While more operators are beginning to offer HD video-on-demand services, live streaming video continues to pose infrastructure and bandwidth problems.

HDTV.biz-news.com spoke to Alex Mashinsky, CEO of DigiMeld, about the challenges of streaming video – and developments that could open-up the service to millions of viewers.

Alex Mashinsky, CEO of DigiMeld, was one of the first people to realise the internet’s great potential for voice, now he is just as excited about the possibilities it offers for video.

He said the demand for real-time streaming of video was going to grow rapidly as high quality internet content was increasingly watched on HDTVs rather than PCs.

“We are moving to a world where services from the internet do not look any different from cable TV,” he said. “There’s going to be a huge flood of content flowing to this environment, moving away from watching video on a laptop for five minutes at a time.”

Alex Mashinsky, CEO DigiMeld

Mashinsky said that while it was easy to get 16 million Americans to watch the same TV channel at the same time, it was impossible to do that with half-a-million viewers on the internet.

“Voice was the first wave on the web. The second wave is video,” he told HDTV.biz-news.com from DigiMeld’s mid-town Manhattan headquarters. “But while everyone is focussed on it, we have not really solved the scaleability issue.

Challenges Remain

Video demands a lot of bandwidth and Mashinsky said traditional unicast and CDN solutions were limited in meeting the challenges on efficiency and scalability.

He used the example of Oprah Winfrey’s attempt to stream live on her website, a move which caused the site to crash when more than 300,000 viewers logged-on.

“We believe the only reason why we don’t have live TV on the internet is because no-one can really solve the scaleability and pricing issue,” said Mashinsky.

“If you can address those two things, you would have linear streaming and on-demand streaming of movies and other things on a much larger scale than today.

“Amazon, Netflix and Blockbuster have all launched streaming services but they are not launching new movies and having one million people watching at the same time. They rely on many people watching different things.”

China Forging Ahead

Mashinsky said China was way ahead of the US in live streaming technology, something it demonstrated during the Olympic Games when PP Live streamed live to 1.6 million concurrent online viewers.

He said DigiMeld had used a team of former PP Live programmers to develop its grid-streaming technology that enabled massive numbers of viewers to watch content concurrently.

It has tested the intelligent streaming solution with NASA Television, including a live internet broadcast trial of a shuttle launch to more than 100,000 live concurrent video streams.

Essentially, the software harvests viewers’ unused uplink bandwidth to relay stream data and offload the stream traffic from the media servers. The company says this optimizes the overall load balance of the network.

Unlike traditional CDNs or multicast network solutions, the DigiMeld solution allows each viewer in the grid-streaming network to simultaneously retrieve, view, and share streaming video data with other viewers within a safe and encrypted network.

This approach differs from P2P file-sharing firms such as BitTorrent, which downloads an entire video file to a viewer’s hard drive.

Mashinsky said DigiMeld only stores a portion of the streamed content in a viewer’s evanescent memory during viewing.

This slice of video is continuously overwritten by newly-arriving streams, enhancing efficiency of network bandwidth and increasing copyright protection, including digital rights management (DRM).

He believes grid-streaming is much more scalable because when the number of concurrent viewers explodes, the viewers will offload most data.

Bandwidth Congestion Reduced

Mashinsky said grid-streaming also puts less strain on media servers, while enhancing the QoS (quality of service) when the number of concurrent viewers is huge since more viewers can share data with each other.

“Unlike BitTorrent, if you are not watching stuff, people are not using your bandwidth,” he said. “We are not over-loading the network with our requirements. It’s the opposite as we are balancing the upstream with the downstream.”

Mashinsky said the software enabled adaptive streaming which sensed the customer’s bandwidth capacity.

“It decides if it’s going to use HD or lower quality and links into other streams of people watching the same thing.”

Opportunities For Content Producers

Mashinsky stressed that DigiMeld’s grid-streaming was not a replacement for CDNs but could be leveraged within existing infrastructure to create greater benefits.

DigiMeld was offering services ranging from those for customers that wanted to self-launch, self-publicize and self-monetize to those that relied on DigiMeld for hosting and distribution – or any mix in-between.

The company has a self-publishing video portal, DigiMeld.tv that allows publishers to create live and on-demand video channels easily and monetize the content through subscription, paid and advertising based services.

Mashinsky said the service was intended for clients that fell between large media companies, which typically used a CDN service such as Akamai, and peer-to-peer video typically found on YouTube.

“We are trying to capture the middle of the tail to enable these content people to monetize their content in an easy way,” he said.

Earlier this week, DigiMeld demonstrated grid-streaming’s worth as a video delivery platform by conducting the first feature-film broadcast over the internet simultaneously with the theatrical release of PublicScope Film’s The Third Jihad.

Gregory Ross, of PublicScope Film, said DigiMeld TV enabled them to reach worldwide audiences with a television broadcast experience at greatly reduced costs.

If DigiMeld can achieve that desired combination of quality and cost, there will be a lot more producers knocking on its door.

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