Cedexis says the internet is not made to handle video streaming events like March Madness

internet of things
The consumption of content from events like March Madness goes far beyond the internet’s capabilities.

Cedexis, a company that optimizes web-based performance across multiple data centers, delivery networks and clouds, is concerned that the 2017 March Madness college basketball event online could potentially break down. 

Simon Jones, evangelist and director of marketing communications for Cedexis, told FierceOnlineVideo that the consumption of content from events like March Madness goes far beyond the internet’s capabilities.

“What we’re thinking about here with the reality with March Madness is that fundamentally, the internet was not really designed to deliver video on a massive scale,” Jones said. “If you think about the Super Bowl where hundreds of millions of people watched it on TV and 4 or 5 million watched it online and something broke somewhere.”

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What has changed is that the digital stream is no longer a novelty but an important part of the business model for broadcasters and content delivery companies. This year's Super Bowl in February was the first time the digital advertising was online. Cedexis says they will see a similar trend during the March Madness season.

However, something broke during the Super Bowl that saw many users not being able to view the game. Comcast users, according to reports at that time, saw their service go out 40 minutes before the game began. Likewise, other viewers that were using the Fox Sports app lost their stream during the game’s fourth quarter.

“Fox did a great job and Akamai did a great job, yet there was this big break that ended with Fox sending a tweet to restart the stream,” Jones said. “It was completely not their fault, but what everyone needed was the ability to have traffic go around the place it was broken and that’s the big thing we’ll be seeing this year.”

Being prepared

With the growing presence of digital ads going into online video streams, Jones says video providers have to be prepared for any situation.

“They have to get away from just hoping for the best of the internet,” Jones said. “We’re seeing folks saying how can I avoid getting crushed when some segment of the internet gets broken that I can’t necessarily see, so we see them looking at real-time predictive traffic routing.”

Real-time predictive traffic shaping would have come in handy when Amazon Web Services (AWS) suffered an outage in February that left web users without access to popular websites like Netflix, Tinder, Airbnb, and Reddit. The outage also affected various Amazon services like Prime Instant Video.

AWS said the outage was due to software problems in its US-EAST-1 data center in Northern Virginia and had its greatest effect on U.S. customers. One way to deal with situations like this is to use real-time predictive traffic shaping and routing, two technologies that Cedexis says will have a major impact both on viewer satisfaction and on publisher costs.

“When Amazon’s S-3 site went down, you could have said grab the thing from S-3 East and go to this location and if it’s not there go somewhere else,” Jones said. “You would completely route around the problems that inevitably would happen on the internet.”

If a content provider can choose between the different providers of CDN or cloud, they can reduce the cost to deliver with a standard level of quality.

“It starts from that baseline position of when someone starts watching a show, you are insulated against something going down over something you don’t have control over,” Jones said.

Using real-time analytics

While those running March Madness programming have put in place a comprehensive set of analytics, Cedexis says that they should look for ways to apply the analytics in real time.

“When you have great analytics, you can have a fantastic postmortem, but if you’re having a postmortem it means that the patient’s already dead,” Jones said.

However, the reality is that the only time consumers see the effect of poor internet performance is during a major video event.

“People only notice how bad the internet architecture is for delivering video at scale when some big live event happens,” Jones said. “It puts all of the stress that can be possibly put onto the network all at the same time.”

Unlike a Netflix stream or an on-demand video application, content providers and broadcasters that are delivering live events don’t have the luxury of putting content into buffering mode.  

“You can’t do the clever things that Netflix does and drop the bit rate and then buffer a little bit more,” Jones said. “When it’s live you can’t because you’re completely at the whim of the internet.”  

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