacock are setting new records. Peacock recently reported 16.3 million concurrent devices during an exclusively streamed NFL playoff game in January, marking Comcast’s largest night on the Internet. In light of this shift, a new survey by Qwilt reveals the challenges and strategies content publishers are considering for mass live streamed events.

Qwilt’s 2024 Live Streaming Survey, which included 259 content publishers primarily from North America and Europe, highlights ongoing and emerging themes in live event delivery.

The survey underscores the importance of Content Delivery Network (CDN) performance and capacity, with 29% of respondents identifying CDN performance as their greatest technical challenge. As most North American viewers (up to 70%) use fixed broadband networks, publishers are also adapting to a significant proportion of mobile device users, with 52% expecting between 30% and 50% of their audience to stream via mobile devices.

The survey also indicates a rise in average bit rate expectations. In 2024, 46% of respondents anticipate bit rates to be in the 4-6 Mbps range, a notable increase from the 30% in the 2022 survey. This rise in bit rate translates to substantial CDN capacity requirements. For instance, with an average bit rate of 5 Mbps, streaming to 16.3 million viewers would necessitate over 80 terabits per second (Tbps) of CDN capacity at peak times.

To manage these demands, the survey highlights the strategy of reserving CDN capacity ahead of major events. A majority, 68% of respondents, reported reserving between 50% and 90% of the necessary delivery capacity before events. Additionally, securing an extra 20-40% of capacity beyond the expected peak is a common practice to ensure smooth delivery.

The survey also reveals a shift in CDN usage trends. In 2024, only 35% of respondents expect to use five or more CDNs, a decrease from 57% in 2022. This suggests a consolidation in CDN strategy, potentially reflecting improved performance and reliability of fewer, more robust CDNs.

Load balancing factors have also evolved, with GEO and reserved capacity being the top considerations, followed by Quality of Experience (QoE) metrics. Interestingly, the expected maximum encoding for mobile networks has decreased to 1-2 Mbps in 2024 from 2-3 Mbps in 2022, possibly influenced by economic factors.

In terms of defining overall event success, the survey identifies Average Minute Audience (AMA) and Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) as consistent key metrics. These insights reflect the ongoing refinement of strategies and technologies to meet the growing demand for high-quality, reliable live streaming experiences.

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