FuboTV Premier Service Provides RSNs and a Lot More
The new OTT offering is focused on high-resolution video and fast startup times
FuboTV isn’t just about soccer. In fact, with the premiere service it launched in beta in February, it isn’t just about sports.
FuboTV Premier is a 50-channel skinny-bundle OTT offering geared to the sports fanatic and designed to tempt subscribers into cutting their cable bills. Priced at $35 per month, it offers access to NBC and Fox regional sports networks; dedicated channels for basketball, golf, and the Big 10; and even mainstream cable channels like History, The Weather Channel, Bravo, and FX. For the launch, Fubo beefed up its soccer offering with English Premiere League; added NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL games; and is available in the U.S. and Canada on a variety of platforms, including browsers, iOS and Android apps, and Chromecast devices.
Although FuboTV’s user interface varies, its emphasis on quality is there throughout. The two-year-old company’s small but growing team of engineers (it has roughly 45, many in its New York City office) is focused on delivering high-resolution video with fast startup times.
Says Fubo Chief Technology Officer Jason Solinsky, “The focus today is on users in places with suboptimal internet connections, which, of course, is all of us.”
Fubo’s engineering improvements play out differently, depending on what the viewer is experiencing. Some viewers will get a stream that has been compressed in a way that offers better quality, while others will get a stream optimized for the type of content they’re watching. Fubo is also looking at methods of preventing buffering in the first place (even though its buffer rate is low already, Solinsky stresses).
“Really, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be essentially zero,” he adds. “So we’re working on a number of features towards that.”
To get video delivery right for its RSN partners, Fubo first had to create an in-house system able to ingest all the manifests and segments it gets during transcoding, analyze the data, and create a stream modified specially for each viewer. The system considers where the viewer is, what content delivery networks are nearby, and what content sources are allowed — and it does that in near real time, with little lag between when a request is made and when the viewer gets the video. A modified video manifest handles all necessary insertions and stitching.
With that system in place, Fubo was able to support SCTE 224, creating a fully automated system that processes geo-restrictions and blackouts — an essential for pro-sports publishers, ensuring that viewers get only content they’re entitled to see. Automating the process is a huge help to Fubo.
“For a company of our size,” Solinsky says, “if we had to do these ‘eyes-on-glass’ operations — [which] involve a lot of people, a lot of effort — it would have been very inefficient.”
The big question for Fubo is why a small, young company would create a system like this in-house when there is a variety of off-the-shelf OTT solutions on the market. In fact, Solinsky thought he would use a vendor system when he took the job, but it didn’t work out.
“I came from Google,” he explains. “I was expecting to find a relatively mature infrastructure on the back of it. There were well-established ways of doing things, that you could buy a service and it would just work. Very early on, we had experiences that showed me that this was entirely not true. There were major vendors who were successfully selling services all over the place which essentially don’t work at all in some cases. In many other cases, they work, but they require massive service and integrations. So, basically, you find yourself at the mercy of that vendor.”
Rather than go through that, Solinsky made an early decision to develop heavily in-house. As of today, he says, a large portion of Fubo’s video infrastructure has been developed in-house, and more is on the way. The company has important partnerships, though: it relies on iStreamPlanet for transcoding, packaging, DRM, and encryption. It also works with multiple content-delivery networks but mostly Fastly and Akamai.
With its aggressive development efforts, Fubo has a lot more in store for its Premier customers: navigation and video-quality improvements, a cloud DVR, and overhauls to its mobile and connected TV apps. Although Solinsky won’t offer details just yet, the company is planning social-network integrations that should improve the experience of watching sports. Expect to see some of the features roll out in the near future.
“Our goal is to provide the best possible platform for viewing live sporting events, and we have a goal of mastering pretty much every element of the delivery stack,” Solinsky says. “That’s been under way for some time. We hope to be in a very good place in terms of that by the end of this year.”