Embracing the Edge:
Redefining Content Delivery Standards

By: Jonathan Candee

In many markets, streaming media has overtaken traditional TV broadcasting in minutes consumed, with audiences embracing expanded choice and accessibility across various devices. However, one constant amidst this transition has been an unwavering desire for quality. Despite most streaming content being transmitted over the unpredictable terrain of the Internet — an unmanaged network fraught with potential issues — viewers still insist that online video perform with the flawless operation and visual clarity offered by broadcast television delivered via cable, satellite, and DTV providers.

In the ongoing evolution of streaming video quality, especially with the advent of UHD and 4K formats, network operators find themselves grappling with formidable challenges. The primary hurdle surrounds establishing scalable delivery architectures that eliminate buffering and ensure smooth, uninterrupted playback across an extensive range of connected smart devices and diverse home and mobile networks.

In this environment, where content is not merely consumed but highly valued, the onus falls heavily on content providers to invest in media delivery solutions that guarantee the best quality of experience (QoE) even during peaks in demand. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in live sports, where investment in sports rights for subscription OTT services is undergoing a staggering surge. According to a Nielsen Study, 80 percent of all sports fans, 76 percent of NFL fans, and 89 percent of soccer fans regularly or sometimes watched sports on a streaming or online service during 2022.

Addressing the Issue of Internet Traffic

As the demand for additional content increases, coupled with the widespread adoption of 4K and other more immersive viewing experiences, resolving a problematic internet connection is becoming increasingly unpredictable and challenging for streaming platforms.

The primary concern stems from the end-to-end delivery of content over the Internet, which has historically relied on the uncoordinated efforts of various entities to ensure quality of service. This journey involves the broadcaster or origin, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), peering and exchange sites, and ultimately the last mile through internet service provider (ISP) networks to viewers. The last-mile segment is particularly susceptible to issues, as ISPs must plan for excess network capacity to handle unpredictable "peak of peak" demand. With a growing preference for watching sports content through over-the-top (OTT) services, the inevitable surge in traffic during a big game — especially an end-of-season championship — routinely results in new peak live streaming audiences and traffic records.

Use Case: Sports

Barring unusual atmospheric conditions, satellite-driven sports coverage remains consistently reliable. However, when encountering a "bad day" on the Internet, streaming services may face disruptions, resulting in a subpar QoE for viewers. Instances such as the recent Cricket World Cup final in India underscore the need for ISPs to optimise their networks to cope with the network strain, unpredictability, and inevitable internet traffic spikes during the game. According to Disney/Hotstar, this year’s final on November 19 reached a “concurrent viewers” peak of 59 million on the Disney+ Hotstar platform.

As an OTT rights holder, there’s a real risk of paying billions of dollars to acquire or maintain content rights only to see consumer churn increase because of poor streaming QoE. Fans don’t care who’s at fault. They just want a broadcast-quality experience. It’s such a significant issue — potentially affecting so many viewers — that in some European countries the regulators are now involved.

In response, most streamers are turning to the use of multiple CDNs, which, by some estimates, are involved in delivering 80 percent of all streaming video content over the internet. A multi-CDN strategy provides alternatives when delivery issues occur. Within the CDN category, the fastest growing service — and most promising development — is Open Edge Caching, which offers a flexible architecture better suited to address the traffic surge and latency challenges posed by high-profile live sporting events.

Deeply embedded in service provider networks, Open Caching edge nodes are placed closer to end-users than ever before, avoiding congestion encountered by traditional CDNs when passing content through peering and exchange points and the service provider core. Understandably, quality improves when the stream originates closer to the end user, bypassing network congestion.

Use Case: Gaming

The use of edge technology to improve the streaming experience is also extending beyond video. For the cloud-based gaming community, the quality of the experience is more than just graphics and game play. Gaming performance, including frame rate and


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