People often consider video-streaming behemoths Netflix and Hulu to be entertainment corporations, but they’re also global IT giants. There are complex user interfaces, and advanced data operations every show you binge watch, or a video game you live stream.
Let’s dive into the increasingly competitive video-streaming landscape, examining how new services from big tech companies like Apple and media conglomerates like AT&T, Comcast, and Disney are transforming the content industry.
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The Evolution of Streaming Services
When the internet was first designed all those years ago, the thought of streaming high definition movies, music and video games across the world was inconceivable, so it shouldn’t be hard to believe that the internet wasn’t designed for streaming.
The biggest tech companies in the entertainment industry have spent a lot of time and money to make digital streaming a reality.
“Just in the last five to 10 years, we’ve gotten into this world with significantly better connectivity between devices, both mobile and in the living room, where you are able to deliver much higher streams to the consumers,” – Rafael Soltanovich, Hulu’s VP of Software Development
In order to deliver high-definition video seamlessly and without interruption, streaming services utilize what are known as Content Delivery Networks. CDNs Provide streaming services data centres and servers enabling them to cache and broadcast content locally to end-users.
Netflix spent many years establishing Open Connect, its internationally distributed CDN, so it wouldn’t have to depend on third-party CDNs like CenturyLink, Akamai, or Limelight. Although big firms such as Facebook, Microsoft Apple, and Google have their own CDNs, Netflix is the first independent streaming provider to build up its own CDN.
To put it simply, CDNs are enabling streaming services to do what no platform on the internet has never been able to do before; transfer several petabytes of data across the internet every month, so that users can enjoy limitless options of entertainment content.
Amazon uses its worldwide cloud architecture, machine learning, and real-time data processing to constantly adapt its watching experience; this allows Amazon to retain quality while taking as little bandwidth as possible. In 2015, Amazon was the first video service to offer HDR streaming.
“Streaming top-quality video over the internet is complex. The closer you get to deploying your infrastructure to customers, the better your availability and performance and quality are going to be.” – Girish Bajaj, VP of Software Engineering for Amazon Prime Video
The Next Generation of Live Content
Live entertainment has always been very popular, especially in the music and sports industries, in the age of streaming, live events complicate the digital streaming experience, as well as increase the risk of catasrophe. When streaming massive events, it can cost streaming platforms a lot of money to prepare for the inflow of so many users at once. So, for example, if a streaming service wanted to broadcast the Super Bowl live across the internet, they know that millions of people across America will want to tune in at the same time to watch. Streaming services need to make sure they have the server power to support that many concurrent viewers.
“The moment you have more people, you have more cost. The way live events work on the internet is that companies pay an RSVP fee to third-party CDNs, guessing how many concurrent viewers they expect to get to the live stream. Once you estimate the total terabits of capacity, you reserve that with CDNs and pay for it even if you don’t use it.” – Dan Rayburn, Chairman NAB Streaming Summit.
The Rise of Chaos Engineering
Streaming services must work proactively to be prepared for every scenario. As the number of concurrent streams grows, the IT teams in charge of keeping these systems functioning smoothly adopted a strategy they refer to as ‘choas engineering’.
Netflix used the phrase to describe purposefully conducting “chaos tests” in order to identify minor issues before they grew into major issues that may ruin the user experience; this is similar to what is done in cybersecurity; push a system past its limits and look for flaws.
Netflix has developed Chaos Monkey, a tool that simulates small-scale disasters for engineers to then solve. Chaos Monkey is intended not just to identify mistakes, it allows engineers to determine which areas of the platform are the most essential and including protocols to make them more robust.
Hulu, too, employs chaos engineering, although in the context of their live TV offering. While there really is no way to know exactly how the exact number of people that will watch games like the Super Bowl or March Madness, streaming services stay ahead of the curve thanks to chaos engineering.
The New Mainstream
Digital streaming has very quickly eclipsed traditional forms of entertainment in nearly every industry. Today, Spotify and Apple music dominate the music space, leaving artists and record labels no choice but to put their content on these platforms.
In the video sharing space, Youtube has always reigned supreme, and it still does; as the biggest platform where just about anyone can start uploading videos and even livestream to garner an audience of their own.
Speaking of Livestreaming, Amazon’s Twitch platform started out as a livestreaming platform for video game content, but has since branched out to become an entertainment giant in its own right.
Now, Amazon, Google and Microsoft are starting to compete in the very new space of video game streaming. Gaming has been one of the last industries to embrace an all-digital future, but it’s finally happening, with these 3 giants of the industry competing in the cloud gaming space, with platforms such as Google Stadia, X-cloud and Amazon’s Luna.
The podcasting space is another giant in its own right, with platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify and several others in the space offering millions of hours of podcast content, and making it easy for just about anyone to start their own podcast.
With such high demand for digital streaming, it makes perfect sense why these major corporations in the industry are putting such focus into wireless technologies. The age of The Internet Of Things has only just begun and companies from all areas will continue to invest more and more into wireless technologies as time goes on, what happens next? We’ll just have to wait and see.