Rising Live Sports Streaming Drives Supply Chain Innovations At 2023 NAB Show

Drives for energy and cost efficiencies underlie some of the streaming supply chain innovations on show at NAB 2023, balanced against demand for more immersive experiences and guaranteed QoS. The rise in live sports streaming is accentuating demand for better protection against new forms of piracy such as CDN leeching, and also for prioritization of these more time critical applications that call for low latency and sustained high bit rate.

NAB 2023 will provide the best opportunity since the pandemic to assess the state of play across the streaming and media supply chain, and accelerating migration of premium live sports to IP based infrastructure will be one of the key themes. The rising amount of live streaming is demanding more automation of distribution so that content can reach users via the plethora of device types now populating the global video ecosystem.

The juxtaposition of high priority live content with less critical VoD on the same networks is calling for improved traffic control. This also involves automation, incorporating machine learning techniques that enable dynamic real time adaptation to changing traffic patterns, with prioritization of data associated with premium live content.

There is also demand for greater flexibility and agility at the service level so that content providers and broadcasters can turn on new channels readily and then support them remotely, as was noted by John Wastcoat, SVP, Marketing and Alliances at Zixi, which will be showing its Software Defined Video Platform (SDVP) at NAB 2023.

“Cloud-based software platforms allow customers to quickly and inexpensively deploy new offerings as the explosion in FAST (Free Ad Supported TV) channels has shown,” said Wastcoat. “They want to be able to monitor complex systems remotely, and in a reactive instead of proactive manner with fast, low-cost root cause analysis.”

This plays into the general theme of economy in resources of all kinds, especially costs and also energy driven by the mantra of net zero. Arguments have raged for several years over whether streaming based on unicast distribution consumes more energy per hour of video content than the other media distribution mechanisms, such as satellite, cable and digital terrestrial, with conclusions so dependent on assumptions such as viewing device type. Yet, whatever the case, there is a pressing need for energy savings to contain costs as well as emissions in the face of proliferating streaming content consumption, and that will be apparent at NAB 2023.

Another big theme for streaming at NAB 2023 will be low latency, required to ensure timely playout of live content, especially for sports. The latency budget is not as tight as for interactive video conferencing, but must still be brought into line with linear transmission over satellite, cable or digital terrestrial. There has been convergence around SRT (Secure Reliable Transport) as the protocol of choice for live and linear video streaming, as witnessed at NAB 2023.

Content security for revenue protection is the other notable theme, which has reared its head at every NAB and always seems to deliver a new twist. Streaming has been the major focus of video piracy for some years now and currently CDN leeching is one of the major mechanisms of content theft. This allows pirates to offer illegitimate “services” by tapping into authorized content distributed over CDNs. This requires technological precision to block effectively without impacting legitimate users, as several vendors will be demonstrating at NAB 2023.

Zixi (Booth W3301) is highlighting how integration of its Software Defined Video Platform (SDVP) with the AWS Wavelength Zone will allow its customers to adopt low latency MEC (Mobile Edge Compute) architecture for streaming video over 5G networks. Under Wavelength, AWS computation is incorporated in 5G infrastructure to enable streaming distribution within a given operator’s network. This can reduce latency and also improve resource utilization, with up to 200% throughput increase to 1 Gbps per core, according to John Wastcoat, SVP, Marketing and Alliances at Zixi.

Wastcoat went on to indicate how AWS Elemental’s channels, which ingest source content from connected inputs, transcode it, and distribute the result among outputs, dovetails with Zixi’s orchestration system called Master Control plane. “The orchestration and monitoring of AWS Elemental MediaConnect and MediaLive channels utilizing the ZEN Master control plane will be demonstrated live in both the Zixi and AWS booths at the show,” said Wastcoat.

This led to what Wastcoat considered Zixi’s differentiator, the complete SDVP platform on top of the control plane comprising a media server, video processing, orchestration and robust telemetry monitoring. “We simplify building and managing congestion-aware live video routes on any network, with support for 17 protocols across any operating environment,” said Wastcoat.

Appear (Booth W2512) is hoping to lure media organizations on to its booth by offering free consultations over their cloud strategies, as a lead in to show its X Platform being launched at the show. Housed in a 1 RU chassis, X Platform is an SRT gateway capable of handling over 192 SRT connections with 18 Gbps throughput, saving space and power consumption at a much lower cost base, according to Matthew Williams-Neale, VP Marketing, Appear.

SRT competence and performance is therefore Appear’s primary USP (Unique Selling Point). “Our main NAB Show announcement is our hardware-accelerated video transport technology over SRT,” said Williams-Neale. “Visitors to our booth will be able to find out about the tremendous cost savings our new SRT-based solution brings to media companies globally, enabling them to align video transport costs with content value.”

The key point is density, Williams-Neale added. “We realized that although the SRT protocol was ready for primetime, media and entertainment companies didn’t have access to the professional and robust solutions with the density needed to make Internet delivery cost-effective. Part of this is down to the speed of SRT’s evolution - in six years it’s moved from code on a GitHub repository to being the preeminent choice for Internet-based video delivery.” 

Verimatrix (Booth W2421) will use the NAB Show to highlight its Streamkeeper as an all-round content protection package straddling the whole supply chain and incorporating the key ingredients of revenue protection. It combines Verimatrix’ Multi-DRM, Watermarking, App Shield, Edge Authenticator, and also Counterspy as an anti-piracy security agent. The latter adds digital countermeasures with no integration required.

The company emphasized Streamkeeper’s ability to prevent parasitic piracy, which has become a significant threat through unlicensed access to an operator’s CDN. Also called CDN Leeching, this has become a major source of content theft as pirates effectively hijack the CDN infrastructure for delivery of content to their own “clients”.

CDN Leeching has yet another name, vampire streaming, where pirates invoke various security deficiencies allow unauthenticated access to content. These include failure by CDNs to check IDs of users requesting content.

While offered as a full security bundle, Streamkeeper’s components can also be purchased separately by customers, which may already have one of the components, such as watermarking or DRM, from another vendor.


The 2023 NAB Show will provide a range of products and technologies serving the streaming video supply chain, addressing mobile delivery, low latency, security and energy efficiency. In these contexts, there is an increasing emphasis on the role of edge compute for optimizing both live and on demand viewing over the internet. There are some vendors on this front not exhibiting this time that may well be back next year, one being MainStreaming which is already managing many Edge delivery networks for streaming operations.

One unifying theme at NAB 2023 and beyond is a demand from media customers to do more with less. There are cost pressures associated with global themes such as a cost-of-living crisis, as well as demands for more sustainable lower energy delivery, and yet consumers want ever more immersive experiences. Delegates at NAB 2023 will be on the look out to see how well vendors are squaring this circle.

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