Unlocking the future of live sports delivery at scale

Unlocking the future of live sports delivery at scale

By Meir Lehrer, VP Portfolio Development, MediaKind April 14, 2021 | 4 min read
ABR, Adaptive Bitrate, AVOD, CAPEX

The way we engage with media content has evolved tremendously over the past two decades. As a result, the technology powering the television landscape remains in a period of disruption. The once humble linear broadcast offering is now a highly fragmented, multi-platform, and predominantly mobile experience.

While streaming may be winning over the hearts of younger audiences, the living room TV remains a clear crowd-pleaser across all generations, particularly for high-value live content such as sports. Omdia’s “Cross-Platform Television Viewing Time Report—2020” found that 63% of television viewing in the U.S. in 2019 came from linear TV. While content owners and brands must re-think how they engage their audiences in the new digital age, they also need to address the challenges of delivering dynamic content to both linear and mobile audiences.

Delivering dynamic content

With more people at home than ever before, demand for media viewing across on-demand, time-shift, and linear, as well as internet bandwidth and stability, has increased enormously. Home-bound viewers and infrastructure challenges have stretched video providers to the limits.

We now have an industry that must deliver video to many devices across various types of video delivery and streaming protocols and multiple types and numbers of encoding algorithms. This situation is further exacerbated by the fact we now have not only traditional cable, telco, and satellite providers, but content providers who are going D2C.

The battle for viewership is and was a monumental one – and it means operators must think in a more agile way.

Crowd-pleasing solutions

There are many media formats, video codecs, and digital rights management (DRM) frameworks for operators to consider when preparing on-demand content for distribution. Furthermore, inserting or pre-rolling targeted adverts adds yet another factor into the equation. Therefore, speed and efficiency are crucial elements in getting live content onto OTT platforms – any significant latency in the live feed can have substantial consequences on the viewing experience and even damage a brand’s reputation.

Luckily, developments in mobile-centric technologies, such as Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) streaming, enable operators to support more time-shifted, on-demand content, delivering services that match the modern consumer’s needs. Streaming content is now an entirely viable means of providing immersive media services – the challenge is to understand how to get the same amount of linear, timetabled content onto OTT platforms while maintaining a viable business model.

However, of equal importance is the ability to simultaneously deliver the same content to legacy devices such as STBs using traditional broadcast routes, such as Constant Bitrate (CBR) delivery. Executing both mobile and fixed video delivery with immense – and quick – scalability is no short ask. Operators must now look across the technology ecosystem to find solutions that make it simpler to reach their audiences.

MediaKind’s Video Storage and Processing Platform (VSPP)

For this reason, video processing platforms that are optimized for both mobile and linear viewing are emerging as popular solutions for supporting the technical aspect of media conversion while enabling operators to quickly scale up to meet demand without significant CAPEX spend. An end-to-end video storage and processing solution delivers considerable efficiency benefits, with less time spent processing the ingest and delivery between on-demand platforms and streaming services.

Through MediaKind’s Video Storage & Processing Platform (VSPP), we provide a software-defined service that responds to the need for delivering compelling premium services. This highly robust and scalable platform enables service providers, broadcasters, and content owners to evolve their infrastructure and deliver a consistent and simple user experience across multiple devices and resolutions, using the best media processing for every application.

MediaKind VSPP is truly bi-lingual in that it provides both CBR and ABR streaming services, allowing users to build a unified cluster with a single ABR recording copy. The solution removes content duplication and provides savings on storage of up to 30%, enabling service providers to quickly deliver a full range of next-generation TV services efficiently and cost-effectively.

Delivering the UEFA Champions League

Perhaps most pertinent about MediaKind VSPP is its ability to scale and provide stable, high-quality live coverage to audiences in the millions. For this reason, it was recently deployed by Altice France’s SFR, France’s second-largest telecoms operator with over 25 million customers, to deliver live coverage of the UEFA Champions League – Europe’s most prestigious club soccer tournament.

Last August, UEFA delivered a streamlined knock-out tournament which played out over 12 days. During this period, SFR deployed VSPP to deliver premium live OTT streaming sports content. During the final on August 23, this played out to over one million concurrent viewers, SFR’s highest ever live streaming audience. The deployment included MediaKind monitoring services, enabling SFR and MediaKind’s experts to remotely access the VSPP platform to perform proactive observation of performance and identify and mitigate potential areas of risk to the streaming output.

As well as being a massive success for SFR, enabling this level of scale in a live stream was a significant technical achievement for all the teams involved. Ensuring reliable, low-latency streaming to large volumes of concurrent traffic is a considerable undertaking even for the most robust networks, and in a live scenario, every second counts! We are delighted that SFR continues to deploy VSPP to enable the streaming coverage of this season’s competition.

Setting the bar for new content formats

 Video storage and processing technologies that deliver all types of content to scale are the future of on-demand and live content distribution. They offer an easier way of unifying and scaling the multiple servers and applications required for storage, video streaming, OTT streaming, transcoding, and many other processes.

MediaKind VSPP continues to respond to operator needs to optimize storage options and increase multi-screen performance. The move to these agile platforms will enable them to adapt to this wave of change and deliver exceptional media offerings – and I’m excited to be part of the journey!

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