Op-Ed: Imagen Connects Your Sport With a Global Audience

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

Nick Ashwin

Nick Ashwin

The Problem
In a world where anyone can produce video content with a swipe of a 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 Mbps 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, HBO Go, etc. — are able to use content-distribution networks, which are ideal for streaming live or on-demand video to consumers 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: for example, offering a reduced library, low-res proxies, or mezzanine files. This frequently results in complex workarounds, slow delivery, and, most crucially, a poor experience for high-importance clients.

Sports Broadcast and Improved Media Distribution
As American sports brands look to expand their viewership to new generations of football fans in new territories, the demand for rich sports content is set to grow.

The NFL, for example, has played at least one regular-season game in London for the past 10 seasons. This year, it has increased that number to three, with each game played in front of a sell-out stadium. Rightsholders realize that there’s an appetite for coverage of leagues outside native borders. Soccer’s La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, and the Premier League attract huge audiences worldwide, something the larger U.S. sports brands would surely like to replicate.

With sports-news networks like Golf Channel and NFL Network creating and editing on a 24/7 basis, 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 and build supporting content around live broadcasts and review shows.

Although news travels fast in the sports world, large volumes of broadcast-quality files do not. When files are born digital, supplying data from a server room in the host country can mean a poor experience for customers in faraway countries. Downloading those 120-MBps broadcast masters can seem to 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 needed: storage servers sitting in production suites or data centers are generally locked down, and search interfaces (internal and external) are virtually nonexistent.

Attempting to host a high-resolution library across CDNs would be unfeasible; CDNs are economically viable only when relatively small numbers of files are serving a large number of users. That’s great for Netflix, not so much 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 (GDN) feature: an example of how public-cloud infrastructure can be used 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 points of presence (PoPs) around the globe.

With hundreds of access points available worldwide, content owners can deliver broadcast-quality media to key customers from the closest PoP in the fastest time possible, offering a more localized service with improved speeds and performance. Through the GDN technology, Imagen allows content owners to fully realize the commercial value of their content and expand their markets overseas, delivering a vast library of legacy or near-live content to a new audience in new territories and 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, it’s a premium performance for premium content, allowing global customers to search entire video libraries in seconds, play back 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 among 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 small and medium-size entities to global sports brands — to enjoy the same experience and opportunities using Imagen’s flexible architecture. No large capital expenditure 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 organization unlock the value of its content, protect its brand, and provide rapid access to large volumes of media on a truly global scale.

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