NBC Sports To Stream Multi-Video Mosaic View of the Preakness Stakes

The Triple Crown second jewel gives Nyquist — and NBC Sports — a chance to do it all again

There’s one day left until the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, when America finds out whether Nyquist can do it again. One thing is certain: NBC Sports will be doing it again, offering the same NBC Sports Live Extra streaming multicamera view that it debuted at the Kentucky Derby.

From its production headquarters in Stamford, CT, NBC Sports will create a mosaic viewing experience, pre-producing a video stream that offers four camera angles. Online fans will have the option of watching the linear broadcast feed or this four-shot, which will offer a mix of views from around Pimlico Race Course.

NBC Sports’ Preakness coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN on Saturday, then at 5:00 p m. both on broadcast TV and online. Producers will rotate shots in the mosaic view as the day unfolds. Expect to see a dedicated view of Nyquist, the unbeaten two-year-old that won this year’s Derby. During the race, producers will mix in an overhead view of the action. For the Derby, NBC included a shot from the announcer’s booth and offered a separate dedicated stream of the grandstand for desktop viewers but hasn’t yet decided exactly what views it will offer this time around.

“We’re still locking down our full production plans for Saturday, gauging based on consumption and what the users want to see,” says Eric Black, CTO, digital, NBC Sports. “Really, it’s producing an event to make sure that we’re hitting off on everything the users are consuming and want to be consuming on Saturday.”

NBC Sports will stream video at seven bitrates, with the highest at 1080p/7 Mbps, its standard. It will use telemetry tools provided by the content-delivery network (CDN) and third-party vendors to monitor performance.

The NBC Sports Live Extra multicamera-feed mosaic experience seen for the Kentucky Derby will return this week for the Preakness Stakes.

The NBC Sports Live Extra multicamera-feed mosaic experience seen for the Kentucky Derby will return this week for the Preakness Stakes.

Although NBC Sports is hoping viewers will stick around for the full coverage, there’s bound to be massive viewer demand around post time. Even a slight delay during the two-minute race would be disaster, so the network is working with a reliable set of vendors. Akamai is the CDN, delivering the online streams to viewers. Accessing the streams requires pay-TV authentication, which will be handled by Adobe. Microsoft will manage encoding and cloud origin services, and iStreamPlanet will monitor performance and help with encoding. The stream-quality experts at Conviva will look to solve network performance issues before they impact viewers.

“I don’t know if there are specific technical challenges to multicam, versus straight simulcast,” Black says. “For us, it is maintaining and ensuring that we follow a standardized process that works well. If we’re doing four-box, with multiple camera angles, it’s a production task for us that we are leveraging our broadcast team on, and making sure that we are getting the right cameras produced, into an asset and then following standard video workflow, which is fairly complicated, to make sure that we are delivering the best bits out to our end users.”

Don’t look for a lot of extra features in the online coverage. NBC Sports has found that fans don’t want them for this kind of event. Whereas people streaming Premier League football might want to call up player information during the game, for Triple Crown racing, it’s all about the video.

“What we’re seeing and get a lot of feedback on,” Black says, “is how do we get more camera angles and how do we get a differentiated experience around how they’re consuming the race itself.”

Authentication can be a stumbling block, something NBC Sports tries to solve by educating viewers. Black hopes fans will join the online coverage well ahead of post time so they have a chance to find their pay-TV account information, if needed. Authentication is a big issue as NBC Sports prepares for the Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro. During the Sochi games, it gave viewers a limited amount of free viewing so they had time to find their credentials. It will do that in Rio as well.

Thanks to the use of digital ad replacement and digital ad insertion, online viewers will see different ads than broadcast viewers see, although Black says there might be some overlap.

Desktop viewers can find NBC Sports’ Preakness coverage at NBCSports.com. The network also offers NBC Sport Live Extra apps for iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, Roku, Apple TV, and Fire TV.

“We take every event that we do very, very seriously and standardize workflow. Whether it’s a Triple Crown event or a hockey playoff or the last day of Premiere League, every event is treated the same,” Black says. “We will run quite a bit of redundancy around the events. Our partners are made aware, and we’ve got an active bridge. For us, it’s just as important as all the other events that we do, and I’m proud to say that we’ve got a lot of really good success stories.”

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