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Eurosport Grounds Ambitious Olympics in IP Connectivity and the Cloud
Discovery Communications' sports division spent €1.3 billion on pan-European digital and linear rights to Olympic Games until 2024, and aims to make every second of every event from PyeongChang available on multiple platforms.

Eurosport has shared details of its ambitious multi-language multi-platform production effort for the Winter Olympics. At its core is a series of multi-gigabit fibre links for at venue contribution and Europe-wide remote production.

Discovery Communications' sports division spent €1.3 billion ($1.6billion) on pan-European digital and linear rights to the Games until 2024 and aims to make every second of every event from PyeongChang live on its digital platforms Eurosport Player and Eurosport.com, and over social networks to Facebook Live and Snap.

"No one has done what we are doing, which is delivering round-the-clock live and recorded action over 17 days to free-to-air, pay TV channels, and digital channels localized in 22 languages," says Simon Farnsworth, EVP, European & Sports Technology, Discovery Communications. "We are innovating in many areas including in augmented reality. For example, a presenter in a studio in Stockholm can appear as if they are presenting from an Olympic venue. This type of production innovation is only possible with extensive IP networks and low latency encoding."

Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS) the official Olympic production unit, has installed multi-gigabit circuits connecting all the Olympic venues in South Korea with the International Broadcast Centre (IBC), but instead of buying capacity from OBS for this as is conventional, Eurosport has built its own separate contribution circuits onsite.

"It's because we have so many additional feeds," explains Farnsworth. "We've at least 200 of our own feeds on top of all those we are taking from OBS."

It is fielding 1,100 cameras of its own outside of the OBS complement of 750. Additional feeds include a mobile facility dedicated to producing and streaming social media content to Facebook and Snap.

All live signals will be encoded once in PyeongChang using Evertz 3480TXE software defined platform in JPEG2000 under an encoding operation managed by Globecast. The signals are then routed over multiple 10Gb fibre (running in different directions round the world for resilience) to two data centres in Europe with OBS satellite transmission as back up.

The material will also be ingested from PyeongChang to an Evertz Mediator-X Media Asset Management (MAM) hosted on AWS. This allows Eurosport production teams both onsite and in Europe to access all the footage, associate audio, and data feeds to log and localize production for each of the 48 territories sharing Eurosport's Olympic coverage.

"Anybody in any location can access any and all content through the cloud MAM to allow us to turn it around quickly," says Farnsworth.

In Europe, Eurosport has built out a WAN connecting ten production hubs by 20Gb fibre and switched by Juniper IP routers. It has already tried and tested the network for production of tennis slams where it has covered up to 20 courts simultaneously.

Farnsworth describes the network as a "strong legacy platform" which Eurosport will use going forward to produce all live sports including tennis, cycling, and soccer. Onward CDN distribution of Eurosport Player and customer authentication is managed by streaming services partner BAMTech Europe.

Eurosport's coverage will be 1080i but it is monitoring OBS' limited production of 4K and High Dynamic Range trials from the Winter Games

"There is a lot of debate as to whether 1080p HDR is a better user experience than just 4K," says Farnsworth. "We are examining this very closely."

It is also monitoring 5G "not just as a potential source of contribution but also for distribution." Adds Farnsworth, "For OTT live streams at market level 5G gives you a lot more bandwidth that suddenly opens up massive amounts of consumer capability."

It also has a "watching brief on VR" according to Farnworth. Eurosport will take the OBS production of 50 hours of virtual reality content streamed to its own-branded VR app. 

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