Real-time streaming is a difficult technical challenge. It’s one thing to offer video of an event with a slight delay. But eliminating that delay, or at least making it imperceptible, is another challenge altogether. Delayed streaming is one of the reasons that live sports betting includes live bet suspensions. Sportsbooks have to recalculate odds as scores change and referees make controversial calls.
But real-time streaming can do much more than improve live sports betting options. In an interview with Gaming Today, Phenix Chief Product Officer, Bill Wishon, explains how Phenix’s real-time streaming services allow companies to turn TV events into games for viewers.
Why Real-Time Streaming Is So Difficult
“There’s honestly not much difference…when you take that leap from 30 to 40 [seconds], to 5 to 10,” Wishon said. “What really is the challenge is going from that five-second benchmark…down to sub-half-second.”
The technology is available to make real-time streaming a reality. Phenix 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 existing technology, Phenix built a real-time streaming product from the ground up.
“We chose the same protocol, but we built the system to serve a different purpose,” Wishon said.
How Real-Time Streaming Translates Into Increased Revenue
Horse racing is one popular application for real-time video streaming. Bettors can wager on horse races up until the horses leave the gate. However, a 30-second video delay on most video streams prevents bettors from placing wagers between the time the jockey and horse trot up to the gate and the race begins.
“There are a lot of people who want to see the horse’s activity, demeanor, and behavior before they place a wager,” Wishon said.
With real-time streaming from Phenix, some horse tracks could allow these wagers. During the Cheltenham Festival, real-time streaming increased year-over-year streaming by 61% and year-over-year online handle by 31%. Allowing last-minute bettors to place their wagers captured a substantial amount of revenue. Seemingly small differences in a stream’s lag time make a big difference.
Real-Time Streaming Outside Of Gambling
Real-time streaming has opened up new opportunities for all kinds of companies outside of sports betting, too. Wishon offered two cases that piqued his interest: Fan Controlled Football and the Oscars companion app.
Fan Controlled Football
Fan Controlled Football is a new league where players choose the team’s offensive plays. So, it’s important to minimize delays between viewers’ reactions and decisions. Real-time streaming allows the fans to see what’s happening in real-time wherever they are and make decisions in a timely manner. But real-time streaming is about more than efficient timing.
“I think it’s one instantiation of an experience that allows the audience to interact with the 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 gamified type experiences where you want audience participation [or] audience feedback.”
Having a sport where fans vote on plays invests players in each play. So, it keeps audience members focused on the screen and the game. These benefits aren’t limited to sports. Awards shows can reap similar benefits.
Making Oscars Commercials Fun
Normally during Oscars commercials, celebrities go to get drinks and viewers have a chance to take bathroom breaks. (Unless they’ve recorded the event ahead of time.) But the Oscars found a way to keep viewers’ attention even during the commercials.
Phenix powered the real-time streaming on the Oscars companion app. During commercials, the Oscars companion app offered live streams of behind-the-scenes Oscars footage. Viewers could also answer poll questions, like which actors would win specific awards.
“People would flip from the main screen they were watching…to the second screen and be watching the behind-the-scenes footage and remain engaged…during that commercial segment as they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Wishon said.
For television broadcasts, engaged viewers translate into advertising dollars. Companies that advertise during the 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 during the next Oscars.
In effect, real-time video streaming can engage viewers with a second-screen experience while keeping them around during the commercials.
Anything 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’re 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 how the companies leverage real-time streaming.
But eliminating latency is only one piece 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 a stake in what happens next. For a Twitch streamer, that 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 those possibilities will be built on synchronous video streaming.