VOD2LIVE: Why repurposing VOD content for Live Streaming is such a powerful concept

VOD2LIVE: Why repurposing VOD content for Live Streaming is such a powerful concept

Man watching VOD2Live on device

VOD2Live: Why repurposing VOD content for live streaming is such a powerful concept

In the world of streaming, there are two obvious choices for delivering content to users: stream it live there and then, or provide the ability to watch on demand at the user’s leisure – more commonly we refer to these as ‘Live’ and ‘VOD’ streaming. Often, both approaches are used in parallel, for example look at the following platforms; YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, BBC iPlayer, ITVhub. All of these provide both live streaming and on-demand viewing and will typically have a mechanism in place to transition the Live stream into an on-demand stream – this can be referred to as a LIVE2VOD process.

So… what if we were to flip that concept around and consider “VOD2LIVE”, what would that mean? Why would we do this? And how would we even achieve such a thing? These are the questions that we are going to answer below.

Why VOD2Live is appealing

Firstly, the VOD2LIVE concept is the idea of taking existing VOD content and playing them out in sequence, as if it were one continuous live stream. This effectively means reusing the VOD content which, because it is likely polished content, will typically result in a higher quality live stream. Additionally, this can be a mechanism to achieve server side ad-insertion within a live stream. Again, looking at the social media examples above, VOD2LIVE functionality is already a feature for both YouTube and Facebook, and the value of quality content there is clearly high.

However, for existing streaming solutions, the appeal of VOD2LIVE may not be so obvious. After all, the content itself is already encoded and available, so why go through the effort of transforming this content into a livestream? Below are a few good reasons:

  • Live content gets more reactions and more comments.
    • Brands using LinkedIN Live have reportedly seen 7X more reactions and 24X more comments vs. standard video posts on LinkedIn”. [source].
  • Live content holds viewer attention 10-20x longer than VOD content.
  • Live content is preferred over other social media posts. 
    • An article by Victor Yanev from Techjury states that “80% of consumers prefer to watch live videos from a brand than read a blog”. [source].
  • Live stream viewership made up just over a third of all internet users in March/April 2020.

 

Not convinced? There are plenty more statistics out there that might change your mind, but if you are already sold, then you are probably wondering how to achieve this.

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How to implement a VOD2Live solution

With a good understanding of the basic idea, and why VOD2LIVE would be implemented, the real question is how do you achieve it? In general, a typical live streaming solution will look like this:

VOD2Live Live Workflow

A VOD2LIVE solution can be applied at all of the points in this chain prior to the client itself, and each point of entry comes with it’s own advantages and disadvantages. As we will explain next, there is a good case for any of these options, but what matters most is tailoring the solution to your (or the client’s) needs.

2. At the Encoder:

VOD2LIVE Encoder Manipulation

Our first option is to apply the playlist to the encoder itself. There are often ways to manually upload content to an encoder but what you really want is a more “on the fly” approach such as Media Excel Clipcast functionality. If your encoder vendor provides such a thing, you can simply provide a playlist to your encoder and have it stream out the specified files.

 

Advantages:

  • Specifications for VOD content do not need to match.
  • Updatable mid-flight without client interruption.
  • Supports mixing live feed and VOD content.
  • Supports frame accuracy.
  • Supports on-the-fly insertions of SCTE-35 markers.
  • Supports DRM as in traditional live setups.
  • Existing integrations and “extras” will remain supported as this is equivalent to a traditional live stream setup.

 

Disadvantages:

  • Typically more expensive.
  • Typically slower to startup.
  • Does not support SCTE-35 markers from existing content.
  • Does not support SCTE-35 markers ahead of time.
  • Does not make use of existing cache for VOD assets.
  • Ad-replacement requires a second step, same as in traditional live setups.



2. At the Origin

 

The next option is to provide a playlist to the origin itself. Akin to the encoder option, there is a requirement on your origin software to support this sort of functionality. Unified Streaming is one such example, who have recently added support for this in their VOD2LIVE solution.

Advantages:

  • Reduced infrastructure cost without the encoder.
  • Typically faster start-up time.
  • Supports DRM.
  • Supports SCTE-35 markers from existing content.
  • Supports SCTE-35 markers added on generation.

Disadvantages:

  • Specifications of content need to match closely.
  • Cannot mix live feed and VOD content. VOD only.
  • Does not support updating mid-flight without interrupting the client.
  • Does not support SCTE-35 on-the-fly insertion.
  • Does not make use of existing cache for VOD assets.
  • Ad-replacement requires a second step.

 

3. At the Manifest

The final part in the chain where we can achieve VOD2LIVE is at the manifest level, which again cuts out further infrastructure as you won’t need origin or any additional caching. The approach here is typically to present the fragments from multiple sources as a single live manifest. There are two examples that spring to mind, firstly an open source solution provided by Eyevinn and the recent Channel Assembly feature release from AWS MediaTailor.

Advantages:

  • Reduced infrastructure cost without both encoder and an origin.
  • Typically faster start-up time.
  • Supports (in some cases) mixing live feed and VOD content.
  • Supports updating mid-flight without interrupting the client.
  • Supports ad-replacement in the same step.
  • Supports DRM.
  • Can make use of existing cache for VOD assets.

Disadvantages:

  • Specifications of content need to match closely.
  • Does not support on-the-fly SCTE-35 insertion.
  • Does not support all stream protocols.
  • High availability can be supported but is not natural to the solution.

How to choose the right VOD2Live solution

As is evident above, there are multiple ways to achieve VOD2LIVE and, if not already, each solution type will have multiple choices within it in regards to the vendor. The important take-away here is that each of them is worthy of consideration and it all depends on your exact use case.

In general though, if you are looking for a flexible yet familiar approach, an encoder setup might be the best way to introduce this concept. It does likely come with some cost and limitations, but for familiarity and the ability to easily update the streaming content any time, this is a very solid option.

Alternatively, if you are looking for something more lightweight perhaps have a simpler use case of just creating linear channels for viewing, then an origin based solution may be more appealing. This approach may not be as familiar as the encoder one, but it is a very powerful one, and support in this area is likely to grow.

Finally, as a very low cost way of implementing VOD2LIVE, manifest manipulation is highly appealing. It’s still feature rich and will likely let you do everything you need to. It may need more technical experience from your team to get up and running initially, but it is surely worth it.

Of course, every solution is different and will have its own unique constraints, with any setup it is recommended to consult with a solution provider and carefully plan your approach – VOD2LIVE is no different.

VUALTO are experts in the field of VOD2LIVE, currently working with a range of content owners to identify which solution is most suited to their use case, and in turn maximising their end user experience, and revenue streams. Each vendor will have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it is vital to choose a solutions provider that is well versed in providing a bespoke solution to fulfill those requirements. Contact VUALTO to discuss your video success.