NAB 2022 Perspectives: Edgecast’s Ariff Sidi on Interactive Live-Streaming Experiences and the Future of the Company

Merger with Limelight Networks will expand backend capabilities

When it comes to offering an end-to-end solution for digital-media companies, one of the more comprehensive vendors in the market today is Edgecast.

Currently a business unit of Yahoo Inc., Edgecast covers the full spectrum of streaming from content delivery to streaming latency, cloud security, and much more. Edgecast made waves in March with announcement of its acquisition by Limelight Networks, a prominent technology company specializing in edge-enabled web applications and content-delivery solutions, further boosting Edgecast’s backend capabilities.

At NAB 2022, SVG sat down with Ariff Sidi, GM/chief product officer, Edgecast, to discuss the company’s latest news, the trends he saw emerge at the show, and the future he sees for social live-viewing experiences.

What has made being in-person at this year’s NAB Show valuable for Edgecast?
There’s the big new announcement around the Edgecast business merging with Limelight Networks and becoming Edgio. That’s probably the biggest news, but that’s more at the business level.

Edgecast’s Ariff Sidi: “Our platform continues to be the leading platform, especially for live and for sports.”

From a video perspective, we’re starting to see [that] we’ve been ahead of the curve with our channel scheduling and syndication capabilities the drive FAST channels. Which kind of cracks me up: we have this acronym FAST for “Free Ad-Supported Television” because really it’s television. Right? It’s what television was and has been for a long, long time. So we’ve kind of come full circle.

We’re doubling down in our channel scheduling and syndication, driving latency down. That’s super important for sports. We still have our toes in the water around real-time streaming. I’d say it’s not entirely clear what the use cases are yet, but we want to be there and be ready for it.

I think [the show] has been an opportunity for us to reconnect with customers and partners, especially in the context of everything that’s going on with the business.

How does the work your company is doing help the sports market specifically?
In the sporting environment, it’s more about live. In that scenario, I believe, our platform continues to be the leading platform, especially for live and for sports.

Live is very, very difficult. We do it really well. When you include monetization capabilities and doing that at scale with server-side ad insertion and server-side beaconing, that’s where we continue to demonstrate to our customers why we are leaders in the space and why we’re so sticky.

Customers that we have that are on the sports side have been with us for many, many years, and I see those relationships continuing to develop and grow.

In your conversations here at NAB 2022, have the needs or wants that clients are asking for changed in a significant way since the pandemic? Has it made them rethink anything?
We’ve actually done some interesting stuff that was pandemic-driven. Largely in 2020, there was a big reaction to everyone being at home. The fall of that year, people weren’t in arenas, and there was a lot of effort put into bringing the social experience back to sports with viewers at home.

How do you bring that social experience back to sports?
One of the things that we had done during the pandemic was co-viewing, a shared-watching environment. [It] was very innovative, and nobody else was doing it the way that we were doing it.

We had two video technologies inside of the Yahoo Sports App around NFL content. The primary game stream was being delivered under HLS and Dash. However, what we had to do is implement some technology to synchronize HLS and Dash across the client devices. Those technologies are inherently not synchronized, but we synchronized them.

The other cool thing that we did is use WebRTC and real-time–streaming technology to enable a video-conferencing session for up to four viewers.

It was really awesome. While we’ve had some interest from non-Yahoo customers around that technology, I think what remains to be seen is how much of the stuff that was implemented and driven by pandemic use cases will continue into the future. My sense is, we need to be a little bit wait-and-see there.

What’s amazing is, we built a lot of the technology. We know we can do it — and in a mobile environment no less. Which is not easy to figure. But, when you are going to do video conferencing with multiple people and watch a game in a mobile environment, there’s not a lot of screen real estate to be able to do many things. We’ve got the technology and talk about it with customers, but we’ll see how it continues to develop.

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