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The impact of HLS for mobile webcasting

HLS? Not another acronym! We promise this will be the only one. Well and maybe the video format that it could be replacing, MPEG-Dash. As yes, both refer to video encoding types that we use in webcasting. And with the advent of video vs audio, this has become critical.

So, we will go through the pros and cons for both. We will also cover the importance of the pros for the optimal audience experience, especially when it comes to mobile. But let’s go back to basics.

HLS vs MPEG-Dash

HLS stands for HTTP Live Streaming and is patented to Apple. Not a surprise when you see that more and more viewers watch a live webcast on their phones. We serve a professional audience and whether you are a lawyer or a doctor you cannot always be in front of a computer when it comes to watching that interesting talk. 

Similarly, webcast speakers tend to present when they know their counterparts are free to watch Live and interact. Engagement is key you see, both for presenters and the audience. They share findings and research results at the time, often with polls too. Most speakers that we work with tell us afterwards how useful poll results were

So you want to make sure your audience can see your presentations and engage too, through polls or questions. And HLS has the edge because it has been designed for mobile delivery in mind. Basically, the best quality possible for the lowest bandwidth available

It may sound as a given but in the case of science, our clients often present to a global audience and one wants to ensure that all continents get a chance to participate, equally. 

HLS in the World

Some countries have widespread access to mobile devices as opposed to computers. This is an interesting report from SimilarTech.

Their world map displays the usage of MPEG-Dash vs HLS.

Market Share by Geography

Market Share by Geography

As you can see MPEG-Dash is very popular in the western world. Less so in the east. 

Top countries for MPEG-Dash usage are:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • France

On the other hand, top countries for HLS are:

  • China
  • Russia
  • Poland
  • Vietnam

This would come down to the history of webcasting. We have been webcasting for 10+ years and this exclusive channel to engage with a live audience definitely started in the US. More so with audio. In the meantime, new communications protocols like 4G and 5G have seen a global rise. 

This was a game changer when it comes to the mobile experience. This means that you can join and take part even if you do not have access or even own a computer. 

This is especially true in China where the middle class have transitioned already to a mobile-only era as reported by Helena Vieria at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences

The benefits of HLS for mobile viewers

We referred to the fact that HLS was designed with mobile delivery in mind. There are many other benefits with this streaming protocol. In no particular order:

  • Ease of use for the viewers
  • Compatible with a wide range of browsers and operating systems
  • Tightened security
  • Smartphones picks the best data rate for uninterrupted streaming
  • Supports closed captioning
  • Synchronised playback that includes multiple streams
  • DRM support
  • Aligned for best practice when it comes to advertising

Before you decide, know your audience

There is a clear advantage of using HLS if your target audience is professional and that you are presenting at a time when they could be at the clinic or in meetings. The optimal webcast experience would be retained on mobile especially with a poor connection. Even though MPEG Dash is adaptive by definition and adjusts to network capabilities it still requires a fair amount of bandwidth. 

The last thing you want is someone who saved the date to drop out because you keep buffering. 

Yet before you make any decisions, it is important to know your audience and leverage any analytics data available to you through the usual marketing sources: CRM, Web and Mobile Analytics, Customer Intelligence. 

If your current webinar analytics can provide such intel then please spend 1 hour on the analysis, it will help you prepare and decide. If you are new to webcasting or your current platform does not provide such detailed information please get in touch with us and we will be happy to assist.

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