Speed of Broadcast-Video Workflow Is Important for Many, But Not All

Playback speed from content creation to publication is certainly an important factor to consider when designing a broadcast-video workflow, but how important is it to get content to user devices as quickly as possible? For broadcasters dealing with TV Everywhere platforms, the answer is simple: very. But, for those not tied to a linear broadcast, sometimes simply getting content to mobile devices is enough.

“Anytime you have a product that is being broadcast on television as well as being streamed live, ideally, you’d like to have those latencies match,” said Grant Nodine, SVP, technology, NHL, at last week’s Streaming Media East in New York City. “Obviously, you can take advantage of multicamera angles and stuff like that if you have latencies that are in line. You can start to power different second-screen content when you have a match between the broadcast and the online latencies.”

To build the necessary infrastructure in a streaming workflow that provides the required speed of publication, broadcasters must consider how much content they have. For example, Nodine described building his systems “as if there’s going to be 15 games every night,” even if the average night on the NHL calendar has only seven or eight games. The 2014 World Cup — grander in scale yet more condensed in time — called for a similar approach.

“It’s only two months,” said Lionel Bringuier, product manager, delivery products, Elemental Technologies, “and, in those two months, you have up to eight games with eight cameras [each] at the same time. So 64 streams [need] to be encoded in multiple bitrates, but it’s only for the two to three hours of the game, and then it’s over. We leverage our cloud platform to provide that.”

The benefits of matching latencies between the linear and mobile broadcast are obvious: whether in the stands or in the home and following along on a mobile device while the game is on the field or the big screen, a fan expects the experiences to sync up. However, not all content creators need to broadcast their content to both linear and mobile platforms, and, for those, simply publishing content is enough to satisfy fans.

“We’re seeing a lot of college content and a lot of high school content that would never have ended up on TV to begin with. I think, in those cases, [broadcasters] maybe don’t really care so much about latency as long as they can deliver a good experience,” said Ken Zamkow, VP, marketing, Americas, LiveU. “In those cases, I think 20 or 30 seconds is acceptable for a lot of these guys because [it’s not] going to run on TV in parallel.”

Although video-over-cellular products like LiveU’s backpack solution have enabled smaller broadcasters — such as those on the collegiate and high school levels — to stream events that would otherwise not have been televised, the products are finding a place in large broadcast workflows as well. In particular, advances in in-venue WiFi have made video-over-cellular products more-reliable tools for content capture.

“Interestingly, we’ve seen the quality of LiveU products increase over the last couple of years, and I think it’s a direct correlation to the fact that you’ve got much better, more robust arena WiFi networks in place,” Nodine pointed out. “It basically gets those iPhone users and Android users off of the cellular frequencies and onto the WiFi frequencies and frees up some of the LTE capacity at those locations to be used for backhauls.”

Similarly, broadcasters are putting increased faith in the cloud, seeing the platform as more than a backup solution for disaster recovery. The panelists each described a hybrid approach to the cloud, marrying on-premises workflows with cloud-based technologies.

“For our circumstances, we find that the cloud meets everything that we need to do, and also we eliminate points of failure,” said Zamkow. “When you do have something on premises, you make sure all the processes are in place if your Internet is down, if your power is down, and all these things that you need to do. It depends on the organization: some organizations can do just cloud, some need a hybrid.”

Bringuier described the move to hybrid cloud workflows as an evolution. “Two years ago, there was a big fight between the broadcast guys with broadcast quality [and] Internet guys with OTT, and managing the bridge between those two worlds was the first step. Now I think managing hybrids … between the cloud and ground is the next step. There are some internal fights, [but], at the end of the day, you need to find a way to manage it.”

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