Guest Comment: MPEG-DASH – key to efficient delivery of multiscreen sports content

Executive Portrait

Ian Trow, senior director of Emerging Technology and Strategy at Harmonic

Consumer demand for high-quality video content, including live and on-demand coverage of sports events, is at an all-time high, writes Ian Trow, senior director of Emerging Technology and Strategy at Harmonic. Recent research from Parks Associates indicates that 44 per cent of tablet owners and 32 per cent of smartphone users have increased their video consumption on mobile platforms as compared to a year ago.

As broadcasters look to meet consumers’ growing appetite for content anytime, anywhere, and on any device, many have rolled out adaptive streaming services to ensure that viewers have instant access to every game-winning goal and post-match interview.

Yet, it is critical for broadcasters to understand that producing and delivering sports content in the multiscreen environment is quite different than it is for linear television. Whether consumers use their tablet or smartphone on the go or in the living room, they generally do not want to watch a sporting event from beginning to end, or in its entirety. Broadcasters need an efficient method for rebranding sports content into condensed highlights, and distributing it to a wide range of device types, including TVs, PCs, smartphones, and tablets.

An HTTP streaming standard called MPEG-DASH offers a solution. By providing broadcasters with a unified format for delivering streaming video content, DASH makes it easier and more affordable to turn around superior quality sports content for multiple screens. This article discusses the benefits of MPEG-DASH for multiscreen sports applications.

What is DASH?

DASH is an adaptive bitrate streaming technique that was developed by the Moving Picture Expert Group (MPEG) to enable efficient, high-quality streaming of multimedia content over the Internet. Prior to the DASH standard, broadcasters had to prepare and deliver streaming content in a variety of adaptive bitrate formats, including Apple HLS, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, and AdobeHDS.

Having to separately encode, store, and transport content in order to ensure compatibility with all three formats was time-consuming and costly, making this process particularly unconducive to the fast-paced nature of sports. With DASH, broadcasters can cost-effectively scale adaptive streams to any connected device using a common encryption technology with one master key.

Clearly, the ability to turnaround content quickly in the sports environment is essential. Viewers want to know the results of the latest soccer match as it is happening, not hours or perhaps days later. By deploying a total solutions approach that supports DASH, broadcasters can quickly repackage live–to-air content, store it, and then deliver the content once to a variety of devices, as opposed to multiple times. Thus, the primary benefit of DASH is that it provides significant cost and time-savings to broadcasters with multiscreen services.

With the industry still working on a solid business model for multiscreen, broadcasters need to recover a good operating margin on multiscreen delivery. By choosing a DASH-based solution, broadcasters can unify their headend infrastructure and reduce the capital expenses associated with parallel delivery chains while also decreasing operating expenses by minimising use of a broadcast-specific infrastructure.

In addition, DASH resolves content protection issues. Utilising a single encryption standard, DASH enables content to be encrypted once and streamed to clients that support a variety of digital rights management (DRM) systems. Each client has decryption keys so that it can stream commonly encrypted content from the same server.

Having moderate content protection in place is especially important for sports content, since it only has a short period of optimum value. By employing DASH-based video delivery solutions, broadcasters can prevent the content being pirated and protect their investment.


Utilising an HEVC solutions approach for multiscreen content preparation and delivery, broadcasters can optimise operational efficiency and protection of sports content, while lowering costs. In addition to transforming the way that sports content is packaged and presented, the MPEG-DASH standard paves the way for broadcasters to deliver 4K and Ultra HD content on second-screen devices leveraging the new HEVC compression standard.

Any broadcaster that is contemplating launching a multiscreen service with DASH should adopt HEVC for video compression. This will allow them to deliver amazing video quality on every screen.

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