State of Union Update on Wowza Media Systems

With the end of the year approaching, Google’s plans to rid Chrome browsers of Adobe Flash will soon go into effect, causing major changes in the media streaming landscape. One company that will undoubtedly benefit from these changes is Wowza Media Systems as they continue to roll out solutions that simplify and improve streaming. Wowza’s VP Chris Knowlton spoke with us regarding recent developments at Wowza, including WebRTC Streaming, the Wowza Player, the MDS Streaming Appliance, the GoCoder, and VR360.

WebRTC Streaming

Whereas real-time communications traditionally required the use of a plugin or app, the decline of Flash has created the need for a simpler, more secure means of viewing live content. Wowza has responded to that need by delivering RTC capabilities to HTML5 browser-based players.

With Wowza Streaming Engine, users can view RTC content with only 150 milliseconds latency, which will aid scenarios such as gaming and group chats where low-latency is critical. In these multi-user situations, Wowza allows for both active and passive viewers and diminishes bandwidth by sending multiple streams through a central hub, rather than requiring users to send individual streams to each other.

Wowza Player

The Wowza Player, which debuted at IBC 2016, is an embeddable HTML5 player with adaptive bitrate streaming that can be used with any browser on any device. The introduction of the player simplifies workflow for customers who had been using a third-party player. According to Knowlton, the player was developed as a response to new users’ questions about how to get started faster: “Anyone who isn’t a developer needs something built-in with basic functionality. The player allows for a great user experience as soon as you start with Wowza Streaming Engine or Cloud.” The player currently allows for DVR, VOD, and audio streaming capabilities, but Wowza hopes to later develop the player to allow for better interactivity and analytics and more sophisticated playlists.

MDS Streaming Appliance

The recently announced Media Distribution System is an all-in-one streaming appliance that merges Wowza’s streaming software with NewTek’s live production technology. The resulting product has been billed by Wowza as “the industry’s first integrated production system for real-time encoding and live streaming,” and creates a direct link from video editing suites, studios, or control rooms to local or worldwide audiences on any device.

The MDS responds to increasing customer demand for all-in-one solutions with its ability to take in content from various sources, encode it, package it into different formats, and either deliver to end users directly or push out to other servers or CDNs in order to reach mass audiences. “Streaming-saavy users love going into a UI that works on any browser or at API level, whereas new users that aren’t used to being streaming developers want to be able to check a few boxes and hit a start button,” Knowlton remarks. As such, the versatility and simplicity of the MDS should appeal to a wide range of users.

GoCoder and GoCoder SDK

Wowza GoCoder is a mobile capture and encoding app that allows users to capture and stream in real time live content that can be delivered to any device from any location. Accompanying the mobile app for iOS and Android is GoCoder SDK, which will simplify streaming for service providers and anyone building their own solution for live streaming and web conferencing. This would allow new and emerging social networks to build their platforms in Wowza and have the playback on their website or app instead of—or in addition to—sites like YouTube Live and Facebook Live. Knowlton remarked that by doing so, Wowza hopes to “enable the next Periscope or Facebook Live by letting users to build with Wowza instead of reinventing the wheel.” Applications of the technology might include red carpet events that celebrities stream directly to their websites or breaking news that can be recorded without a news crew to be livestreamed or captured for editing and playback.

Virtual Reality and 360-Degree Streaming

Wowza’s new Virtual Reality and 360-Degree Streaming will allow users to livestream 360-degree and VR content, providing a close-up, immersive experience of concerts, sports games, and other live events capable of reaching global audiences. Workflow for VR360 would feed input from 360-degree cameras to video-stitching software programs to the cloud for processing and delivery into a variety of outputs, where tablets, phones, or VR headsets would provide users with a 360-degree view. Using the technology, a virtual concert-goer would have access to a 360-degree view of the event in 4K or VR, allowing them experience the show from the perspective of a fan in the front row or even on the stage with the band, with sound levels adjusting to mimic a user’s virtual place in the audience. VR360 has perhaps generated the most buzz of the products Wowza has recently released, but given that VR users still compose a relatively narrow subset of consumers, Knowlton cautions that the depth of this traction has yet to be proven.

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