Video is the most popular and engaging type of content. According to experts, streaming will account for 82% of all internet traffic in 2022.
Online broadcasting is used for solving business problems in many areas. Nowadays, livestreaming is being used in areas that no one could imagine before—e.g., as a sales tool in online stores.
Low latency plays a huge role in high-quality online streaming. After all, users want to watch videos in real time and feel like participants of an online event, not just spectators.
Today, we will explain what Low Latency Streaming is and how it helps solve problems in different business areas.
Latency: Causes and ways to reduce it
Latency is the time difference between what happens in the real world and when it appears on the viewer’s screen. All video broadcasts are subject to latency.
This is because streaming is a complex process that consists of several stages:
- Filming and primary encoding of broadcast. The video is captured by a professional camera, computer webcam, or phone and sent for processing. The latency at this stage is 1–5 seconds.
- Transcoding. Video segments are merged and processed into the required formats and codecs that user devices can read and play. The latency at this stage is 2–10 seconds.
- Packing and encryption. The stream is being prepared for distribution to end users. The latency is 2–10 seconds.
- Internet distribution. The video is broadcast to users via a CDN (Content Delivery Network). The stream must be sent to the cache servers, and from there, it reaches the nearest users. The latency is 1–5 seconds.
- Playback. The player displays the broadcast on the user’s screen. As a rule, the player needs to load a certain number of segments into the buffer to start the playback. The latency is 10–40 seconds.
It turns out that stages 2–5 take 30 to 60 seconds. Which is very long.
Various technologies are used to reduce this time. For instance, on our Streaming Platform, all stages of broadcasting are optimized. As a result, we managed to reduce latency to just 1–5 seconds.
This parameter meets the definition of Low Latency Streaming—streaming with a latency of no more than 5 seconds.
You can read about the technologies that helped us achieve this result in our article “What advanced streaming platforms should be able to do in 2021”.
Projects that can’t do without Low Latency Streaming
Low latency has become an all-around trend in online broadcasting. It is particularly important in these areas:
- Gaming and esports
- Auctions, lotteries, and gambling
- Media and entertainment
- Interpersonal communication
And this is by no means a complete list.
Low latency is the key requirement for broadcast quality. After all, if a video severely lags, you can lose a large part of your audience.
Imagine a webinar with an active discussion. The viewer asks a question but has to wait 30 seconds for an answer. Meanwhile, the speaker may move on to another topic, thinking there are no more questions.
Or imagine an intense match where the audience finds out about the decisive goal 50 seconds after it was scored—later than those who watched the broadcast on other platforms. The experience will be ruined, and next time, users will go to your competitors to watch football.
Even 10 seconds these days is a huge latency. That’s why more and more companies are looking for the right IT solutions to meet their streaming speed needs.
The acceptable latency level varies from task to task. Let’s see how Low Latency Streaming is applied in different areas and study some specific examples.
Most sports events are now broadcast online along with traditional delivery methods, such as via satellite, cable, or terrestrial broadcasting.
This is convenient for viewers: they don’t have to watch the match or competition on TV, as the broadcast is available on any device, including smartphones.
If you are broadcasting major sports events over the Internet, it is crucial that your stream keeps up with traditional broadcast channels. Otherwise, your users will notice it very quickly and leave to watch the broadcast on TV, where they will feel closer to real events.
The same is true for local sports events. It is imperative to make the broadcast as close to real time as possible, especially now during the pandemic and lockdown when most fans are not at the stadiums.
Before the introduction of Low Latency Streaming, the issue of latency during internet streaming was very significant. OTT streaming’s latency was 30–40 seconds longer than that of cable and satellite TV.
The problem felt especially bothersome during major events, such as the UEFA Champions League, FIFA World Cup, or UEFA European Football Championship, when fans loudly celebrated important goals and shared their joy on social networks. Those who watched the broadcast over the Internet learned about the goal before it could even reach their screens. Naturally, their experience was ruined.
But latency is not the only issue here. Major sporting events are usually watched by millions of viewers around the world. The network must be ready for high loads to cope with such a surge of traffic.
Low Latency Streaming, together with a reliable CDN, solves both problems. Thanks to modern technologies, the latency can be at least equal to TV broadcasting, and sometimes, the stream can be delivered even faster.
A recent example of successful sporting event streaming is the UEFA Champions League 2020, with smooth streaming provided by Gcore.
The broadcast was shown simultaneously on TV and the web portal. Both streams were broadcast at the same speed with minimal latency.
Moreover, we coped with peak loads perfectly. Even during the Bayern Munich vs. PSG final match, everything ran smoothly and without buffering. Gcore came on top, and the viewers were pleased.
Online retailers are now actively using streams as an additional sales channel. A new format has been introduced, live commerce, which allows you to purchase items during a broadcast with the participation of influencers, celebrities, or experts.
This format is gaining popularity as users increasingly make purchase decisions based on emotions. Video works very well in terms of audience engagement, creating a favorable atmosphere for shopping.
You can broadcast almost anything related to your store and goods:
- Product reviews
- Unboxing and unpacking
- Try on hauls
- Influencer or expert advice
- Product presentations
- Tutorials—e.g., how to use an item, make a purchase, arrange delivery, etc.
We discussed this format in detail in the article “How to boost online sales with streaming in 2021”.
The most common problem online retailers face when they want to launch live commerce is a latency of 30 seconds or more. Another big challenge is integrating the streaming platform with their service.
Minimal latency in this area is vital. Viewers should be able to ask an influencer or an expert a question. Interactivity works incredibly better for engagement than just video. However, with a 30-second pause between a question and an answer, both users and speakers are left feeling frustrated.
It is equally important that the video is delivered not only without latency but also in good quality. After all, you will be demonstrating goods, which means you want your audience to see them well.
Finally, streams on your website are much preferred to those on third-party services or social media. This means that the solution should easily integrate with your web application and not eat up your IT team’s time.
The most striking example of successful live commerce is probably Taobao Live. In 2020, the service generated $2.5 billion in revenue during the Bachelor’s Day sale.
Today, you have a choice of turnkey solutions for live commerce. There are special services that already have all the necessary features: purchase during the broadcast, comments, likes, etc.
The financial sector is not the most obvious type of business where online streaming can work. However, banks and investment companies have long been using livestreaming to interact with their audience.
The most common application is through webinars and online conferences. These can be online events for regular clients aimed at increasing their financial literacy or conferences for entrepreneurs and investors with the participation of experts.
One of the latest trends is the use of video calls to communicate with customers and answer their questions. According to a recent survey, about 30% of customers are happy to use this method of communication with their bank. And this number is higher among the younger generation.
In any case, video is a pretty effective channel for interacting with customers and attracting new users. And if you’re not using it yet, you’re already losing to your competition.
Here again, low latency is a must. If you’re hosting an interactive event or video call and allow your audience to ask questions, it is crucial they get the answers right away. A latency of 30–40 seconds will annoy both parties and kill user engagement.
Free external platforms like YouTube or Twitch will not work here. They cannot provide the required speed. In addition, you would have to divert users to third-party resources where they could see your competitors’ ads.
As with e-commerce, it’s important to keep viewers on your website in the financial sector. This means you need a solution that can be quickly integrated.
This is an area that is not new to streaming. Distance learning gained popularity during the pandemic when not only separate educational platforms but also public schools and universities had to use it.
Online learning proved to be more convenient than traditional models:
- Students don’t need to get to class. They can simply connect to the resource from home.
- No geographical restrictions. Students and teachers can be located in different cities or even countries. Students from different regions can study in one group.
- More learning opportunities. Along with the broadcast, you can show a presentation or, for example, run tests in real time and discuss the results.
Low Latency Streaming is highly relevant in learning since it is necessary to ensure real-time communication between students and teachers. Ideally, the latency should not exceed 1 second.
Various third-party services can be used to teach lessons, such as Zoom. They were a good starting point when there was a need to quickly switch from face-to-face to distance learning. But in the long run, this is not the best solution, and here’s why:
- They have certain restrictions, such as the participant number or call time.
- If something goes wrong or your students have connection issues, you won’t be able to promptly get in touch with Tech Support and fix the problem.
- Users will not be on your resource and may see third-party ads—maybe even those of your competitors!
Therefore, high-quality streaming requires a platform that can provide real-time interaction and be quickly integrated with your resource.
Streaming is successfully used in education. There are many educational platforms, such as LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Skillshare. Students go there to watch pre-recorded courses and livestreams of classes. Some platforms, like Coursera, even partner with universities and offer their curricula entirely online.
5. Gaming and esports
Game streaming is probably one of the most popular areas of online broadcasting. The main trends as of late focus on real-time on-screen demonstrations and feedback from the audience.
Live chat streams are where gaming communities get together and communicate.
Twitch is currently one of the leading game streaming platforms. It allows almost any gamer to stream and host large events with a large audience.
However, the platform has plenty of internal rules and restrictions that are not always easy to comply with. And in case of accidental violations, your stream and account can be blocked.
For interactive broadcasts, even a 4-second latency can be decisive. And wouldn’t it also be nice if the IT solution provided the option of content monetization through advertising and sponsorship?
The esports and game streaming market is enormous and brings big bucks to big players. For example, in 2020, the Chinese platform Bilibili purchased the exclusive broadcast rights to the League of Legends Championship, Mid-Season Invitational, and League of Legends All-Star for three consecutive years and a total of $113 million. It was the biggest deal in the industry and helped make the Chinese video game streaming market bigger than Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming.
6. Auctions and gambling
The use of Low Latency Streaming in this area has been recently growing. Livestreaming of gambling has already gained popularity comparable to standard game streaming. Experienced players organize streams from online and offline casinos, bet real money, and win.
Such broadcasts attract a large audience and help both streamers and casinos make money.
Auctions are also moving online. Instead of coming to an auction in person, participants can connect online. It is more convenient and can help attract an even bigger audience.
Along with minimal latency, auctions also require high video quality, as the participants need to see the lots.
Lastly, it is critical that the stream is stable and delivered to all regions at the same speed. If one of the stream participants is disconnected or experiences longer latency, they will not be able to raise the bet for the desired item in time. The disappointment will make them go to competitors with a more stable stream.
Auctions are 100% interactive. Gambling can be broadcast both in standard and interactive formats. The latter option helps you engage your audience more efficiently. It turns players into full-fledged participants of the game rather than simple spectators.
Shared viewing is perfect for both types of events. This is an innovative form of streaming where viewers connect with a camera and a microphone to watch a broadcast and can join groups to discuss what is happening in real time.
This form of broadcasting unites participants and immerses them in action.
Talking about successful streams in this area, we can use Property Auctions as an example. In 2020, during the U.K. lockdown, they managed to quickly switch to an online format.
Property Auctions raised more than £75 million during that period and received the status of the most successful online auction in the U.K. Unsurprisingly, they decided to keep the online format permanently.
Turnkey Low Latency Streaming for various businesses
We talked about different areas where Low Latency Streaming is successfully used and helps solve problems.
But for livestreams to really work, they have to meet certain requirements. These requirements vary from project to project. However, some general criteria apply to any business:
- Low latency—up to 4 seconds, and in some cases no more than 1 second.
- Stream stability and availability in different parts of the world.
- High quality—ideally 4K or even 8K.
- Quick and easy integration with your resource.
Gcore Streaming Platform meets all these criteria. It is a turnkey IT solution for online streaming. We cover all stages of broadcasting—from video capture to playback in the player. Although, if necessary, we can implement separate blocks into your project.
We provide a latency of up to 4 seconds—or 1 second depending on your project requirements—while maintaining a quality of 4K and 8K. We deliver videos faster than most modern channels.
One of our main advantages is integration without coding. We will implement streaming on your web resource with full customization and player branding in 1 to 2 days without involving your IT team.
More facts about our Streaming Platform:
- We deliver the stream anywhere in the world at the same speed since our platform is integrated with a global CDN.
- We broadcast streams to 1,000,000+ users without crashes and buffering.
- We use transcoding and adaptive bitrate technologies to make your stream available on any device with any internet connection.
- We protect your content from illegal viewing and copying.
- We provide convenient tools for monetization.
You can test our platform for free and check the speed and reliability of our streams firsthand.
- Low Latency Streaming implies latency of no more than 4–5 seconds. Many areas of business use it to solve their problems. Low latency is becoming a trend in a number of industries.
- Streaming is a complex process that consists of several stages. To deliver the video to the viewer in less than 5 seconds, each stage needs to be optimized. To do this, you need to use modern technologies speeding up delivery.
- The highest streaming speed is a must in such industries as sports, education, gaming, e-commerce, gambling, auctions, etc. The acceptable latency depends on the specifics of the business.
- For example, for sports, it is important that the broadcast over the Internet doesn’t lag behind the TV, is available anywhere in the world, and can accommodate more than 1,000,000 viewers simultaneously.
- E-commerce and financial services use streaming as an additional sales channel and a means of attracting customers. It is critical to maintaining a dialogue between the expert and the viewer in real time without sacrificing video quality. In addition, the solution must be easily integrated into your web application so that you do not have to take customers to third-party platforms.
- Education is actively switching to distance learning. Reducing latency to a minimum for students to freely communicate with their teacher is especially important.
- Esports and gaming remain among the most popular areas where streaming is used. Nowadays, there is a trend toward real-time and interactive demonstration of events. Many are looking for an alternative to Twitch as it has too many restrictions.
- Low Latency Streaming is actively developing in the area of auctions and gambling. An innovative model, collaborative viewing, is just perfect for these areas.
- Gcore Streaming Platform has turnkey solutions for any business. We provide stable broadcasts with minimal latency to multimillion audiences.
Our platform will help bring any live broadcasting project to life. If you’d like some advice on choosing the right solution for you, take advantage of a free consultation.