What the Indian Premier League teaches us about streaming infrastructure

Why the IPL opening weekend is a lesson in infrastructure resiliency

The opening weekend of this year’s Indian Premier League, which kicked off on March 31st, was in many ways a success story. Impressive viewership results saw the Viacom18 owned streaming service and official digital streaming partner of the Indian Premier League, JioCinema, experience 1.47 billion video views and a simultaneous stream count of 16 million across its IPL live stream.

The event marked the “highest ever opening weekend for the tournament on digital” and time spent per match on JioCinema’s IPL live stream increased by more than 60% compared to last season’s event, according to a statement made by Viacom18.

But herein lies the issue.

Amidst the record breaking concurrent viewership stats, the JioCinema app crashed during the opening match of the season between the Chennai Super Kings and the Gujarat Titans. And some viewers headed to social media complaining to JioCinema of glitches, buffering, and quality issues during the IPL live stream.

“The app is failing miserably”, comments one disappointed viewer.

“Buffering buffering buffering”, laments another.

Words that would make any streaming platform concerned, to put it mildly.

Sports streaming is very much on the rise, and it’s projected that the sector will continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 24.64% between 2022 and 2023. But the cost of poor quality of service in this sector can be devastating. Over-the-top (OTT) sports streaming platforms need to be able to scale with their viewership reliably, cope with fluctuating concurrent viewership loads, and support rising simultaneous stream counts.

And key to that is infrastructure resilience: a reliable network, global content delivery network (CDN), and tolerance to unpredictability.

What the Indian Premier League teaches us about streaming infrastructure

Reliable network

A reliable network is imperative for OTT streaming platforms and companies need to prioritize infrastructure solutions that offer high-capacity, high-quality bandwidth. Dedicated servers offer some clear advantages in this department. Since server resources are dedicated to a single application, there’s no sharing of resources with other tenants. This enables faster application speeds, reduces risk of downtime, and makes dedicated servers ideal for resource-intensive workloads.

Streaming is one of many industries choosing to use bare metal in their infrastructure mix. Dedicated servers allow streaming platforms to scale with their users, whilst ensuring low latency, low round-trip times (RTT), fast loading speeds, minimal packet loss, and ample redundancy.

Global CDN

CDNs are geographically distributed groups of servers. Content is distributed from an origin server and cached close to end-users at the network edge. A global CDN is critical when broadcasting live streams with a high simultaneous stream count like sporting events. Distributing content to CDN servers close to end users, enables assets to be transferred quickly, improving website performance, load times, and helping to prevent service interruptions.

Thanks to the reduced distance between server resources and end-users, CDNs reduce latency. Instead of connecting to the origin server, end-users connect to the data center that is geographically closest to them. A well optimized CDN will also improve network redundancy through load balancing (which distributes traffic across multiple servers) and intelligence failover (which, in the case of a hardware malfunction, redistributes traffic to other operational servers).

Tolerance to unpredictability

Dealing with highly unpredictable concurrent viewership and simultaneous stream count is the great nemesis of streaming platforms (and sports streaming platforms in particular). In the pursuit of fault tolerance, streaming platforms are left weighing up the scalability of the cloud against the reliability of bare metal. But in many cases, the best route to resiliency is not to choose. Or, rather, to choose the hybrid route - using a base layer of bare metal (for its stability and resiliency) with an additional layer of cloud (to follow the usage curve and accommodate unpredictable spikes in demand).

A lesson learned…thanks to cricket

What happened to JioCinema during IPL live stream this year isn’t unique. Problems with downtime, lag, and video quality often arise during popular sporting events and stories like this rear their head regularly.

Even the biggest streaming events (think Super Bowl, NBA, or NFL proportions) struggle to cope with spikes in concurrent viewership.

But there are ways to avoid downtime disappointing viewers; by optimizing a platform’s underlying infrastructure for better performance and increased tolerance to unpredictability.

To ensure that the first viewer has the same experience as the millionth.

Learn more about our infrastructure solutions for streaming on our industry page.


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