How Real-Time Streaming Turns Any Event In-Game (Part 1)

Real-time streaming is a difficult technical challenge. It’s one thing to deliver video of an event with a slight delay. But eliminating that lag, or at least making it imperceptible, is a whole other challenge. Delayed streaming is one of the reasons why live sports betting includes live betting suspensions. Sportsbooks have to recalculate odds as scores change and umpires make controversial calls.

But real-time streaming can do more than improve live sports betting options. In an interview with The game todayPhenix Chief Product Officer, Bill Wishon, explains how Phenix’s real-time streaming services enable companies to turn TV events into games for viewers.

Why real-time streaming is so difficult

“Honestly, there’s not much difference…when you make that jump from 30 to 40 [seconds], at 5 to 10,” Wishon said. “What’s really the challenge is getting from that five-second benchmark…to under half a second.”

The technology is available to make real-time streaming a reality. Phenix has built its real-time video streaming service with the same technology that many companies use to stream regular video. But instead of trying to improve on existing technology, Phenix created a real-time streaming product from scratch.

“We chose the same protocol, but we built the system to serve a different purpose,” Wishon said.

How real-time streaming translates to increased revenue

Horse racing is a popular application for real-time video streaming. Punters can bet on horse races until the horses leave the gate. However, a 30 second video delay on most video streams prevents bettors from placing bets between the time the jockey and horse trots out the gate and the start of the race.

“There are a lot of people who want to see horse activity, behavior and demeanor before they place a bet,” Wishon said.

With Phenix’s real-time streaming, some racetracks may allow these bets. During the Cheltenham Festival, real-time streaming increased by 61% and online management by 31% year-on-year. Allowing last-minute punters to place their bets has captured a substantial amount of revenue. Seemingly small differences in the latency of a stream make a big difference.

Real-time streaming outside of sports betting

Real-time streaming has also opened up new opportunities for all sorts of businesses outside of gaming. Wishon offered two cases that piqued his interest: Fan Controlled Football and the Oscars companion app.

Football controlled by fans

Fan Controlled Football is a new league where players choose the team’s attacking plays. It is therefore important to minimize the delays between the reactions and decisions of the viewers. Real-time streaming allows fans to see what’s happening in real time wherever they are and make timely decisions. But there’s more to real-time streaming than efficient timing.

“I think it’s an instantiation of an experience that allows the audience to interact with people on the other side of the camera, so to speak,” Wishon said. “I think there are other opportunities for that as well, whether it’s sports or game shows or gaming type experiences where you want audience participation. [or] public comments.

Having a sport where fans vote on games invests players in each game. This keeps viewers focused on the screen and the game. These benefits are not limited to sports. Price discounts can reap similar benefits.

Make Oscar commercials fun

Normally, during Oscars commercials, celebrities fetch drinks and viewers are given the opportunity for bathroom breaks. (Unless they taped the event ahead of time.) But the Oscars found a way to keep viewers’ attention even during commercials.

Phenix powered real-time streaming on the Oscars companion app. During commercials, the Oscars companion app offered live streams of behind-the-scenes footage from the Oscars. Viewers could also answer poll questions, like which actors would win specific prizes.

“People would go from the main screen that they were watching…to the second screen and watch the behind-the-scenes footage and stay engaged…during that commercial segment, because they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Wishon said.

For TV shows, engaged viewers translate into advertising dollars. Companies that advertise during commercial breaks get their products seen and convert some of the newly engaged customers. Higher conversation rates mean happier advertisers and potentially allow the network to charge higher prices for advertising at upcoming Oscars.

Indeed, real-time video streaming can engage viewers with a second-screen experience while keeping them present during commercials.

Everything can be gamified

Real-time video, audio and data can be used to make any live event more engaging. It can allow viewers to interact with the events they are watching in real time. It can also give viewers new content to watch between commercials. But the interactive parts, like polls, votes or bets, come from the way companies exploit real-time streaming.

But eliminating latency is only one element of interactivity. It’s one thing for a popular Twitch streamer to stream a game that’s 30 seconds behind. But having a real-time video feed with a poll overlaid on top gives viewers something to do and an interest in what happens next. For a Twitch streamer, this can be the difference between a viewer buying a subscription or leaving the stream.

The possibilities for adding the extra stimulation that smartphones and tablets do are endless. And many of these possibilities will rely on synchronous video streaming.

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