In Blog Articles, Media and Entertainment

People in media, sports, and entertainment get awfully excited about the idea of live-streaming with their own branded mobile app. After all, if you’re in the business of creating and distributing content, it shouldn’t be that hard to grab hold of those streams and let ‘er rip, right? Not so fast.

Here’s the problem: You’re not in the business of building and scaling mobile apps. Neither is your IT department—they have plenty of other issues to address.

What usually happens: mobile app mishmash

Many live-streaming mobile apps are simply cobbled together with in-house content, along with streams from various live stream, media on demand, live replay and highlights vendors. The problem is, these solutions generally don’t perform to the organization’s standards—or the audience’s expectations.

  • 1. Scalability capabilities and cost
  • The scalability issues come down to capabilities and cost. The fundamental challenge is that scaling streaming content simply isn’t a core competency for most vendors—or for most media / sports / entertainment companies either. Most do not have the necessary expertise, architecture, resources and infrastructure stability. In many cases, they’ve never actually done it before. Launching a streaming mobile app isn’t the time to “try things out,” with fingers crossed that everything works as promised.
  • Plus, when you ask multiple vendors to scale for you, you pay multiple vendors to scale for you. Therefore, your costs spike exponentially. For example, let’s say your app home page features five different streams in a carousel. In this case, a simple “get home page” request translates to five different requests—one for each feed vendor. One million requests X five vendors X the cost per request = your budget goes out the window.
  • 2. Poor fault tolerance
  • In our cobbled-together scenario, whenever a vendor changes something in its code—such as the object structure or rules in a single replay stream—the app is likely to fail. This change actually requires a change in the app’s code, which means the developers will have to submit updates to the app marketplaces (the App Store, Google Play, etc.). Then, you either have to hope that people download the update or force them to update in order to continue using the app (a last resort which generally irritates users). There is no built-in failsafe to prevent small issues from becoming big ones.
  • 3. Too much client-side burden
  • When you develop a live-streaming app with multiple different data sources, there’s no standardization in the meta-data about the video. Each vendor does it differently. Handling all of this variation demands a lot of client-side logic. That’s okay when you’re dealing with a multi-core personal computer or digital TV, but mobile devices are not designed for heavy logic processing. Performance will suffer.
  • 4. No centralized manageability
  • When you’re wrangling multiple stream vendors, each vendor has its own approach to management. To edit which content appears within a home page carousel, for example, you might have to log into each different vendor’s management interface, make changes, and then make the related changes to your own content. In other words, one change can be multiplied by the number of vendors.
  • All of these manual steps are exceedingly painful, time-consuming and inefficient. Your team has to be trained on every different interface and management approach, and they must remember what to do each time. Plus, the more steps involved, the more opportunities there are for someone to make a mistake.

The solution? Get it all together.

For maximum results (and minimum pain), turn to an expert development team that has deep experience with live streaming. At Phunware, we’ve learned a lot from working with the world’s largest media and sports properties. Our unique approach eliminates the challenges of dealing with multiple vendor streams by integrating and regularly caching everything in the cloud. Essentially, the Phunware platform makes multiple disparate content sources play nice with each other and with mobile devices. It transforms all of the inputs into one consistent normalized format, available to the app from a single cloud-based source.

Phunware’s approach delivers:

  • 1. Affordable, proven scalability
  • Our platform was built specifically for scalability, with all the necessary infrastructure and resources. It has proven successful across worldwide streaming apps with millions of requests.
  • And because the Phunware cloud integration layer acts as a proxy user, our live streaming apps make significantly fewer requests to the different vendors, thereby dramatically reducing cost.
  • 2. Maximum fault tolerance
  • Live event delivery systems can and will fail from time to time. With Phunware’s integration layer in place, this failure does not have to break the app. In the case of failure, an automatic alert is sent to the appropriate people who can fix it. In the meantime, the app simply serves the most current functioning stream as a fallback. The user would never even know there was a problem. One of our most successful worldwide sporting event apps experienced 99.9 percent uptime, even with different live feeds failing roughly ten times per day.
  • 3. Minimum client-side burden.
  • Phunware’s cloud-based approach enables our apps to be much thinner in terms of logic by removing the need to maintain state and knowledge of upstream service layers. For example, in the event that a configuration or structure changes in a critical service, our cloud solutions allow that change to be absorbed by the middle tier and not introduce breaking changes to the client layer. In not so many words, the middle tier acts as a levee for the application from the many upstream services. When issues arise that would normally have resulted in a client-side failure and an app update, all of that can be handled at the service layer in a graceful manner that is invisible to the end user.
  • 4. Robust, user-friendly, centralized manageability
  • Again, thanks to Phunware’s integration layer, all of the different content feed can be managed with one workflow. Our team can also build customized management interfaces with a convenient dashboard, automated processes, and point-and-click simplicity.

Predictions indicate that video content will make up two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic by 2018. Now’s the time to develop a clear and comprehensive strategy for mobile live-streaming—so you won’t get left behind.

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