Verizon Media on going OTT with sports broadcasting
By Scott Goldman, director of product management, Verizon Media Platform
The media landscape is changing and 2020 is going to be a momentous milestone for streaming particularly in the live sports arena. More and more streaming platforms are now bidding for and winning the rights to matches and games with the objective of becoming a major player within the sports broadcasting world.
After its successful foray into live football, Amazon has now acquired the exclusive rights to broadcast certain matches in the UEFA Champions League in Germany, with many more providers looking to quickly follow suit.
As we enter the new decade new players will continue to enter the market, including smaller providers with more niche sport and league offerings. Streaming as a format creates global audiences around content that simply wouldn’t have had a critical mass of viewers in a localized environment to make a channel sustainable.
Cutting the cord
For a lot of viewers, live sports is the main reason for not cutting the cord to traditional cable and satellite packages. But fans increasingly have alternative options for watching their favourite team play in real time. ABI research forecasts that live streaming will grow to 91 million subscribers in 2024 driven by consumer demand for sports. Streaming services now enable sports fans to watch more games than ever before for a fraction of the cost and potentially, as part of packages that they are already paying for.
Increased internet speeds and the growth of connected TVs are enabling superior viewer experiences. New innovations in 4K streaming, enhanced playback features and hyper-personalisation are enabling streaming content service providers to provide packages with better quality, that are genuinely competitive with traditional broadcasters in the quest for eyeballs.
Delivering low latency
Latency is an issue that has been plaguing live sports for some time. Amazon Prime viewers were recently warned to turn off goal alerts due to a predicted delay of up to 90 seconds between the live action and Prime’s stream. As the market continues to become more lucrative for media and entertainment services, streaming content providers need to deliver video to viewers as fast as linear broadcasts in order to remain competitive. Failing to do so will make it far more difficult to capture new viewers and retain existing audiences.
One of the most common mistakes we see is live sports being treated like video on demand (VoD). Live sports, particularly high profile events, can have millions of concurrent viewers on a range of devices and platforms, all around the world. Every one of these viewers expects real time delivery and every-time availability that they get from an over the air broadcast. In contrast, VoD content is often accessed by viewers at different times of the day, which reduces the amount of traffic any one piece of content will receive at any one time.
Significant progress has already been made to lower latency for consumers by increasing the speed of codecs. Streaming formats like DASH and CMAF have managed to simplify the process for HTTP-based streaming, which has reduced latency from four to six seconds, to two seconds. Of course, a 30 second delay still means that you could hear a neighbor cheering a goal before you’ve seen it yourself.
So how can streaming services ensure low latency? Invest in a content delivery solution that supports broadcast-level latency. One example is to use a multiple content delivery network solution (multi-CDN). Media operators need a multi-CDN to manage high levels of traffic during peak times, such as live sports events. Taking a multi-CDN approach facilitates low levels of latency by rerouting traffic and minimising the risk of the media operator suffering from network issues. By spreading traffic over multiple CDNs, broadcasters are protected against slowdowns and downtime; if one provider’s network experiences an outage, traffic can be routed through another network. Live sports streaming at broadcast-level latency will help service providers to increase their subscriber base and reduce churn.
2020 will continue to see streaming service providers build their portfolio of sports rights in Europe and across the globe. With growing consumer demand for high quality live sports streams, broadcasters and content producers need to be able to deliver a compelling TV-like experience regardless of consumer device, and one of the best ways to achieve this is by employing robust and flexible technology and strong operational capabilities.