Connected Sports Conference: HEVC Set to Revolutionize Multiscreen Distribution…But When?
While much of the ballyhoo surrounding the up-and-coming HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) video compression standard revolves around its potential to efficiently deliver 4K and 8K content to the home, the most immediate HEVC application will likely be seen in the video streaming sector. During a session at SVG’s Connected Sports Conference on Wednesday in New York City, a quintet of multiscreen-distribution vendors discussed how HEVC will impact their business in the near and long-term, as well as how to best cater to today’s finicky sports-video consumer, who expects to be able to watch every game on any device anywhere, anytime.
“At first I think a lot of people thought about HEVC as an enabler for 4k, which on paper looks really nice,” said Albert Lai, Brightcove, CTO for Media and Broadcast Solutions. “But I think that in reality [the best application for HEVC] is as a way to take existing content – whether VOD or live – and deliver that at twice as much quality for equal cost or half your costs for delivery. In the live-streaming use case that has a huge impact.”
When Will HEVC Arrive on the Sports Scene?
Lai offered the example of Smartcom:tv, which recently utilized Brightcove’s Zencoder Live Cloud Transcoding service to support live streaming of the annual event Finnmarksløpet dog sled race in the most northern part of Norway, where bandwidth and connectivity were almost nonexistent. While the live-stream went off without a hitch, HEVC could have allowed Smartcom:tv to become even more efficient in its use of bandwidth and/or increased in the quality of the live video product.
While HEVC was one of the buzziest terms at the IBC show in Amsterdam earlier this month, it does still seem to be a ways away from becoming a mainstream factor in the delivery of video. The question is when and where will it HEVC final break through?
“It’s going to depend on the application and, not unlike when HD came onto the scene, it’s going to depend on who drives it,” said Manuel De Peña, Elemental Technologies, Director of Sales. “We have had government customers with a finite amount of satellite bandwidth that want to get more video streams [ask about HEVC]. Sports is another one – they need to get more camera feeds in from stadiums and maybe backhaul [with HEVC] is the way to approach it. Or maybe it’s mobile – with the right chip in the next iteration of the iPhone or Android phones, it will make it easier for the carriers to feed us more video with HEVC. It’s going to depend on a lot of factors.”
Nonetheless, the potential benefits of HEVC are unquestionable, especially to a sports-production industry that must deal with ever-growing libraries of content and endless codecs, formats, and mobile/OTT devices.
“When you think of the means of distribution, file transcoding and file delivery leveraging the power of HEVC is something that is huge,” said Jayson Fuhlbruck, Haivision, Director for Partner Development. “It’s something that applies to [the sports video industry], having large libraries of assets that are already defined at larger bit-rates and higher resolutions. The value of it is being able to increase the quality and reduce the cost, which hopefully helps to drive consumption.”
Monetization Tomorrow, Growing Your Brand Today
While HEVC represents the future of streaming video, most sports-content owners are focused on today – especially on how to monetize all these streaming services. Over the past half decade hundreds of collegiate athletics program that had little or no video-production facilities have realized the advantages of live-streaming their games. While many of these sports – especially Olympic sports – have yet to show a major return, these universities and colleges have significantly grown their brand and exposure to potential sponsors, students, and regional broadcasters.
“It is all about exposure,” says “A lot of our customers are just tyring to get more exposure for their program, whether the are in recruitment mode or trying to get sponsors. I’m talking about anywhere from major league brands to regional brands to small colleges that just want to get their brand out there and get more exposure. With that, they can then prove the quality to sell the content to a regional operator or gain sponsors.”
Aventus Goes Live
At IBC earlier this month, iStreamPlanet officially launched its cloud-based live-video-delivery solution. The long-in-the-pipeline platform will allow content providers to avoid having to purchase costly hardware and endless stacks of encoders in order to deliver high-profile events by instead encoding live video streams in the cloud using iStreamPlanet’s Nevada-based data center.
With that in mind, Microsoft Azure and NBC Sports Digital will utilize Aventus to live stream the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (as well as the NFL, NHL, Notre Dame football, and the Premier League on NBC Sports Live Extra), rather than buying an army of gear and then selling it off after the 17-day long event concludes.
“Aventus is built to enable content owners and broadcasters to quickly set up live events and 24-7 channels,” said Eric Weinstein, iStreamPlanet, Director, Digital Media Solutions. “This year, NBC is [streaming] a whole lot more events on NBC Sports Live Extra than they have in the past. So Aventus allows them to scale up quickly to support that, especially with the Olympics coming up, without having to build out an extra data center on their end. It’s all virtualized in the cloud with Aventus.”