What’s worse than logging into Netflix and realizing you’ve already seen all the good stuff?
It’s finding something exciting to watch, pressing play—and getting hit by buffering.
55% of viewers log off if buffering or pixelation happens during playback, and who can blame them? It’s annoying, tiring, and can even spoil the viewing experience completely (yep, we’re talking about 5-second lapses between World Cup goals and cheering). That 5-second delay is latency, and it’s a crucial part of any live or pre-recording streaming event.
In today’s digital world, viewers have high expectations for video content. Just one buffering event decreases the amount of video watched by 39%, meaning your business could miss out on participants and engagement if you don’t prioritize low latency.
Let’s take a deeper look at what latency is, why it’s so important, how it affects your video viewers and marketing, and survey seven examples of low latency video streaming at its best.
What exactly is video latency?
Latency is the data transfer time of a single frame of video traveling from point A (the pixels captured by a camera) to point B (the screen or display). It seems counterintuitive, but low latency is good (less transfer time), and high latency (more transfer time) is not.
Although there’s no set value for latency, which can range from milliseconds to a few minutes, low latency is usually between 20 and 100 milliseconds (ms). Generally, video engineers agree that a delay of one frame in 30 frames-per-second (fps) video equals 33.3ms of latency. Factors like frame rate (the number of frames displayed per second), data storage capacity, and compression and decompression time contribute to latency.
The inverse is high latency, which is accepted as over 100ms of delay. High latency is typical if you choose the wrong video protocol (as we’ll explore below) or have a poor internet connection, among other reasons.
A great way to avoid high latency is to calculate the number of frames, lines, and pixels your video has, which will help you identify where you can reduce buffering. To start, you’ll need to set your goal for optimal latency. Here are the formulas:
[optimal latency] / [ms per frame] = number of frames
[number of lines per frame] x [number of frames] = number of lines
[number of pixels per line] x [number of lines] = number of pixels
Latency is critical when real-time or live streaming comes into play. If you’re running a webinar, e-learning training, or a live event online, delays are frustrating and might disrupt communication and interaction between participants.
What factors affect latency?
Several common factors determine latency and the quality of streaming video. These are:
Whether you’re using satellite, multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) networks, or public internet, the network connection is the viewer’s responsibility, not the host’s, as shown in the Netflix example below.
Data begins at the camera, then travels to video encoders (that compress or reformat the video) and decoders (that reverse the encoding for production) before arriving at your screen. The more steps the file needs to take, the higher the latency.
When you post or live-stream a video, the closest server to your location in a content distribution network (CDN) delivers the media file. Buffering happens if the CDN doesn’t support low latency technologies or cache the file.
A video protocol breaks up video files into small chunks to transport them to the end user, then reassembles them when they reach the destination. The most common video protocols are HTTPS live streaming (HLS) and real-time messaging protocol (RTMP). Different protocols have positive or negative effects on latency.
How do OTT platforms harness low latency?
Video makes up 82% of global internet traffic, and 98% of Americans subscribe to at least one streaming media service, otherwise known as OTT (Over-the-Top) platforms. OTT platforms give viewers easy access to video-on-demand (VOD) content if they pay for a subscription or other monetization model. OTT platforms replace traditional broadcasting like satellite and cable.
Recently, OTT platforms have been dipping their toe into live streaming with perks like pay-per-view, but achieving low latency is a significant hurdle. One of the main draws of OTT platforms is that customers can watch video content anywhere, at any time, on any device. Without guaranteeing low latency, OTT providers can’t offer a high-quality viewing experience that is worth the money.
What is ultra-low latency video streaming, and why is it important?
For any organization running a live stream, ultra-low latency is the ultimate goal. It’s as close as you’ll get to real-time, real-life streaming.
Ultra-low latency is a lapse of less than 20ms. While there will always be a slight delay (at least until technology advances further), the human eye doesn’t notice this minor lag.
Achieving ultra-low latency is tricky, but it’s doable if you use a computer network that can support the transfer of vast amounts of data. You may need to replace your network interface cards and switches or upgrade your internet connectivity to reach sub-second success—but it’s worth it.
As annoying as average-to-high latency is for viewers of webinars and other online events, it can also affect behind-the-scenes operations. A live show or broadcast relies on teams and workflows functioning like well-oiled machines to make sure live subtitling, censoring, and other activities are successful.
Online meetings, news broadcasting, and other streaming events benefit from ultra-low latency because they rely on real-time, two-way communication and interaction. That’s why WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is the best protocol to choose if you want to engage viewers in real-time through polls, a discussion, or a Q&A.
What are the benefits of ultra-low latency streaming?
Besides near real-time streaming, ultra-low latency offers OTT streamers several key benefits:
- Higher Engagement – Ultra-low latency allows your audience to interact, react, and engage with your live stream in real time, which mimics the dynamics of an in-person event.
- Customer Satisfaction – Modern consumers expect instant gratification and fast results, meaning they’re more likely to stay engaged with videos with no buffering or delays.
- Remote Experiences – If you deliver online experiences such as a house viewing or training session, ultra-low latency ensures that viewers stay connected with your session and participate at the right times.
When is low latency streaming crucial?
Sometimes, video lags are treated like an annoying by-product of streaming. But in other cases, even a short delay could kill the viewing experience or derail the event. For example, live auctions, news broadcasting, and esports rely on real-time interactions, and lapses could be the difference between winning or losing.
Low latency is crucial in everyday tasks such as video calls and interviews, as it’s impossible to maintain a natural conversation with abrupt pauses and interruptions. Suppose your marketing team is running an interactive streaming event, such as a live chat that relies on end-user participation. In that case, you need low latency to deliver the content smoothly and keep up the interactivity.
7 Cool Examples of Low Latency Video Streaming
Here are seven examples of low latency video streaming in action, showcasing the range of possibilities for OTT video streamers:
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Using smart, advanced cybersecurity training platforms is an excellent way to save time and money. These tools help in all the process stages, from planning to the actual training, using automation, data analysis, and real-time feedback.
2. Fitness Classes
Over 56% of people work out at home, and 17% subscribe to a virtual or on-demand fitness service. Exercising in your living room with the cookie jar within your grasp isn’t always motivational, which is why apps like Peloton remain popular. Effectively, you can have a personal trainer motivating you on a screening device for a fraction of the price it’d cost for an in-person session.
In addition to pre-recorded on-demand classes, many fitness apps offer live classes that you can join remotely. They add an extra level of encouragement and are accessible for people who can’t make it to a local fitness class. For these sessions to run smoothly and keep the hundreds, or even thousands, of participants across the globe moving at the same pace, the stream needs to have low latency to keep up with demand.
3. Live Interactive Trivia Game Shows
For many people, the best part about TV game shows is playing along at home, which is probably why everyone loves online entertainment. Any company can use an OTT platform like YouTube to reach a massive audience. In YouTube’s case, there are 2.1 billion viewers every month.
The streaming game show by Q12 Trivia aimed to revolutionize the world of entertainment by enabling players to participate in daily live shows to win real money, no matter where they were in the world. Of course, low latency is vital for the competitive players who all want a fair shot at the game— and even more so when there’s money involved.
4. Live Sports Content
For sports lovers, missing a game is the ultimate disappointment. As a solution, the National Football League launched its streaming subscription service, NFL+. It’s a direct-to-consumer OTT platform that gives fans access to live games and commentary audio on multiple devices.
Streaming games with ultra-low latency is crucial for viewer satisfaction, but it’s also tricky because there are usually multiple high-definition cameras. Since the video content is streaming from various sources, real-time data ingestion becomes difficult. However, it is possible with the right video encoder and decoder pair (as the Philadelphia Eagles proved
5. Shoppable Video & Live Commerce
Customers are 1.81 times more likely to purchase after watching a product demo video. Thanks to OTT platforms and social media, it’s easier than ever for marketing teams to create a digital shopping experience. Shoppable video and live commerce are opportunities to drive brand loyalty by authentically connecting with customers while selling your products.
This example from Wayfair adds interactivity to the experience by enabling shoppers to purchase by clicking links on the viewing screen. Viewers can ask questions during the live stream broadcast and absorb the product information, no matter what stage of the sales funnel they are at.
6. Video Gaming & Esports
Five hundred fifty-seven million viewers watched esports in 2021, which is a large audience to miss out on if your live stream is laggy and slow. Ultra-low latency streaming enables esports viewers to control their viewpoint and choose from multiple cameras rather than just watching the games through one lens that the broadcaster chooses. This setup adds a significant level of interactivity and more opportunity for monetization, but it wouldn’t work without ultra-low latency to keep the video streams in sync.
Seven million Twitch users go live monthly on the video game streaming platform. Many gamers play large virtual worlds games that run on any device. While playing these high-definition games with massive data consumption, they’re also streaming to broad audiences and interacting with viewers. Although that sounds like a recipe for buffering, low latency technology allows gamers and viewers to enjoy a streamlined experience.
7. VoD (Video on Demand)
The VoD streaming industry will be worth $1,690.35 billion by 2029. OTT platforms give users more choices than ever before because, along with accessing any type of content at any time, viewers can stream on mobile devices or large screens.
Platforms like Netflix might struggle to stream with low latency all the time because there are 223 million paid subscribers, and every single one will have different network performance quality and internet speed. To ensure viewers still enjoy the buffering-free low latency experience, you can select the Ultra HD streaming option in your Netflix account (if you have a 4K device and a minimum internet speed of 15 megabits per second). It’s a great solution to keep audiences happy since Netflix cannot take a blanket approach.
Capture Streaming Opportunities with Hour One
Latency is the time it takes for video data to travel from the source to your screen. It depends on your internet connection, the video protocol you use, and other factors, but one thing’s for sure—no one likes a lagging, buffering video. Achieving consistent low latency streaming is a crucial part of successful video marketing. As more companies turn to video to help train employees, present product demos, and create interactive customer experiences, low latency will help keep your audience present and engaged during remote interactions.
If you’re sold on the benefits of low latency streaming, the next step is making your first video content. You can get a helping hand with an AI video generator like Hour One and create videos to stream for a variety of use cases, from HR to real estate and more. Simply select a template, choose a virtual presenter, and add the text to create a video. Hour One is fast, affordable, and customizable, and it’s the best way to create video content at scale to stream across your OTT channels.
Try Hour One for free and make your first video today.
Latency is the time it takes for data to travel from the source to your screen. It depends on your internet connection, the video protocol you use, and other factors, but one thing’s for sure – no one likes a lagging, buffering video. Low latency helps you stream video content in real-time to engage and interact with your audience. This blog will take a deeper look at low latency and seven exciting examples of low latency streaming.