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How streaming is changing sports broadcasting and what to do about it

The advent of video streaming technologies has had a dramatic, disruptive impact on the world of sports broadcasting. But without careful attention to media asset management (MAM), rights holders risk missing out.

By: Lydia Bird

Video streaming is now used to cover major international events, from Football to F1. It has proven a great way to cash in on growth markets such as women’s leagues and esports.

With so many opportunities to exploit, sports federations, tournament owners and rights holders are pursuing these new revenue streams.

However, some may not be geared up to cope with the demands of delivering footage to broadcasters. What’s the solution?

The Changing Face of Sports Broadcasting

The way sport is being consumed has changed massively over the last decade. Alongside traditional broadcasts and highlight shows on TV, we now have a host of subscription and on-demand streaming services. In addition to these, there are live feeds, clips and replays via social media, video websites and dedicated apps on smartphones and tablets.

And because it’s all online, these delivery systems neatly bypass any issues with television standards. Which is why you’re more likely to see 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) footage on over-the-top (OTT) broadcasts. In fact, in many cases it’s actually a better viewing experience than normal linear TV. It’s also enhanced with a range of exclusive content, interactive elements and augmented reality (AR), to better engage its audience.

Indeed, OTT subscription services, like ESPN+, DAZN and Eleven Sports have made huge inroads recently. ESPN+, for example, has more than 3.5 million subscribers, yet was only founded in April of 2018. And in the last three years, DAZN has set up operations in nine countries and now boasts 8 million subscribers. There are plenty of opportunities for rights holders to exploit, and seemingly no end of fans eager to pay a premium to watch their favourite sports.

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Exploring the Bottlenecks

Acquiring video footage of a sporting event is relatively straightforward – you can do a reasonable job with a smartphone and a laptop, for example. But without the right infrastructure in place, there are a number of potential bottlenecks in delivering this footage to your broadcast partners.

First of all, you need to appreciate the volume of data. An hour of raw 4K footage takes up around 320GB of storage space, which is multiplied by every camera in use. For large, live events there can be multiple cameras in operation for different angles. For example, the semi-final and final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan was broadcast in 8K across the host nation, and employed a 34-camera setup.

Meanwhile, Fox Sports’ coverage of the 2019 Women’s World Cup generated 1.9 petabytes of data – around two million gigabytes!

Why you need media asset management

All of this footage needs to be properly stored and archived, no matter the scale of your operation. It loses a lot of its value if simply held as one huge file. The content also needs to be properly labelled and annotated so it can be searched and used for highlights, clips on social media, or simply for the team’s own reference.

This is one area where media asset management technology can really help. Imagen’s media asset management system (MAM) supports the ingestion of live streams, and lets you add metadata on the fly, both automatically and using manual entry.

The powerful Media Logger system enables the addition of time-based metadata, where an operator simply annotates the action as it happens using a set of pre-defined keywords or icons. For example, whenever someone scores or a refereeing incident occurs. It all happens in real-time, and because it’s web-based, it can be done on-site or outsourced from a remote location.

The next step is delivery of the content to whichever service is broadcasting or streaming the event. These days it’s not enough to use a simple file transfer system like FTP, Dropbox or WeTransfer, which are relatively insecure and reliant on timely human intervention.

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The Importance of Secure File Delivery

Not only does Imagen’s distribution system have best-in-breed security, but it also features Accelerated File Delivery. This is a bespoke, high-speed transfer service that effectively utilises the available bandwidth. Any connected AFD clients on your network can quickly receive broadcast-quality files that are also fully encrypted.

Another benefit is that Imagen supports a range of automated workflows. This includes a media converter which can transcode your footage on the fly. It’s a great way of ensuring your various partners get the right type of video format for their channel. This can range from high-quality master footage to compressed, lower-resolution versions for social media.

Deploying Imagen’s cloud-based media asset management system solves a number of problems in one go. It provides a secure, searchable archive of your footage. And it’s accessible by anyone, from anywhere (with the right access privileges, of course). It also ensures your content – whether it’s a live stream or on-demand – is delivered in the right format. And with AFD, it’s delivered at high speed, removing any bottlenecks from the process.

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