Watch Together and multiview are the future of video streaming

The media industry has seen accelerated changes in consumer behaviour over the past year. As a result, service providers are seeking new solutions to offer more socially engaging experiences to the masses and take advantage of new markets that are opening up.

To gain ground in the streaming space, grow audience reach and increase subscriber satisfaction, service providers need offer advancements such as watch together and multiview. By empowering a greater connection among viewers, service providers can enhance the video streaming experience.

The basics of Watch Together and multiview

During the COVID-19 global health crisis, when people couldn’t meet up physically, watch together helped them stay connected. Now available on a limited number of streaming services, watch together allows viewers to watch videos with friends and family, with the ability to see one another’s reactions to content and comment in real-time, from anywhere in the world.

Multiview is another innovation that is being used to enhance the streaming experience. Multiview or multicamera live streaming offers user multiple camera angles of a scene, allowing them to choose which one they want to watch.

Key applications and benefits

The most compelling application for watch together and multiview is live streaming content, including premium sports events and live TV shows. Live content has the potential to generate significant viewership, and offering watch together and multiview services will drive further excitement.

Adding watch together and multiview to a live streaming service will increase viewers’ personal and social engagement. With multiview, in particular, service providers can create a more immersive, realistic live streaming experience for viewers, boosting engagement for existing customers, attracting new subscribers and increasing revenue generation.

Deployment challenges and strategies

When delivering watch together or multiview services, streaming and synchronization must be seamless. Otherwise viewers will feel disconnected.

For Watch Together, in particular, latency is a challenge. There is no mechanism in basic HTTP streaming to synchronise two different clients. There needs to be a way to align all the clients in the watch party within a few seconds. There are a couple of strategies service providers can consider when implementing watch together services. They can synchronise all of the watch party clients by controlling each client playback, or leverage CMAF low latency, which has a built-in synchronisation method for client synchronisation.

The biggest challenge for delivering multiview is to ensure that all views are synchronised, with seamless transitions. Streaming live multi-camera views also requires substantial bandwidth and computational power. The deployment of 5G networks globally is expected help to make multi-camera live streaming more mainstream.

Multiview deployment options include:

  • Composing the client screen in the cloud and delivering it as one single stream to minimize the workload on the client and maximize the reach.
  • Making a mosaic of all the views transmitted as a UHD stream to the client that will extract the selected view.
  • Streaming each view individually via the client to ensure a seamless switch when transitioning to another view and reduce equipment on the headend side.

One of Hong Kong’s premier telecommunications service providers successfully streamed the finale of a popular reality TV show with multiple camera angles utilising the third multiview option described above. Having a cloud-based streaming platform was key to ensuring low latency and high reliability for viewers during the live event.

Cloud-based platforms are a must for nextgen live streaming

Cloud-based live streaming platforms will play an important role in facilitating watch together and multiview live streaming services.

With a cloud solution service providers can address scalability, latency and quality issues, which are common challenges for watch together and multiview, ensuring an outstanding quality of experience for live streaming.

Supporting CMAF low latency for both DASH and HLS, the cloud solution must provide sub-second latency for clients, enabling viewers to easily communicate with their friends during a watch together party. Supporting CMAF low latency for both DASH and HLS from the server level removes the burden from multi-client synchronization at the application level.

The cloud solution should also offer flexibility to support various multiview implementations, including composing the client screen in the cloud and delivering it as one single stream, making a mosaic of all the views and streaming each view individually by the client. In addition, a cloud solution should enable tight synchronization between clients during live watch together parties and multiview events.

The future of live streaming is immersive

Competition is heating up in the streaming market. Today, it is more important than ever for service providers to showcase the unique attributes of their video streaming offering. By embracing watch together and multiview live streaming, service providers can keep subscribers engaged, reduce churn and drive monetization. Having a cloud-based video streaming platform is essential for deploying these new services quickly, while ensuring high scalability and exceptional quality.

Thierry Fautier, is vice president of video strategy at Harmonic

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