FutureSport 2016: Bringing the NFL Brand to European Audiences
Earlier this year NFL rights holder MP&Silva awarded a three-year digital content distribution contract to Deluxe Entertainment Services which sees the latter pick up US NFL feeds via the MX1 facility in Pennsylvania. Using Deluxe’s IP-based platform MediaCloud and Interxion’s data centres in East London, the NFL matches are customised and delivered to a host of European audiences. This case study was moderated by SVG Europe Managing Editor David Davies and participating were Richard Craig-McFeely, Interxion, Strategy & Marketing Director – Digital Media; Damon Garwood, MP&Silva, Managing Director, Digital & Technology Services; and Tom Holmes, Deluxe MediaCloud, Sales & Marketing Director.
According to Damon Garwood, “All federations are looking for more audience and more reach and more revenue. Where we come into it increasingly is that we don’t just acquire rights but the rights to distribute as well. We’re not a technology company, and don’t claim to be. In this instance, the only way to make it viable required us to be quite innovative. Prior to this NFL project we had worked with the Deluxe guys on the Belgian and Polish football leagues. We looked at how we could distribute content using cloud and IP technologies.”
Richard Craig McFeely added, “We’ve got 42 data centres across Europe. It’s the data centres here in Brick Lane in East London that Deluxe is using. The reason why Deluxe chose us really all about connectivity. We offer co-location services; it’s Deluxe’s kit inside our data centres. They know what that kit is and they’ve tested it, and we make sure we’ve got the right amount of power and cooling and so on, and the right level of connectivity.”
From the Deluxe perspective Tom Holmes said, “Our relationship with Interxion goes back about four years. Aside from the work we do with the NFL, Deluxe MediaCloud also provides playout and MAM services out of data centres and data centre-driven services. We worked initially on those services with Interxion and then grew into contribution and distribution as well.
“Our relationship with MP&Silva goes back a similar distance,” said Holmes. “Our relationship with the NFL goes back two years. When we were first introduced they had spent quite a lot of time looking at IP technology solutions for distribution of their content and had tested with a number of providers. They had seen the benefits, but couldn’t quite find the solution that delivered the availability they required, which is when we engaged and did some joint testing.
“Straight after NAB 2015,” continued Holmes, “we deployed some of our equipment and our broadcast delivery network into their facility in New Jersey. We went through rigorous 24/7 testing with them where effectively they tried to break what it was we were providing over that period of time. We use public internet for our services and during testing we were traversing their corporate network – and at one point during that two weeks they actually lost email and internet capability. But fortunately, because we have dual and diverse connectivity and multi-quality technology, we were able to switch over and they didn’t notice the change to the game going on in the background.
“So, pretty much after that they ratified the solution and we worked with MP&Silva to roll out the platform. The start date was the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, initially to seven broadcasters. This season that has more than doubled, to 16 broadcasters across the region,” said Holmes.
“We pick up in HD-SDI from an aggregation point in the US and then encode that into IP using the public internet and bring it back to the data centres to manage the rights obligations on behalf of MP&Silva and the NFL to the appropriate broadcasters. We then decode from IP into HD-SDI to keep the workflows similar to those they’ve experienced previously on satellite and fixed fibre,” he said.
Damon Garwood said: “We have increased the number of games broadcast by over 50%. Because we have been able to be a bit more economical with the price point, moving from satellite to cloud, we’ve enabled broadcasters that previously hadn’t been able to afford to take NFL to do so – and they have been able to show more games every weekend during the season, up to seven games a week now. Before we put this in place, the NFL didn’t have any ability to view the European feed. Now they can monitor what’s going out in Europe, from New Jersey. They’re keen to be as innovative as possible.”
Moderator David Davies asked could this cloud-based approach be applied to other sports or other federations? “Absolutely,” said Craig-McFeely. “The reason we’re all sitting here is because we really believe in the transition to this way of working. There are a few reasons for that: from Deluxe’s point of view, they’ve got their equipment in a safe and secure facility. There are lots of options around connectivity and they have access to the cloud if they want it,” he said.
“The other thing is that even though the kit is in the UK, you’ve got people from the UK, the US and Australia accessing this kit during games, giving you lots of flexibility. And for companies transitioning from on-premises production to fully cloud, to co-locate the kit near the cloud and actually have a hybrid set up to the IT business is a great way to move yourself forward.”
Damon Garwood added, “We are trying to deliver services in a different way to how they’ve been traditionally delivered. That takes a buy-in from all sides, as well as the federation. Other federations are very interested in how they package up their rights, and there’s an obligation to show as many matches as possible every week.”
Tom Homes concluded by saying, “Traditionally with IP solutions there’s that feeling that maybe it doesn’t deliver the availability that a traditional service does – well we’ve kind of proved that it does with the NFL. We get asked, is it secure? Can you scale up and scale down with the bandwidth?
“We go from single digital megabit services [with other clients] right up to the NFL, which I think is 40 megabits into the broadcasters. Equally, sitting alongside all of that is the SLA that we commit into MP&Silva, which is a typical broadcast SLA for these types of services and very important,” said Holmes.