Welcome to the Edge: How to Unlock HD Live-Streaming

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Live-streaming is one of the fastest growing services in the multimedia industry. In 2016, the global market was worth more than USD $30BN and it’s projected to increase at an impressive compound annual growth rate of more than 18 percent and be worth $70BN by 2021.

The rise of live-streaming has been particularly prevalent in China, where half of the country’s 700 million Internet users have now tried live-streaming apps. And this fervor shows no signs of stopping: the country’s live-streaming market is expected to be worth just less than $14BN by 2019, up from $3BN in 2016.

This growth is down to the fact that people are watching more videos than ever before, across a range of devices. Live-streaming is outpacing the growth of other types of online video because it creates active user engagement. The style suits viewers’ always-on lifestyles as they flow from one stream of content to another, switching between devices and platforms.

The real-time nature of live-streaming helps audiences connect with what they are watching because they know it is up-to-date and, most importantly, it gives them the opportunity to engage with a broadcaster or brand in multiple ways at the same time.

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For example, Alibaba Group recently launched Taobao Live to complement its Taobao shopping app. Viewers can watch live broadcasts of sellers describing their merchandise in a convergence of e-commerce and entertainment.

This evolution encourages a range of industries to integrate the format into their day-to-day business models and services. For example, educators are using live-streaming to reach students outside of the classroom and online retailers are integrating live-streaming product demos and reviews.

China and other Eastern markets have been swift to embrace and monetize live-streaming, and many other industries are now starting to realize the opportunities that live-streaming could bring to their content creation strategies.

But there are many challenges to overcome in order to fully capitalize on the live-streaming phenomenon and make it an available (and appealing) format to all.

First, you need to develop a clear live-streaming campaign strategy that understands who your target audience is and how they will watch your content. When this is in place, you need a robust platform to get you up and running as soon as possible.

Our ApsaraVideo Live platform can get your business live-streaming in under an hour.

Introducing ApsaraVideo Live

Alibaba Cloud’s ApsaraVideo Live platform is used across a wide range of industries. From e-commerce to entertainment and fashion to farming, many companies are realizing the wider benefits of this platform to live-stream everything, such as product demos or eight-hour fashion show marathons.

The cloud’s elastic infrastructure provides businesses with a means to deliver rich media content, at low cost and without depending on third-party providers. This means viewers ­ perhaps watching a broadcast to brighten up a tedious commute can avoid issues with latency and bandwidth that still hamper live-streaming activities as an increasing number of mobile users are left frustrated with buffering content.

Edge computing can resolve such issues by bringing your content as close to the user as possible. That’s why at Alibaba Cloud, we have invested in more than 1,000 video nodes around the world, including in Mainland China. We also use Alibaba Cloud CDN (Content Distribution Network) technologies to push live-streams to the nearest node and reduce latency.

All this technical innovation is brought together in our ApsaraVideo Live video and audio broadcasting platform. It uses industry-leading edge computing infrastructure to broadcast your business around the world in true real-time, meaning that broadcasters in California can be confident that viewers in Chongqing are getting the smoothest live-streaming experience possible. And, as a live-stream grows in popularity, the platform can be dynamically scaled to achieve a concurrency capacity of 10 million live-streams.

As viewers jump from device to device, such as when they get home and switch from a mobile phone to a laptop or tablet, our cloud synchronization technologies ensure that a video can be played on multiple terminals at the same time to provide a seamless viewing experience. We also use frame optimization technologies to minimize end-to-end streaming latency, further ensuring smooth video playback.

What’s more, our industry-leading narrowband HD transcoding technology saves substantial bandwidth costs for users, while maintaining quality.

In our opinion, such innovative cloud computing technologies will allow businesses to match the escalating worldwide demand for live-streaming content in the future.

Key benefits of ApsaraVideo Live include:

1. Feature-Rich Live-Streaming

Live-streaming audiences can be a fickle bunch. So, ApsaraVideo Live incorporates a range of features to boost viewer engagement during a broadcast.

For example, it integrates face recognition and visual optimization technologies, which can be customized and adjusted. The host and audience can also interact in real-time (through likes, comments and a microphone) and these interactions can be showcased to third-party audiences to further boost user engagement.

You can choose to play live audio and video streams independently, or switch between the two. Audio tracks can be mixed in, and the playback feature is also supported. This high level of interaction also helps to increase user engagement.

2. In-Depth Analysis

The Alibaba Cloud Management Console allows you to collect and query real-time downstream bandwidth, downstream traffic, online viewers, requests (either for the operator or region), and the quantity and status of your live-streams. It also provides traffic statistics and peak bandwidth statistics (down to the granularity of one day).

What’s more, you can store your live recordings in the Alibaba Cloud OSS (Object Storage Service), which is an encrypted and secure cloud storage service to store, back up and archive large amounts of data in the cloud.

This is an important point. ApsaraVideo Live is not a stand-alone system but part of Alibaba Cloud’s wider suite of cloud-based products and services. As a result, you do not just get access to one feature-rich live-streaming service on the Alibaba Cloud, but access to our comprehensive suite of global cloud computing services to help power and grow your business.

3. One Full Coverage Solution

Many live-streaming services rely on disparate technologies, so it can be difficult to manage your content, or to be confident that your audience can view the broadcast as it is intended, on the device of their choice.

ApsaraVideo Live is a robust, customizable end-to-end solution, providing a full range of technical solutions to stream, transcode, distribute, and play back your media content. ApsaraVideo Live has changed the status quo in video content, as it supports the recording of live video, transcoding in the cloud and storage all in real-time. It also supports on-demand playback and transition of live videos to on-demand video.

These all help to provide a seamless user experience through the Alibaba Cloud Management Console and the available APIs and SDKs. As a result, the player can be loaded within seconds.

Our SDKs ensure your content can be played across iOS and Android devices, the web and common third-party streaming software such as VLC. The ApsaraVideo Live platform also supports the LD, SD, HD, and UHD bit rate formats, and the adaptive aspect ratio of transcoded videos for both real-time transcoding and narrowband HD transcoding.

Coupled with our robust edge computing infrastructure, ApsaraVideo Live gives you the ability to stream in any way and to anyone.

All our ApsaraVideo Live services are billed by usage, and the service capacity is scalable. It’s easy to use and allows you to quickly establish a high-quality live video and audio platform, at low cost, that engages a wide range of people. If you’d like to find out more, click here to contact one of the Alibaba Cloud team today.

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