Driving the OTT experience forward with Net Insight
STCC (Scandinavian Touring Car Championship) and Lagardère Sports signed a 10-year agreement on sponsorship and hospitality rights in 2015, which included exploring new monetisation opportunities in collaboration with sponsors. The agreement means that Lagardère Sports will handle these rights for STCC’s entire operations in the Nordic region.
Earlier this year, STCC and Lagardère Sports selected Stockholm-based Net Insight to deliver an innovative live OTT streaming format based on its Sye system. This is a stand-alone service that distributes synchronised live OTT with a fixed delay from the content delivery network (CDN), into the Cloud and out to the Client’s device.
“Recently, the owners of the STCC brand have been working very hard to make the series even more popular,” explains Fredrik Tumegård, CEO of Net Insight. “They set the foundation for a great series, and now they were ready to produce the complete package of entertainment for the entire family.”
He continues: “The TV and media industry is currently going through a huge transformation and this partnership is equally important as it is exciting when it comes to demonstrating the future of television and bringing people closer together.”
That’s where Net Insight and Sye come in. STCC immediately saw the value in using Sye to engage not only the young tech-savvy enthusiasts, but also the diehard touring car fans in ways not previously available.
“Sye was used at the premier STCC event at Solvalla to provide extra OTT viewing to fans across the globe. In partnership with Swedish production company, StoryFire, we provided a new sports format that really changes the concept of viewing live motor sports. Together, we can deliver an exciting, innovative and engaging experience that brought new fans to the series through a complete entertainment package.”
That package includes parallel feeds from well-known motor sport influencers, including comments and analysis about the race. The app solution also includes in-car cameras allowing viewers to follow their favourite driver and view multiple feeds at the same time to follow parallel actions on the track.
Tumegård says the app turns the viewers into their own producers, making them part of the live event. “The inherent low delay, synchronised delivery and fast channel switching of Net Insight’s Sye is fundamental in providing the true live experience and engaging the viewers.”
Tomas Bringholm, CEO StoryFire and Content Producer, agrees. “The new technology brings the opportunity to allow the viewer to take a part in the race and become the passenger in each car. I’m a driver, and I have been on the circuit competing with others and it’s a complete adrenalin rush. Now to be able to produce it for the people on the sofa at home or with their iPads and for them to experience what I have experienced to be in the car – it’s a dream come true.”
Operating from an OB vehicle next to the broadcaster’s vehicle, StoryFire created a complimentary TV-channel that focused on happenings beyond the race track, the watching public, interviews with the drivers and the activities of the teams. They also test-drove cars and cut in pre-recorded material.
Net Insight’s onsite hardware was housed in a flight case measuring about 10 RU. Tumegård says, “We fitted encoders and two PCs. One computer was used as our ingest from the encoders to the cloud for distribution. The other PC was recording all ABR levels from all channels for us to archive the event.”
How it works
So, how does Sye contribute to the OTT experience when it comes to STCC coverage? Net Insight setup a multi CDN, ultra-low latency solution together with IP-Only (Sweden’s open and neutral fibre network) and Amazon Web Services (AWS). The ultra-low latency transcoding was done on-premises at Net Insight and provided by AWS Elemental to guarantee high quality output.
The traffic was primarily routed through IP-Only, with overflow streaming going via AWS. This end-to-end solution was faster than broadcast, delivering live feeds to the end users in the STCC Live app in just 3.5 seconds.
“The solution was configured to handle 50,000 concurrent viewers and traffic was routed through both London and Frankfurt,” states Tumegård. “The streams generated were very high quality and the service ran perfectly throughout the entire event.”
Flexibility is key
Tumegård reports that 78 per cent of the customers that downloaded the STCC Live app were active during the event. “This app allows the user to follow the race on the regular produced output from SVT and StoryFire, but in addition it is possible to select a preferred commentator or guest speaker, view eight driver cameras, create a split screen with two cars or look at one of the two sponsored content feeds.”
So, how does the viewer select what audio feed goes with which video feed? “That was something we controlled in the app. We kept had the commentators at 80% of the volume and 20% of the in-car noise. The viewer can select split screen viewing using a transparent mode selector at lower right corner of the screen.”
He adds: “The solution complements the existing broadcast TV and opens up new revenue streams and monetisation opportunities for the content and rights owners.”
The STCC event was free to all viewers downloading the application, and although ads did not appear during this particular event, users could select any of the sponsor channels if they wanted specific commercial information.
Great success – lessons learned
The broadcast was deemed a success by all of those involved. In fact, Bringholm believes the Sye OTT solution is a game changer. “I think we will see this technology be adopted in a lot of other sports events in a similar way. This technology alongside the creative product we are developing makes it possible to grow an already fairly big audience to perhaps twice the size.”
Bringholm continues: “I think we have proven to broadcasters involved, and associated media houses, how the future of a digital footprint and a broadcast can live in sync from a live event. With this as a full scale POC (Proof of Concept) we can scale the creative concepts from StoryFire, and the formats around this with the Sye technology from Net Insight, and make this available to a much wider range of rights holders, media houses and broadcasters.”
Jonas Lundin, CEO of STCC and Car Racing Director, adds: “This is the first glimpse of the future of live sports viewing. STCC has always been in the forefront in creating new value-added services for our fans, and we are sure they will be as excited as we are to make this available to our race event broadcasts.”
He continues: “The benefit is that you can come much closer to the sport and that is very important. It makes it more personal, you can have interviews, and viewers can do more than just look at the races on the track. The STCC Live app is awesome and the collaboration with technology provider Net Insight and StoryFire, who were responsible for the studio, was fantastic.”
Martin Håkansson, CEO of Lagardère Sports Scandinavia says, “With the STCC Live app we were able to both extend and enhance the whole STCC experience. I look forward to developing this concept further for our coming events.”
Tumegård concludes: “From the experience, we learned that the integration with the time keeping systems and the list of current drivers are important when creating a dynamic application and viewing experience. It is vital that what you see in the pictures also matches the app graphics and layout. We also found that harmonisation with the regular broadcast is key for a good second screen experience. For example, the sports event might include other programming – such as news breaks and so on. You need a plan whether or not the second screen viewer should see then. And you need to develop a kill-switch system and monitor all new feeds. All in all, though, as a result of this new experience, fans have given the new app rave reviews, and STCC is looking forward to developing more fan engagement for next season.”