Synchronization vs. Latency - Which Matters More in Enterprise and Sports Streaming?

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What are some of the most effective ways to strike a realistic balance between ultra-low latency and synchronization? Tim Siglin, Founding Executive Director, Help Me Stream Research Foundation, and Contributing Editor, Streaming Media, discusses this topic with Chris Packard, Manager, Live Programming & Streaming, LinkedIn, and Oliver Lietz, CEO, nanocosmos, from this session at Streaming Media Connect 2024.

“How important is synchronization versus latency?” Siglin asks. He tells Packard, “I know you mentioned the onboarding of somebody in the audience at an all-hands meeting, and I know that's sort of the holy grail of where you're going. Is there a balance, though, [where] we say we don't necessarily need ultra-low latencies as long as we have synchronization? Or do we have to have as low latency as possible, and everybody synchronized receiving the content at the same time?”

Packard says that LinkedIn is in an unusual position with these requirements because it is possibly the only company in the world of its size that has an all-hands meeting every two weeks because its CEO values communication. “So if somebody goes in the mic, say in Omaha, Nebraska or in London, he can just choose the feed coming right in.” He says that LinkedIn uses ultra-low latency for signal acquisition in-program, but the end user experiences a latency of around 30 seconds, but he wonders, “What if there's a world in which both the presenters that are in our offices as well as just on their computers at home can raise their hand anytime and come onto more of the virtual stage, maybe outside the production control room, but in-program feed? That's what's really exciting because it merges both of our worlds instead of just the stream being the output of the control room environment. So I think that's where we're getting to. I think we've been thought leaders in this space for some time."

Packard also mentions the potential of incorporating elements from Meta into their meetings, such as the photorealistic avatars that Facebook is developing. “Facebook had the ultra-photorealist avatars that just blew my mind,” he says. “If we could have some kind of virtual representation of our CEO that can be accessed and everyone else has their avatar, maybe that's where we're heading.” However, he says, what still matters most is equal access to in-person interactivity remains essential. “I think that the in-person interactivity is still going to be paramount, but we also have to be very cognizant of folks that are in different locations and not have some kind of location bias and make sure everybody's on equal footing to contribute and be heard.”

Lietz differentiates between broadcast experiences, which require synchronization but not interactivity, and interactive experiences, which require real-time engagement. “Coming back to the question about synchronization, for all cases, we see it's very important to keep the latency on the same level for everybody,” he says. “That means if you have a low latency, like a sub-second stream for everybody, you don't need to worry so much about sync because everybody is in the low latency space anyway. It's more like you need to turn the quality down as far as possible, keep the livestream running.” With more traditional live broadcast-type experiences, such as live sports, he says, “Everybody wants to enjoy a game or something in an event, maybe in a lean-back experience sitting on a couch on a 4K monitor. And no matter if they are on a TV screen, a computer screen, or on mobile, they want to have the same experience, but there's no interaction.” However, with more interactivity in live events, he says, “When it comes to betting or interacting with the presenters, like purchasing something, then you need to come to the real-time space to be in the interactive experience.”

See videos of the full program from Streaming Media Connect February 2024 here.

We'll be back in person for Streaming Media NYC May 20-22, 2024. More details here.

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