Amazon sets livestreaming sports latency goal of ‘significantly less than 5 seconds’

LAS VEGAS—Amazon Prime Video’s platform delivers lots of live sports—including high-profile events like NFL and Premier League—so latency is a key issue for the company.

BA Winston, global head of digital video, playback and delivery at Amazon Prime Video, said Monday during the Streaming Summit at the NAB Show that the amount of latency (or delay) that should be allowable in livestreaming depends on the sport, the country and whether the content is exclusive. Amazon’s live sports operations include NFL Thursday Night Football, AVP volleyball, Premier League soccer in the U.K. as well as access to subscription services like NBA League Pass and MLB.TV.

He said that spoilers are always good to avoid when talking about live sports and big delays can cause those. But he said that it’s difficult to achieve low latency for live sports at scale.

“As an industry we need to come together to drive down latency,” said Winston. “It’s a balance between quality and reliability.”

Amazon has a goal to get latency down to significantly less than five seconds.

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Companies like Akamai are currently working on reducing latency in livestreams by using technologies like Common Media Application Format (CMAF). Jon Alexander, senior director of product management at Akamai Technologies, said that about three to four years ago, the default was about 30 to 45 seconds for end-to-end latency whether using HLS or DASH. Akamai said its low-latency product, which launched about two years ago, offers 10 to 12 seconds of latency and is now the company’s standard. CMAF could be one tool used to help drive latency levels even lower.

Winston said at Amazon they are addressing things like latency and reliability by looking holistically at the video delivery workflow end to end. Amazon has worked to increase visibility through metrics and analytics, has built a livestreaming operations center that is specifically focused on live sports and has put lots of redundancy into its workflow.

Winston said all that redundancy is about protecting the quality of experience, and it’s about having quick failovers to make sure there’s little to no disruption for the consumer.