Those irritating delays which see live streaming of channels lag behind the broadcast version of the same content could be eliminated thanks to pioneering work carried out by BBC Research & Development.
During this summer’s World Cup, some fans watching matches on BBC iPlayer complained of hearing neighbours cheering at goals that they hadn’t yet seen because the streamed coverage lagged up to 30 seconds behind the TV broadcast.
This lag, or latency, occurs because portions of video and audio data are typically delivered over the internet in separate files.
If the files get too short processing them becomes inefficient but if they’re too long, latency increases as each segment needs to be generated in full before it can be passed on to the next step in the chain.
BBC R&D has been experimenting with methods to either reduce the duration of each segment, or creating them progressively as a series of chunks that can be passed through the chain immediately as they become available, thereby reducing the latency.
Its work will be demonstrated at the International Broadcasting Conference (IBC) in Amsterdam on Thursday.
Chris Poole, lead research engineer for BBC R&D, said: “Earlier this year, BBC CTPO Matthew Postgate said that the days when all media will be distributed over the internet are not too far away.
“With that in mind, we’re hoping that this work will help to make our internet-streamed live video as good as it can possibly be.
“What we’re showing at IBC is a prototype, however. To roll it out properly will take time, and it needs coordination with the whole industry, so viewers shouldn’t expect the lag to disappear imminently.
“But perhaps by the time they’re watching the next World Cup, viewers will be cheering at the same time, regardless of how they’re watching the match.”