Guest Comment: Imagen discusses sports broadcast potential of its Global Distribution Network

Imagen's Ian Mottashed

Imagen’s Ian Mottashed

For media and entertainment companies, sports leagues, rights holders and sports federations, the costs and complexities of distributing valuable, broadcast quality media libraries online can be prohibitive, says Imagen VP of marketing Ian Mottashed. Imagen’s latest Global Distribution Network feature gives sports and media brands the opportunity to manage, preserve and distribute their media content to a global audience via a secure, customisable web platform – delivering a premium performance and enabling new B2B and B2C business models in new territories.

The problem

In a world of video, where anyone can produce content with a swipe of their smartphone, new services are popping up every month with new ways to capture, edit, and share media quickly with anyone, anywhere. Advances in social and consumer focused digital video tend to propagate relatively low-resolution files with short lifespans. Currently, the same easy methods for distribution and access are not available for broadcast-quality content; these large libraries can be made up of files with bitrates of 120 – 150 Mbits/sec and often have a shelf life stretching out for decades. How do these vast, valuable collections of media files get shared around the world for broadcasters to edit and add into their TV schedules on the same day, for example?

The most famous video streaming services – Netflix, BBC’s iPlayer etc – are able to utilise Content Distribution Networks, which are ideal for streaming live or on-demand video to consumer audience’s worldwide. However, for content owners with large libraries of high resolution files, hosting these files on the edge of a CDN would be sub-economic and not viable.

To get around this, compromises are often made such as offering a reduced library, low res proxies, or mezzanine files. This frequently results in complex work arounds, slow delivery and, most crucially, a poor experience for high importance clients.

Sports broadcast and the case for improved media distribution

As new generations of football fans emerge in new territories, the demand for rich sports content is set to grow. In Thailand a new army of Leicester City supporters (‘Siamese Foxes’) religiously follow the fortunes of their favorite team, while Manchester United allegedly has 695 Million fans worldwide. Broadcasters realise that there’s an appetite for coverage of leagues outside their borders; La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and the Premier League all attract huge audiences worldwide.

With sports magazine shows being created and edited on a 24/7 basis globally, the demand for content has never been greater. Broadcasters, in particular, often need access to high-res content quickly to react to live events and news, [in order] to build supporting content around live broadcasts and review shows.

While news travels fast in the world of sport, large volumes of broadcast quality files do not. When files are born digital, supplying data from a server room in the host country can also provide a poor experience for customers based in faraway countries. Waiting for those 120MB/Sec broadcast masters to download can take forever – especially when production teams are reacting to live events or have a show to deliver that day. That’s assuming the customer can find the content they need. Storage servers sitting in production suites or datacentres are generally locked down and search interfaces (internal and external) are virtually non-existent.

Attempting to host a high resolution library across CDNs would be unfeasible; CDNs are only economically viable where there are relatively small numbers of files serving a large number of users. Great for Netflix but not for companies dealing with exclusive content and a relatively small number of high paying clients.

Public cloud infrastructure

At Imagen we’ve launched our Global Distribution Network feature: an example of how public cloud infrastructure can be utilised by content owners to reach a global audience. Through the network, and over the cloud, our clients are able to take high value content closer to remote audiences by automatically replicating large volume media libraries to any number of strategically positioned PoPs around the globe.

With hundreds of access points available worldwide, content owners can now deliver broadcast quality media to key customers from the closest PoP in the fastest time possible – offering a more localised service with improved speeds and performance. Through the GDN technology, Imagen allows content owners to fully realise the commercial value of their content and expand their markets overseas – to deliver a vast library of legacy or near-live content to a new audience in new territories – providing never-seen-before footage to a worldwide fan base.

Premium performance media platform

With Imagen’s video management solution, it’s not just about speed of delivery – rather a premium performance for premium content, allowing global customers to search entire video libraries in seconds, playback proxies, create edits, run workflows and download high resolution content – all through a branded, scalable and highly secure web platform.

And if you do want to engage with a wider B2C audience, your site can be configured to distinguish between user profiles, providing a subscription-based VOD platform for consumers while catering to your production and broadcast partner’s high-resolution needs.

Used by some of the biggest sports and media companies in the world, Imagen is hugely scalable and allows any size business – from an SME to global sports brands – to enjoy the same experience and opportunities using Imagen’s flexible architecture. No large capex investment is required and pricing is based on the amount of content managed.

The explosion of video is changing everything and Imagen is able to help any organisation unlock the value of their content, protect their brand, and provide rapid access to large volumes of media on a truly global scale.

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