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Streaming Video Alliance Aims for Scale

If the Super Bowl were to evolve into a tentpole event that was exclusive to Internet streaming, would the underlying infrastructure buckle under the strain?

It most certainly would, according to Joe DePalo, senior vice president, CDN engineering and operations at Limelight Networks and a founding board member of the Streaming Video Alliance (SVA). That group, created last year, counts such members as Comcast/NBCUniversal, CableLabs, Charter Communications and Verizon Communications.

The Super Bowl, of course, has been streamed. The most recent one — NBC Sports Live Extra’s stream of the New England Patriots’ win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX — averaged 800,000 viewers per minute and 1.3 million concurrent users on PC Web browsers and tablets.

But that was complementary. The vast majority of football fans watched the game the traditional way — on TV.

If the Super Bowl ever became exclusive to streaming, the numbers would shoot through the roof, and the underlying systems would not be able to handle it, DePalo said.

Yahoo!’s international streaming coverage of the Oct. 25 Jacksonville Jaguars-Buffalo Bills game in London drew 15.2 million unique viewers. That was for a regular season game of marginal interest that kicked off at 9:30 a.m. — not exactly prime time.

If Yahoo were to do a similar effort for an NFL playoff game, the streaming requirements “would be crazy,” he said.

But that’s one of the tasks on the SVA’s docket — how to create best practices and recommendations to help streaming scale to massive levels. “There are many competitors there [that are part of SVA] from an infrastructure perspective, but we all can … agree that there’s not there’s not enough capacity or regional capacity or infrastructure to do the things they want to do,” he said.

Still, DePalo insists that the SVA’s aim is not to create a standards body, but to establish “business influence” through best practices and recommendations while building some agreed upon metrics for elements such as streaming quality and performance.

The SVA held its last quarterly meeting last month at Fox Studios in Hollywood. Currently, 80 or so members are involved in a dozen different working groups spanning areas like “open” caching, security and quality metrics.

And while there are some big names on SVA’s membership roll, there are some missing notables — Netflix, Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

DePalo said he has made personal contact with some of them, including Google and Netflix, and they are in the show-me phase, holding off until the SVA produces its first public recommendations.

“We have not been told no by anybody we’ve asked,” DePalo said.