Akamai on delivering the India-South Africa cricket series live through the cloud

Everyone knows Indian’s love their cricket, and for the India-South Africa cricket series held over January and February 2018, viewers were able to experience every wicket on their mobile devices, laptops and on the TV thanks to a combination of technology providers working with broadcasters to make sure everything, including the advertising, was perfectly placed.

For the India-South Africa cricket series, cloud provider Akamai worked with ad expert Yospace to bring its combined ad insertion technology to Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), so that viewers could use video on demand service, SonyLIV, to watch the action across any device. Akamai’s Dynamic Ad Insertion delivering targeted advertisements during the live stream and SonyLIV achieved a near 100% ad fill rate without compromising on the viewing experience for users.

Ian Munford, director of product marketing, media solutions, at Akamai, says his company has a long running relationship with Sony Pictures Networks and with cricket in general. However, the Yospace relationship is relatively new.

Ian Munford, director of product marketing, media solutions, Akamai

He explains: “Yospace has developed the dynamic as insertion technology quite significantly, and they are used by a number of broadcasters around the world. We have a mantra around creating video streams that are as elegant as you see on TV, and the advertising aspect of that as well. Historically many organisations have used client-side ad insertion tech, so the ‘smarts’ are basically in the player; this causes issues in the viewing experience of the ad, which can be problematic, and it’s quite a heavy load on the player. The move is now to server-side ad insertion.”

With Yospace, Akamai is working to improve the viewers side of seeing an advert, using ad scale techniques to inject an ad into the viewer’s live sport stream. Serving relevant ads at the crucial moment is quite complicated, says Munford, as well as managing the vast numbers of viewers watching simultaneously as, “we find, when looking at cricket, it actually drives very significant audience numbers both online and on mobile as well,” plus the need for better analytics on ads served.

On the latter, Akamai offers near-real time analytics which it delivers though a telemetry API so brands can see what is being seen and how it is being viewed, helping with monitisation.

“What we’re really signalling here is the need to think carefully about live sport and the advertising experience as a consistent experience for the viewer, instead of being quite disjointed, as they often are today,” he notes. “The nuts and bolts of this is real insight into viewer engagement, what people are doing with your adverts, which is what the brands buying ad time really want to understand.”

Things can always be improved, Munford states, and Akamai is now looking at latency. “One of the things we’re working on quite carefully right now is the issue of latency. It applies not just to cricket, but to any live sport. Online viewing can be quite bad, with 30 seconds to one minute delays.”

About 12 months ago Akamai launched Media Services Live, which focuses on bringing reliability and scale to live streaming; the liveOrigin capabilities within Media Services Live are designed to operate in concert to support the same level of quality for linear video streaming that is expected of traditional broadcast television. Munford adds: “liveOrigin improves the fidelity of the signal and latency to 10 seconds, so for any sport it is a major innovation for a great viewing experience online.”

He concludes: “What’s really exciting to see right now is the maturity and consistency for the viewing experience of online sports, which has historically been seen as ‘snacking’ or an out-of-home mode of delivery. But now any form of sport delivery to any device is quite a mature form of watching sport. Innovation is now about building on the maturity of delivery.”

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