Streaming Media
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Autumn 2014
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Sochi Games to Set Record for Live and VOD Streaming
Adobe, NBCU, Elemental, Deltatre, LiveU, and more are readying streaming platforms that will deliver coverage to desktops and mobile devices around the globe.
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Four years ago according to the IOC there was a defining moment in Olympic broadcasting history. Vancouver was the first Winter Games to be fully embraced on digital media platforms where digital coverage accounted for around half of the overall broadcast output.

Globally, on official rights-holding broadcasters’ internet and mobile platforms, there were more than 265 million video views and in excess of 1.2 billion page views during the games. There were also approximately 6,000 hours of 2010 coverage on mobile phone platforms.

Digital coverage from Sochi will surpass this, with many more broadcasters drawing on the clear consumer demand from London 2012 for any time, any device viewing.

The IOC places such draconian restraints on rights holders and anyone working for them to report involvement in the Olympics, which extends to technology contractors, that it's tricky to unearth details on this story. With that caveat, here are some of the large-scale video streaming activities set to go live from Sochi at the end of this week.

Adobe delivers live and VOD for NBCU

Having worked with NBCU and the BBC to deliver coverage of the London Games, Adobe has reteamed with the U.S broadcaster.

To counter the criticism NBCU faced for its coverage of London 2012 -- where highlights for popular events ran in primetime long after the results were known, and those events weren't streamed live online -- for the first time there will be live and on-demand replay of all content. This will span thousands of hours of coverage from all 15 sports and 98 events, although not the opening ceremony on Feb. 7 which is being reserved to maximise NBC's TV audience.

Live online viewing of premium content like Olympic sport has been felt to risk cannibalising TV audience share and therefore ad revenue, NBC clearly feels the tipping point for digital has been breached. This will be the first time that it will use dynamic placement of ads across devices into live and VOD content.

“Adobe Primetime is the only platform that delivers broadcast content and ads within the same time frame,” explained Ashley Still, Adobe's director for product management, video solutions. “This enables NBC to have a lot of flexibility in how they monetise content.  Previously broadcasters have been reluctant to invest wholeheartedly in online video because of a perceived lack of a firm business model. With targeted, personalised ads into live and on-demand content all of their online content can be ad-supported.”

NBC has worked with parent Comcast to make Comcast's X1 the first set-top box to deliver the games online through Adobe Primetime.  “From the X1 platform you can watch games live digitally before watching the broadcast replay of that event,” says Still. “It is melding the internet with QAM-delivered video in one experience and shows where future is headed.

“While many events from Sochi will happen off-peak, there's no need to set a recording of an event on a DVR since Adobe Primetime and Adobe Pass authentication will automatically make on-demand content available in full when users access the device. We think this is the way TV is headed, where DVR at some point migrates into on-demand content for consumers.”

Adobe has also partnered with Cablevision, Cox, Midcontinent, and Verizon to offer viewers who subscribe to both high-speed data and video through the same provider auto-authentication based on individual IP addresses. [Editor's Note: According to Adobe PR, auto-authentication with Verizon will not be ready in time for the Winter Olympics.] These IP addresses are cross-referenced with their video subscription, providing instant access to the Games online without having to memorize their login information when they connect from their homes.

NBC will use Primetime to power its Olympic service on devices across desktop, mobile, and -- in expanded reach from London -- the Comcast box described by Still as “the digital home.” Pay TV subscribers will be able to view all competitions, highlights, and other content live and on-demand on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

NBC will use Adobe's video player, TV everywhere authentication service, ad insertion, and analytics (created with comScore and Nielsen).

Up to 55 video streams will be routed from NBCU's base within the International Broadcast Centre at Sochi and whisked to its Stamford, Connecticut operation where business rules and content access are applied. Media will be hosted in Microsoft's Azure Media, where Adobe will ensure the correct metadata required for dynamic ad placement.Primetime is also tied into NBC Sports’ existing ad infrastructures.Once prepped for delivery, content is offloaded to Akamai's CDN and played back by Primetime's player. 

Adobe claims Primetime is the only platform that delivers broadcast content and ads within the same player through client-side ad insertion.

Viewers watching through NBCOlympics.com or the NBC Sports Live Extra app will be able to see 30 minutes of video through Primetime’s Free Preview feature. After that expires, they'll be prompted to verify their pay TV subscription. Each subsequent day, viewers will be able to watch 5 minutes of Olympic content before being asked to verify their account.

The Adobe and Microsoft Azure partnership will continue after the Olympics as a workflow option with Primetime.

In its Digital Index report released today, Adobe found that sports video streaming is up 640 percent year-over-year, with more than a quarter of video streams for large annual and bi-annual sporting events coming from mobile devices.

Ericsson announced that it will supply the video processing and delivery for NBCU's streams, and will have engineers onsite around-the-clock to help with production. Harmonic announced that a U.S.-based NBCU team will use Harmonic MediaGrid and MediaDeck to create on-demand highlight clips.

Deltatre syncs data and video for Sochi apps

Deltatre is providing digital media services to broadcast rights holders on four continents. “It's testament to the continuing take up by broadcasters who have seen the success of London 2012 and are expanding digital or moving into digital for the first time,” says Ciarán Quinn, director of Olympics and strategic business at Deltatre.

“The challenge is that we are at the cusp where broadcasters are starting to expect broadcast level services for digital media,” Quinn says. “Digital still accounts for far less than half the overall market, but by Rio 2016 there will be a significant increase from today because the consumer demand will continue its dramatic rise.”

The London Games had more than one billion digital consumers on digital devices, 500 million of whom used services powered by Deltatre, Quinn estimates. Digital consumption included data, news, photos, and social connections, so not all one billion users watched video.

Deltatre is highly active for its fourth consecutive Games, and can only mention some of the broadcasters it is working for. For each, the workflow is roughly as follows:

On the ground, results, standings and medals data is collected by Omega, and sent to host broadcaster OBS which creates a broadcast data feed. This is sent to subscribing rights holders, several of whom have partnered with Deltatre for presentation over mobile, tablet, and desktop apps.

Likewise, video feeds acquired from OBS are encoded, in a process managed by Deltatre, and routed to Microsoft Azure for distribution via various CDNs.

“The synchronisation of data and video remains a challenge,” says Quinn. “We are synchronising data in timelines and overlays and also adding connections with social networks to the video so that someone can turn an app on and see real-time standings of, say, the ski jump. TV graphics don't always show this, but we allow consumers to turn on what they care about in a very interactive fashion.

“It is particularly difficult to sync data in a VOD or rewind state. Usually once the data goes out, it's out. But if someone watches in replay or in live and they kick in the PVR and go back 10 minutes, how do you sync the data so that the data is not telling them something that hasn't happened yet?

“To my knowledge Deltatre is the only company that does this for the Olympics. Other platforms don't manage to sync data with video for a true interactive experience.”

One client Deltatre can confirm is Mexican mobile operator América Móvil, which will broadcast the Olympics for the first time (it also acquired rights to Rio 2016) for digital delivery spanning 17 countries.

The digital sport media group will provide its desktop browser Diva, as well as Podium, a white label data service providing live results, updates, standings, event schedules, medals, country and Live Now widgets, and further editorial information.

Norwegian commercial broadcaster TV2's digital coverage has gone live with Podium.

Building on a collaboration which began during London 2012, France Télévisions has again tapped Deltatre for the design of multi-sport mobile and tablet sport apps which integrate Podium with the broadcaster's digital service.

The solution will serve as a digital hub throughout the year, accompanying France Télévisions’ broadcast coverage of major events across 16 other sporting disciplines in 2014, including Six Nations rugby, Roland Garros tennis, and World Cup football.