In recent weeks, Kinow has been able to meet some of its partners for special "expert" interviews. Ricardo Moreira, Commercial Director at Streamroot, answered the question about the future of sports broadcasting in OTT.
In recent weeks, Kinow has been able to meet some of its partners for special "expert" interviews. The goal? To discover the technical aspects and the latest trends in the OTT market, from the point of view of these specialists in the field.
Ricardo Moreira, Sales Director at Streamroot, answered the question about the future of sports broadcasting in OTT. Olympic Games, football, rugby, tennis, cycling, handball, sailing, motor sports... The next few years promise to be particularly rich in sporting events. The emergence of live sport could therefore represent a new niche for streaming platforms.
Ricardo has spent most part of his 20 years career helping French and international media players to broadcast their linear or on-demand content offers on different types of media. This eclectic background allowed him to work on the entire media workflow and to understand the challenges related to the different platforms. He is currently Sales Director for the EMEA region at Streamroot (now part of CenturyLink group), the world leader in distributed streaming.
Kinow integrates Streamroot's solution into its platform to improve the end user's streaming experience.
How do you see the future of sports broadcasting?
Not surprisingly, all the studies conducted in recent years demonstrate a strong increase of the online streaming (OTT) of sporting events to the detriment of traditional digital TV or satellite broadcasts.
To give just one example, the last Superbowl final saw the number of connected viewers increase by 20% while the number of traditional broadcast viewers fell by 5% at the same time.
And this basic trend is not about to stop, all the more so as the Web giants are now clearly positioning themselves on the acquisition of premium sports rights: from 2021, Roland Garros will be broadcasted in France partly by FranceTV - which, already captures a substantial part of its audience online, thanks to its wide event coverage - and partly by Amazon on Prime Video. Furthermore, in 2021, the Bundesliga will be broadcasted in Germany exclusively on the Amazon and DAZN platforms. These are two major symbols of competitions traditionally broadcasted over the air, which are now migrating to online streaming.
The sports streaming offer goes far beyond mainstream sports, with an incredible wide range of niche sports that were previously little or not distributed.
What are the challenges associated with this trend?
There are many challenges at stake and, above all, they differ according to the type of service offered.
From the viewer's point of view, in order to deliver on its original promise, the OTT streaming of a premium payTV event or competition must offer a user experience that reconciles the best of the connected and broadcast worlds: an enriched and interactive content offer, of course, but also a viewing quality and continuity of service comparable to the over-the-air broadcast, whatever the number of connected viewers and whatever the devices (TV, mobile, etc.) are. From the broadcaster and the rights holder point of view, the challenge is also to be able to fight effectively against piracy. In technical terms, this is undoubtedly the most challenging use case.
The challenges of freemium broadcasting include an economic dimension, hence the emergence of targeted advertising. But it is key not to neglect the quality of the broadcast because in the end there is no advertising revenue with a disappointing viewer experience.
Finally, the main issue related to the online distribution of niche sports is more about the economic equation as a whole and cost control in a fragmented market environment limited in volume. This question shifts the technical issue upstream in the workflow, especially on the means of production, which are traditionally human resources consuming. As far as the distribution is concerned, the challenge is to address an audience that is both limited and potentially geographically dispersed.
The online live broadcasting of a sporting event requires considerable infrastructure. Are the streaming platforms ready for this kind of content?
The quality of the online sports streaming has improved significantly in the last years: the platforms generally offer better bitrate and lower buffering.
However, this progress should not hide the fact that there is still a long way to go: whether it is in terms of image quality - especially on the main screen -, buffering, latency or even continuity of service, the performance and robustness of the streaming platforms are not yet up to the standards we have been used with the traditional over-the-air linear broadcast. This is especially true for high-audience sporting events.
That's the challenge of streaming a mainstream sports event: being able to deliver the same high-end user experience to each viewer, whether there are 1,000 or 500,000 viewers connected simultaneously. The main technical challenge of the streaming platform lies in its scalability in an extremely constrained timeframe.
Cloud approaches and containerization technologies have greatly contributed to deliver this scalability. However, OTT platforms have not yet reached the age of maturity: despite all the efforts to achieve redundancy, video workflows still present many SPOFs (Single Point Of Failure) and networks still include many congestion points, especially at peering points during major events.
Indeed, the question arises as to which streaming architecture will support better the scalability related to UHD and 5G networks. Will the current streaming infrastructures be able to support this qualitative and quantitative evolution without massive investments? Nothing is less certain.
Trends based on the distributed architectures are already emerging: edge computing technologies, for example, aim to shift certain video workflow functions previously centralized closer to the end user.
With this approach, some technologies decentralize workflow functions directly to the end user point: the technology developed by Streamroot - as of today widely used in particular by the main French broadcasters - relies on the mesh network - constituted by the viewers - to stream a large part of the video traffic traditionally delivered by CDNs which allows improving the quality of the video streaming experience.
These client-distributed or edge approaches, which mitigate the risks of "overheating" of the platforms and increase their resilience, have a bright future ahead of them.
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