World Cup’s Cloud-Tech Legacy Is Already Paying Dividends

The 2014 FIFA World Cup marked a coming-out party of sorts for cloud-based production and distribution technologies. In Brazil, FIFA TV and Host Broadcast Services (HBS) teamed with an army of vendors — including Aspera, Elemental, and EVS — to create a workflow that provided rightsholders with more live and VoD content than ever before. Now, less than six months after the tournament’s conclusion, the benefits and repercussions of these groundbreaking new workflows and technologies are becoming apparent throughout the industry.

“Once we hoe this ground and add this type of scale, next time around, it becomes so much easier to work out a lot of the bugs,” Aspera Senior Director of Sales and Business Development Mark A. Dallesandro said during a World Cup-focused panel at the CCW Show last month. “This is a huge event, so the scale of it is just massive. When you look at doing anything [smaller] than that, which is pretty much everything, we have already hoed that ground for you.”

In Brazil, FIFA Media Rights Licensees (MRLs) were able to deliver exclusive content to smartphones and tablets via their own second-screen apps. Built around EVS’s C-Cast technology and utilizing a wealth of partners, including Aspera and Elemental, this distribution platform connected HBS’s live feeds from the respective venues to a central cloud-based server, which aggregated live streams, multi-angle clips, stats, and social-network feeds. Using this backend infrastructure, fans across the globe could consume World Cup video on a variety of screens with several angles and ancillary content seamlessly available.

CLICK HERE for an in-depth overview of the workflow on SVG’s SportsTech Blog.

While this system proved to be a coup for FIFA, MRLs, and viewers around the world, it also provided the most successful use-case to date for future sports events to deliver high-quality multiscreen experiences to fans.

“From an EVS perspective, FIFA World Cup was just the first instance in order to launch [the platform] on this scale with these partners,” said James Stellpflug, VP, sports production, EVS. “But it was all inside the C-Cast solution that EVS had already created. So, going forward, for anyone else that wants to do this, you have already done that work. It becomes a service that you can just launch on a daily rate. If you need a certain kind of transcoding, we can expand on that in the cloud, move it to where it needs to be, and facilitate your needs.”

Live video feeds were transferred in real time using Aspera WAN transport from Brazil venues into Amazon Web Services’ cloud (running Aspera On Demand).

During live matches, the Elemental Cloud transcoded each incoming feed to generate a set of 10 bitrates for delivery to MRLs. Using this scalable software-defined architecture, HBS was able to virtualize video processing in the cloud, meeting the sky-high video-delivery needs during the World Cup without having to build out costly hardware-focused infrastructure.

“The challenge of today and one of the reasons a lot of us are going to software-based solutions is that these things change over time,” said Keith Wymbs, CMO, Elemental Technologies. “You may lock things down in terms of the requirements of a given day to distribute and monetize your content. But, once you have it locked down, it changes again. The pace of change used to be in terms of decades; now it’s in terms of years or even months. Being able to keep up with that change is a real challenge for the industry and an area where Elemental puts a lot of emphasis.”

Now that sports-content producers have had a taste of what cloud-based workflows like these can do for content creation and multiscreen delivery, it’s not a surprise to see similar models popping up all over the globe.

“I think those media groups were excited about what they saw,” said Stellpflug. “For example, Rogers [Communications] in Canada saw what CBC offered up for the World Cup. They started thinking about their next NHL hockey season, so they looked at their GameCentre Live app and basically said, We want that type of similar experience. So, this season, in the GameCentre Live app, you can see the multicamera-angle content in the same fashion. They believed that is what their fans in Canada liked about the World Cup app; they wanted to bring it forward into another property.”

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