Why Is Live Video So Hard?

By Ed Laczynski on August 17, 2016

There’s a reason why we as humans all still congregate around the TV for the big game or obsessively check our devices when breaking news hits. The need to be part of something that is happening, exactly when it is happening, is a natural part of the human experience.

For that reason, we believe live streaming is the future of human communication.

Zype is in the business of building cloud video distribution software for businesses that want to communicate to their audiences. While live streaming looks easy for big sports leagues like Major League Baseball and broadcast networks like NBC, it is a Byzantine mess today for anyone without the largest wallet. And sure, you can sign on to Periscope and stream your breakfast, or call your sweetheart on FaceTime, but for most serious content owners, that isn’t going to be a viable strategy to drive revenue and reach.

Despite the complexity, there is so much opportunity today and in the future to connect directly to audiences with live streaming.

So for everyone else that is running mission critical video businesses, there are hurdles that must be cleared before live streaming becomes a seamless experience for content creators that have a direct relationship with their audience, including control of how and when they make money from that live stream.

Live stream fails

There’s a long list of failed live stream events. Take these notable live stream failures for instance: the 2016 Grammys, Kanye’s live performance on Tidal, the unveiling of the iPhone 6, March Madness, and other notable events.

AMV Digital Media, the company behind both the failed Tidal livestream and the 2016 Grammys, pointed fingers elsewhere than the technology itself. Eric Duke , the President of AMV Digital Media said :

"With Tidal, the decision to go forward was not made until very late on the process, and it did not allow for proper testing of the signal path. Basically, the more advanced notice that a client can give, the more testing and preparation can be put into place for a client to assure a better stream."


Time for testing is indeed very important — but you also need a platform that can centralize the tools and dynamically handle all these issues during delivery.

Today's live streaming supply chain for content owners

I have seen through firsthand experience that distributing a quality live stream introduces a large amount of complexity vs. “regular old video on demand.”

Below, I’ve outlined just a few of the considerations that require too much forethought, expertise, custom development and integration today.

Production Systems and Camera Integration

Every live stream starts with a camera. Plug it into your video production system of choice — whether TriCaster, Wirecast, or any other encoder you might think of using. Should the equipment be faulty, no one will even get the chance to complain that your live stream cut out, because it never started in the first place.


Live streams need to be delivered by a reliable CDN that offers multiple quality settings. If your CDN is not able to deliver up to 1080p/60fps quality video, you can run into lag, buffering, or entire loss of stream.


This is where a lot of headaches emerge. If you don’t have multi-bitrate adaptive streams, your users will see major loss of quality and artifacting if you can’t handle delivering different streams based on their internet connection. If you don’t have loads of bandwidth available and a local transcoder, you have to cobble together cloud transcoding solutions and integrate them yourself.

Consumer Experience

You need a platform that manages bitrates and renditions. The player does continuous speed checks and will pull back the best quality chunk. Internet connection processes the quality instantaneous frame changes. Without that, viewers will experience buffering, distortions and latency (issues with video resolution).


Putting all of these technical issues aside — you need to be able to make money from your stream. That means all of this custom development and integration of a video distribution pipeline into commodity video players, plus dealing with e-commerce bits, PCI compliance, subscription and rental management all the way through to the consumer experience.


It's tricky but worth it

All of these potential hurdles beg the question: Is live streaming worth it? Well, yes. Despite the complexity, there is so much opportunity today and in the future to connect directly to audiences with live streaming. The bandwidth available to consumers is essentially unlimited, the tools are emerging in the cloud to solve these hurdles, and there is an amazing array of consumer streaming devices — from mobile phones to set-top streaming boxes like Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Apple TV. Smart content creators and owners are building their live streaming strategies now to prepare for these opportunities.

Why do you think live streaming is hard (or easy)?

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