Sports Live Streaming: keeping ahead of the game

The OTT revolution has dramatically changed the delivery and consumption of every genre of video content; from live entertainment with formats such as Love Island making the most of advances in streaming technology, to drama series and kids’ programming – think Netflix and Amazon Prime and the boom in blockbuster international series.  

The way sport is delivered and consumed, however, has until quite recently adhered to the model of a linear, bundled TV package available at high subscription fees.

Recent developments show that this is now firmly set to change. Last month, Amazon Prime Video announced it had acquired the rights to the English Premier League, securing two full rounds of 20 matches per season, including bank holiday fixtures, as well as weekly highlights.

Chase Buckle, senior trends analyst at GlobalWebIndex, said: “This will be an important step for Amazon in attracting new users in the UK to its video offerings. Three in 10 UK Premier League fans already say they use Amazon Prime Video each month, with just over half saying they use Netflix. Six in 10 of these fans are watching sports online on a monthly basis too, so there’s a substantial market for Amazon.”

Meanwhile, DAZN, the purely sport-dedicated OTT streaming service (otherwise known as the Netflix of sport) announced the major news of its expansion into Italy, following parent company Perform Group’s successful bid to secure exclusive multi-platform broadcast rights to 114 Serie A football matches as well as, more recently, Serie B rights.  This happens to be the first time a live and on-demand streaming service has been awarded exclusive Serie A rights in Italy.

“The sport industry is ripe for disruption,” said James Ruston, CEO of DAZN. “Consumer behaviour has been transformed by technology, with streaming becoming the new norm for viewing content.”

In addition to its expansion into Italy, DAZN has now launched in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, proving that there is an unstoppable momentum for sports streaming services. A further example being DAZN’s historic eight-year, $1billion deal with Matchroom Boxing, which will see the joint venture stage 16 fights a year featuring some of the sport’s biggest stars at the best venues across America.

It is undoubtedly an exciting time to be working in sports broadcast, but that is not to say that the path always runs smoothly in the world of sports OTT; the recent challenges faced by Optus Sport during the World Cup being a case in point.

Australian telco, Optus Sport’s streaming of the FIFA World Cup in Russia was so disrupted last month that football fans complained of outages and delays from one Friday through to Sunday. Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, even stepped in over Twitter to reassure fans.

OTT operators are only too aware that the success or failure of a service will depend in part on the quality and resilience of the technology supporting it. In a monthly PAYG subscription model, customers will have little tolerance for poor quality of service. One serious glitch in the service can result in the cancellation of direct debits.

Resilient contribution and delivery chains, supported by proven and tested workflows and SLAs are what OTT platforms demand of service providers. In particular, the event driven model of sports, where viewer numbers can scale sharply within minutes of a game starting, requires a hard-to-come-by level of skill and experience in the orchestration of services to support such massive spikes in demand.

At M2A Media we realise that Quality of Service and Experience are ever more critical factors, as OTT sports companies start to compete for eyeballs. Latency must be chased down; buffering is not tolerable; frame rates must be high, but bit rates should be as low as possible; and output must be viewable across a panoply of devices.

We’ve found that the demands from the connected sports consumer and the OTT services providers’ quest to meet them, require an agility that can only be facilitated by expert adoption of the cloud.

M2A’s Live Streaming product integrates with a broadcaster’s existing on-premise video feeds and securely transmits them to live transcoders running in the cloud. The service orchestrates the entire cloud video workflow; from starting origin servers, transcoders and loading transcode profiles to presenting cached CDN end-points.

This battle-hardened solution can orchestrate any number of concurrent channels and cope with multiple CDNs pulling from multiple regions simultaneously, which in turn serve millions of users.  M2A’s Live Streaming uses AWS Elemental Live for live transcoding and Unified Streaming for live origin.

Our services are also built to allow the simple integration of bleeding edge and highly marketable technologies, such as AR, VR and UHD. M2A’s platforms are open and nimble enough to readily incorporate backend innovations such as AI or machine learning tools.

Sports live streaming is pushing the envelope of technology and the broadcast industry is rising to the challenge.  If you would like to learn more about M2A’s Live Streaming and Live Capture products, please get in touch and we can arrange a time to discuss your needs.