Verizon Media’s Darren Lepke talks tech enhancements and helping customers reach audiences during lockdown

Darren Lepke, head of video product management at Verizon Media, caught up with SVG Europe to tell us what the company has enhanced and honed for those in sports broadcasting this spring.

What have you been up to, tech-wise, in sports broadcasting this spring?

To help sports broadcasters better serve audiences, we have enhanced our media platform’s ingest, encoding, and CDN capabilities to deliver live content in 4K HDR, with the TV-like picture quality viewers expect.

Recent testing of concurrent viewers on the platform has now reached the 10 million viewer threshold, surpassing the scale seen in recent large live events.

Additionally, we also provide a self-service dashboard for live event operators to stop and start events, trigger ad breaks, and create clips of the event. The dashboard has been updated with a new Live Event Markers feature, which enables operators to tag events of interest during any live event, for example scoring plays or end of quarter breaks. It efficiently publishes this metadata alongside the video streams, so content owners can design new features for on screen overlays and interactivity. Additionally, our new Real-time Streaming feature, currently in beta, enables live event streaming with sub-second latency.

Also, to help content owners ensure their content is seen by viewers on the broadest range of platforms, our Verizon Media Control feature makes it possible to curate content, simulate live channels and syndicate to multiple platforms within a single platform. Channel Scheduling allows content owners to create virtual live linear experiences using assets from their VOD library, a live feed, or a live event. This eliminates the need for expensive broadcast playout technologies to curate and develop new channels for their audiences. Syndication Publishing empowers content owners to publish streams directly to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Twitch.

What is the benefit of this technology for those in sports video content production?

Our main focus with these products is to help our customers maximise audience reach and revenues. We’re already seeing leagues and tournaments discussing making a return to TV screens without spectators in the stadiums. For example, the Bundesliga in Germany is one of the first leagues to start up again.

Sports broadcasters are likely to receive a significant surge in online audiences when we return to normal. Our latest enhancements ensure that broadcasters can deliver immersive and interactive real time streams for millions of concurrent users.

Another key benefit is the simplification of workflows provided by our channel scheduler and syndication publishing features. To programme channels and publish to social media, our customers were often using two to three additional pieces of software. It is now centralised within one UI or API driven toolset in the cloud.

How will this technology be developed further?

We are always looking for new ways to better serve our customers so they can offer the most compelling viewing experiences. For Verizon Media Control we are planning to add personalisation controls that will allow broadcasters to automatically create personalized virtual channels tailored to the unique likes and dislikes of each viewer.

Future enhancements to our syndication publishing tool will enable content owners to add elements of personalisation beyond ads and publish directly to dMVPD and OTT platforms, all of which can be done from a single user interface.

What else are we likely to see coming out from your company over the next six months, and why is it of interest to the sports video production community?

Over the next six months we will be working on enhancing the experiences of fans watching sports live, in-stadium. With the emergence of 5G and pervasive internet connectivity in everyone’s pocket, we feel there are ways to work with the sports video production community to plan for new experiences like multi-angle viewing in apps and AR graphics overlays on mobile devices. Fans at the match should have access to replays and player data, similar to fans at home. When fans return, we want to make sure their experience is better than ever before.

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