Video Streaming Content Delivery – What to Look for in a CDN in 2024

Video Streaming Content Delivery – What to Look for in a CDN Image

Creating a positive viewer experience is very important in professional online video broadcasting. Businesses need to deliver an enjoyable viewing experience for their investment in video to be effective.

When people watch a poor-quality stream, they get upset before they even know it. Investing in professional cameras, microphones, lighting equipment, and encoder are some answers to this issue, but they require some additional support.

In this post, we’re going to discuss the importance of prioritizing video streaming delivery. We’ll start with the basics of streaming delivery before we look at some of the technical components that contribute to video content delivery.

We’ll also talk about what a CDN is and why professional broadcasters should use one.  From there, we’ll look at four key elements of such a video CDN network. To wrap things up, we’ll discuss accessing a CDN through an online video platform.

Table of Contents

  • Video Streaming Delivery: The Basics
  • What Affects Video Content Delivery?
  • What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?
  • How Do CDNs Work?
  • What to Look for in a CDN
  • How to Access a Powerful CDN
  • Which CDN Does Dacast Use?
  • FAQs
  • Conclusion

Video Streaming Delivery: The Basics

video streaming delivery
Understing video streaming delivery helps broadcasters make informed decisions. 

The State of Streaming Research Report from IBM reported that 63% of live stream viewers cited buffering issues as the most serious issue they experience. That number was an increase from the previous year.

Buffering and similar issues are directly related to video streaming delivery. Delivering video streams over the internet is a highly complex process that requires a lot of technology working behind the scenes to address these issues.

Professional broadcasters have different goals with their video content. Some are looking to generate revenue and others are trying to increase brand awareness. The common goal of most broadcasters is to create a pleasant user experience to keep their audience engaged and content.

Fortunately, there are a variety of factors that broadcasters can control to optimize their video content delivery.

What Affects Video Content Delivery?

There are different components that broadcasters can control that affect video content delivery, including internet connection, video player, streaming protocols, adaptive bitrate streaming, and CDNs.

Let’s explore each of these factors.

Internet Connection

A strong internet connection is a must for streaming over the internet. This applies to both the broadcaster and viewers. An unstable connection on either end can affect the video delivery and reduce the quality of the stream.  A broadcaster’s server needs to be able to deliver video streams that can adapt to different bandwidth capabilities to avoid buffering for viewers with slower connections.

A good internet upload speed for streaming is anything between 672 kbps to 61.5 Mbps. Typically, you want your internet speed to be at least double the video bandwidth that you plan to stream with.

Video Player

Your video player plays a huge role in streaming delivery because it is the technology that makes your content accessible to viewers. Apple’s HTML5 video player is currently the only standard option since it is most widely compatible with browsers and operating systems.

The beauty of HTML5 video players is that they are open-source, so broadcasters can customize them to meet their streaming needs. As you tweak your video player, you must maintain the best streaming practices for your given video host so that everything functions properly with delivery.

Streaming Protocols

A streaming protocol is a technology that is used to carry a video signal from its origin to viewers. HLS is currently the most widely used protocol for streaming delivery because it is compatible with the HTML5 video player and other related streaming technology.

When Adobe’s Flash player was still the standard video player for online streaming, RTMP was the primary protocol used for streaming delivery.

WebRTC is used for streaming in real time and it’s becoming more and more popular. WebRTC was developed for virtual meetings where participants need to interact with each other. When the pandemic caused many people to shift to virtual work, WebRTC was one of the technologies that made it possible. 

SRT is another newer technology that could potentially replace HLS for video streaming delivery down the line. These streaming technologies are very powerful and efficient. However, they are still quite futuristic since related live streaming technology has not caught up to them, so there is not yet widespread compatibility.

Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

As we mentioned, the viewers’ individual internet connections affect the quality of the video that is delivered to them. While broadcasters can’t control these varying internet connections, they can accommodate them.

Adaptive bitrate streaming is the technology that many broadcasters use to accommodate viewers with different internet speeds. Here’s how this works. The original video source is encoded into multiple versions, each with a different bitrate. When a viewer starts playback, the video player software on their device assesses their internet connection speed. 

Based on the available bandwidth or what the network connection can handle, the video player chooses the most suitable video rendition from the available options. This ensures the video plays without buffering interruptions, even on slower connections.

Adaptive bitrate streaming requires the support of a compatible video player and streaming protocols. It also requires video transcoding tools to create the different renditions of the stream.

Content Delivery Networks

CDNs are important for delivering high-quality streams and ensuring a positive user experience. The importance of CDNs is rooted in the fact that live streaming is a bandwidth-intensive, demanding process. Video files are large and can overload slow internet connections.

Using a live streaming CDN helps reduce buffering, lagging, and other issues that affect video streaming delivery quality. It sends the video content to the servers rather than directly to the viewers. From there the servers distribute it accordingly.

This extra step in the process helps to cut out the lagging and buffering that comes with transmitting bulky media files.

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

what is a cdn?
Content delivery networks, CDNs, are essential for the delivery of high-quality video streaming globally.

A Content Distribution Network, which is also known as a “content delivery network” or “ CDN” for short, is a system of servers spread out over different geographical regions that deliver media to users that are far from the source.

When a user requests a video from a platform, the CDN finds the closest server with a cached copy of that video. This significantly reduces the distance the data has to travel, resulting in much faster loading times and a smoother video performance.

When it comes to video streaming delivery, CDNs are one of the most significant considerations. Some of the types of media that CDNs distribute include text, images, video, and much more.

A CDN is a network of servers distributed around the world and linked via high-speed internet cables. CDNs use software to intelligently distribute traffic throughout the network. This helps route data fast to the closest servers to any user.

Video streaming CDNs are essential for professional broadcasting since they allow you to bring high-quality video content to your users around the globe.

How Do CDNs Work?

As we mentioned, video streaming CDNs are made up of a collection of servers in different geographic locations. Content jumps from your video host to the closest server, then from that server to another, until it reaches the viewer’s screen.

These servers are called Internet Exchange Points and they are strategically placed to reduce the transmission time of the video so that your stream is delivered in as close to real-time as possible.

Content delivery speeds are partially determined by the number of “jumps” that content has to make between you and your viewer. For example, if a distant server is the host, web content on that server may take longer to load than it would if the host was nearby.

That said, a high-quality CDN can revolutionize and streamline that entire process.

What to Look for in a CDN

There are a few different aspects of certain video streaming CDNs that make them more useful than others.

These factors include:

  1. The number of servers in the network
  2. Geographic distribution of the servers
  3. Average performance
  4. Live streaming features

Let’s take some time to break down each of these aspects.

1. Number of Servers in the Network

cdn servers
When it comes to servers in your CDN, quantity is just as important as quality.

A key element of a good CDN for live streaming is a large number of servers. The absolute size of the server network can be used as a proxy for scalability and overall speed. 

The more servers in a network, the more bandwidth the network can handle.

This translates to less congestion for users and a better overall experience. A powerful live streaming CDN simply has a large number of servers available.

2. Geographic Distribution of the Servers

The distribution of servers is another key element for a live streaming CDN. CDNs operate via what’s called “PoP,” or Points of Presence. This refers to “edge” servers in the CDN network that deliver content directly to viewers. 

The closer a given viewer is located to the nearest PoP edge server, the better their streaming experience is likely to be.

Many video streaming CDNs don’t have a huge distribution of edge servers. Typically, concentrations are high in major cities in the US and Europe. Once you start moving to other regions of the world, servers may be sparse or non-existent. 

When this is the case, users located in these areas will see slower download speeds, lower-quality videos, more buffering problems, and longer video startup times.

Ideally, your live streaming CDN should have a wide global distribution of servers. These should be focused on the geographic region which contains your major target audience. For many broadcasters, their audience is global. If you’re streaming this sort of more general content, you must use a CDN that has a broad global distribution of CDN servers.

3. The Average Performance

cdn performance
Knowing the average performance of a CDN is highly indicative of its value to broadcasters.

The next important feature of a video streaming CDN is performance. Speed is related to size and several other factors. It’s hard to compare CDN speed directly since it can vary in any particular circumstance.

However, we can look at average performance to get a sense of CDN speed. Various CDN comparisons look at different providers and average out their performance across long periods to help you get a sense of which is fastest.

This is particularly important for live streaming as it leads to fewer viewing problems such as buffering issues.

4. Live Streaming Features

The final important element in a CDN for live streaming is its features. Some CDNs provide a greater range of features than others. 

For example, on the Akamai CDN network, it’s fast and easy to launch as many simultaneous live streams as you desire. We call this live channel provisioning and it’s an advantage of this specific CDN network.

In contrast, some CDNs don’t support live streaming at all. Look for a CDN that offers the video hosting and live streaming features you need for your online video projects. CDN pricing may also be a factor here.

How to Access a Powerful CDN

There are many different CDN providers on the market today. Some of these options include Amazon’s Cloudfront, Microsoft’s Azure, Akamai, Limelight, and Cloudflare.

Here at Dacast, we believe that Akamai and Limelight are two of the best options available. That’s why we partner with both to deliver the content that is hosted on our streaming solution.

Akamai has more than 240,000 servers, making it the largest server network of any CDN. Plus, its network is global, spanning a range of more than 130 countries, which is wider than any other CDN by far.

International tests also tend to show a 15-20% speed advantage for Akamai as a result of its larger global distribution. This is particularly important for live streaming as it leads to fewer viewing problems such as buffering issues. 

Limelight, on the other hand, has 135 PoPs in over 45 different cities. This CDN also has over 1000 ISPs and last-mile networks, which makes it effective for delivering high-quality content. 

While not quite as extensive as Akamai’s network, Limelight has strategically placed servers around the world to ensure high-quality streaming in key regions.

Limelight’s innovative origin storage technology ensures fast storage retrieval and automatic replication across different sites compared to other leading CDNs.

Which CDN Does Dacast Use?

dacast cdn
Dacast’s Live Streaming Platform partners with global CDNs to deliver broadcast-quality video to any screen.

Here at Dacast, we proudly partner with multiple top-tier CDNs to ensure high-quality video delivery to screens around the world. Dacast uses several CDNs, including Limelight and Akamai.

Since Dacast has an ICP certification, we are qualified to deliver content with China. In order to make China delivery possible, we have to use a CDN with the same clearance.

We’re constantly innovating to provide the best possible video streaming experience. Our team is currently developing a multi-CDN platform, which will combine the resources of several CDNs and take our video streaming delivery to the next level. This advanced technology will enhance the performance of our existing infrastructure by improving video quality, reliability, and efficiency.


1. How is CDN different from traditional video hosting solutions?

Traditional web hosting relies on a single server location, which can become overloaded and lead to buffering and lag, especially for viewers far away. 

However, a video streaming CDN network caches your video streams on servers closer to your viewers, reducing the distance the data needs to travel.

2. What are some key features to look for in a video CDN provider?

There are several factors to consider when choosing a video CDN provider. Here are a few key features:

  • The number of servers in the network: A larger server network minimizes latency (wait time) for users and ensures a smoother streaming experience.
  • Geographic distribution of the servers: Ideally, the video streaming CDN provider should have servers scattered across the globe, particularly in regions where your target audience resides. This can ensure efficient content delivery regardless of a viewer’s location.
  • Average performance of the video streaming CDN: Look for providers with a proven track record of high uptime and consistent bitrate delivery. This means minimal buffering or interruptions during playback for your viewers. 
  • Video streaming features: Consider a CDN that offers features like on-the-fly video encoding and transcoding, and adaptive bitrate streaming as these can improve streaming quality.

3. How do I set up a video CDN network?

Setting up a video CDN network typically involves choosing a CDN provider, signing up for their service, and uploading your video content. The CDN provider will handle the technical aspects of distributing your videos across their network.  Some CDNs even offer integration with popular online video platforms.

4. How does a CDN work for video streaming?

A CDN for live streaming works similarly to regular video streaming, but with real-time optimizations. The CDN fragments the live stream into smaller chunks, caches them on edge servers, and delivers them to viewers in real-time with minimal delay.

5. What CDN should I use for live streaming?

Several powerful CDN providers offer video-specific features and functionalities. Here are some popular choices to consider:

  • Amazon’s Cloudfront
  • Microsoft’s Azure
  • Akamai
  • Limelight
  • Cloudflare


There are many things to consider when discussing video streaming delivery. Choosing an online video platform that is known for reliable content delivery with top-tier CDN partnerships, a powerful video player, and HLS delivery is a must if you’re looking to optimize your streaming delivery.

We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of some of the key features of CDNs for live streaming. There are concrete differences among the different CDN providers on the market. Understanding these differences, and which matter the most for live streaming, can help your video efforts succeed.

Using an online video platform such as Dacast is the best way to access a high-end CDN. It’s a more feature-rich and affordable option than using a CDN directly and will provide better performance. 

If you want to see how live streaming with an online video platform paired with a powerful CDN works, we urge you to take advantage of our 14-day free trial. That way, you can test out streaming over the Akamai CDN right now.

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Max Wilbert

Max Wilbert is a passionate writer, live streaming practitioner, and has strong expertise in the video streaming industry.