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IBC '19: Red Bee Aim to Solve 'D2C Dilemma'
Linear playout specialist adds OTT to its armoury and shows off capability in live remote production

The urgency to launch direct-to-consumer (D2C) streaming services is clear, but rights owners don't have the resources to do it. Moreover, the current managed services model is not fit for purpose. Red Bee Media calls this paradox the "D2C Dilemma" and is addressing it with a stack of managed OTT services that it says rewrites the business model.

"Rights holders in sports and live events share a common ambition and appetite to explore D2C, but many simply do not have the experience, technical know-how, budget or time to do it," says Steve Russell, head of media management and OTT at the Ericsson-owned outfit. "The strategic imperative is strong, the appetite is there, but the resources are not. The result is inertia."

As a result, rights owners miss out on the opportunity to develop a closer relationship with their fanbase, such as analysing data on viewing habits and developing revenue streams through subscription, advertising, and sponsorship.

"The traditional managed services production model is unsustainable," declared David Travis, chief product & technology officer at Red Bee Media. "Today, services take 6 to 12 months to launch. We have to change that."

This is why Red Bee—with its roots firmly in linear playout—has spent the last two years designing and investing in technology for remote production and positioning itself to be a "glass to glass" service provider.

"We have done a lot of effort to move services into the public cloud, but public cloud can't deliver all the services for all broadcasters or brands," Travis said.

He said brands such as football clubs demand uncompressed low latency with sophisticated workflow and graphics. 

"So we have invested in our own private media-centric cloud with Cisco to deliver end-to-end services all in software.

To demonstrate its capability at IBC, the company made a demonstration of remote production by delivering a live broadcast of an Academy game from the London-based league four soccer club Leyton Orient. 

The demo included backhaul of 4K camera feeds and ISOs in uncompressed IP from Leyton Orient to Red Bee's global MCR in Hilversum, The Netherlands, where the feed is remote produced with graphics and commentary.

"We can do post and highlights clipping and from live to VOD," Travis said.

Feeds are then sent back to Red Bee Media in London for playout variously to DTH, DTT, and OTT as well as live feed syndication to social media including Facebook, Twitch, Twitter, and YouTube overlaid with custom graphics.

An ultra-low latency feed took 3 to 4 seconds to pass through the workflow to mobile display. Live captioning was done through AWS. 

Red Bee's full end-to-end proposition is capped with white label apps for D2C including online video player, entitlement, and everything else provided as a service. 

Excluding camera setup at the venue, Red Bee reckoned it could configure the end-to-end workflow in half a day and a have a full OTT experience up and running in just three hours.

"By being able to deploy quicker it is more efficient for the customer, and by working from a shared platform it means Red Bee Media can reuse the technology for other customers," Travis said.

The company is convinced that highly functional software production environments are coming of age within the broadcast space.  

"This move allows new models of operation such as truly allowing operators to work in completely geographically diverse locations from each other," asserted Chris Pearman, head of remote production strategy and architecture. "This step change in production environment will very soon become the norm."

The sticking point in event-based production has always been the provision of connectivity from the event back to the broadcaster.  

"We are working towards offering the market a number of connectivity options to assist with this problem which are based around both the use of traditional fibre connectivity but on an ad-hoc low commitment basis, and also the use of 5G which we believe will fully enable the dream of full remote production as a 'pop-up' service."

The company recently extended its contract for linear playout of UK broadcaster Channel 4. That's important, because the contract is designed to take Channel 4 from linear into a software-only playout environment.

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