How to strike a balance between reliability and interactivity in enterprise video experiences

How to strike a balance between reliability and interactivity in enterprise video experiences

There’s no perfect solution for enterprise video. The smartest enterprises will adjust their process – and their expectations – to deliver reliable and interactive video experiences.

James Broberg is the Founder and CEO of StreamShark, an end-to-end Live and on-demand video streaming platform for enterprises. Prior to StreamShark, James was a research fellow in content delivery networks and grid computing at the University of Melbourne.

Dr. James Broberg, Founder and CEO of StreamShark

What’s more important for enterprise video streaming: reliability or interactivity? 

The easy answer is both. Achieving both, however, is not so easy.

We’ve all seen examples of the PR disaster and social media storm created by a buffering webinar or a bad translation on a closed caption. A great viewer experience starts with actually receiving the message that the enterprise wants to communicate.

But reliability isn’t enough. In a hyper-connected world, viewers are demanding interactivity and low latency. If one viewer hears news 60 seconds after another, there’s a good chance the announcement has already been spoiled by a tweet or text message. We’re accustomed to not just watching videos, but being able to react, chat, and vote on polls in real-time.

88% of enterprise professionals [1] expect their company’s video content output to increase in 2022. Enterprise comms and A/V teams are struggling to balance reliability and interactivity amidst soaring demand for their services. Striking the right balance is the key to delivering a meaningful viewer experience with every Live event, webinar, and announcement.

I don’t know the exact recipe for a perfectly reliable and highly interactive viewer experience. No one in the industry does – yet. As we all search for a solution, we can take small steps to continuously improve: evaluating our priorities, trying out new solutions, and collaborating with our peers to develop new ways of thinking.

We’ve reached a transition point in the reliability/interactivity discussion.

The enterprise video industry has tried its share of solutions. Adobe Flash paved the way a couple decades back. It provided a highly interactive experience, but one that lacked reliability, scale and security. HLS and DASH video brought a more reliable, scalable foundation. In turn, we sacrificed our latency and interactivity.

We’re now searching for ultra low latency video (ULL) – one that delivers a sub-three second streaming experience. But with that, we’re once again facing the reliability roadblock. Very few enterprises have the in-house resources and expertise to deliver ULL reliably at scale.

The balancing act between reliability and interactivity isn’t new; the conversation is just intensifying. Growing demand and enhanced viewer expectations for high quality video experiences are putting the spotlight on enterprise comms and A/V teams. In a remote and hybrid workplace with less face-to-face interaction, Live and on-demand video content is increasingly important for keeping workforces connected.

Enterprise viewers expect crystal clear video without lag. Can you blame them? At home, they’re able to fire up Netflix or Hulu on a 4K TV in seconds. They expect a similar experience with their enterprise video, without knowing the complexity and people power required for a Live stream event.

There’s no silver bullet for enterprise video streaming.

In the face of this complexity, it makes sense to prioritize. 

I’ll choose reliability over interactivity, you might say. Great – but it’s not so simple. Consistently reliable, real-time global content delivery requires deep expertise and many dependencies, especially when running a Live event at scale. 

For a large event, you’ll need the right setup: tooling and hardware, network conditions, etc. Once your event begins, all the pieces of your workflow need to adapt to changing conditions. The margin for error is already so thin, even before you incorporate interactivity.

Industry experts are working to establish more robust and efficient video streaming standards. Competitors and colleagues are collaborating for the greater good, which is exactly what we need. Everyone wants to get to the point where we’re reliably delivering low latency video at scale, over the public internet.

How to strike a balance between reliability and interactivity.

That silver bullet hasn’t arrived. While we wait, we can take some steps to improve the user experience: 

Evaluate your priorities.

Neither reliability nor interactivity are particularly “easy” to achieve. But nearly everyone has limited resources and tight budgets. Apply your resources in the most efficient way to deliver the event that your viewers will most enjoy.

Ask yourself, what’s more important: a high-quality video with major production value, or a low latency stream that allows for deeper interactivity? The answer depends on your event and your enterprise.

A global bank might prefer production value for their quarterly All-Hands updates. However, for their Annual General Meeting (AGM) with shareholders, they might opt to hold a low-latency stream to allow for more interactivity (such as faster, responsive voting). Again, it’s about what your enterprise needs.

Your “Live” content doesn’t have to actually be Live.

Not every part of your Live event has to be recorded live. Shhh…don’t tell your viewers.

Live events – especially ones with high production value – offer very little margin for error. Make it easier on your comms and A/V teams by incorporating pre-recorded content that can be prepared ahead of time. Pre-recorded content is already pre-processed and pre-encoded into a video on demand (VOD). Because it’s coming from the cloud, the VOD can be scheduled to play “as Live” for viewers. 

In addition to increasing reliability, the pre-recorded strategy allows for greater interactivity. Talent can interact with the audience and chat in real-time when they’re not on-camera. When pre-recorded content is mixed in, talent will be armed with questions, insights, and ideas from the online audience when the feed returns to Live. They can then respond to the audience, driving engagement and connection.

Ask yourself: How can we build on a foundation of reliability?

I leave you with a closing thought, and a bit of a homework assignment. Here’s my challenge to you, the enterprise video professional: force yourself to question your workflows and solutions, and evaluate how to make them more reliable.

Reliability should form the foundation of your live streaming and enterprise video strategy. Look at each handoff and dependency in your workflow, and ask how you can make it more reliable. And don’t go about it alone! Tap into the available network of tools, platforms, and experts that can help you achieve your goals. Once you’ve built your foundation of reliability, the next challenge is to iterate on top of that to increase interactivity. 

The entire industry benefits when someone finds an innovative solution. We’re all trying to strike the same balance between reliability and interactivity. The least we can do is work together.

References

[1] Siglin, T. (2022, March 26). “The State of Enterprise Video 2022”. StreamingMedia.com
https://www.streamingmedia.com/Articles/Editorial/Featured-Articles/The-State-of-Enterprise-Video-2022-152087.aspx

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