Eleven Sports, NeuLion Partner on Multimarket Streaming

Besides multiscreen delivery to Europe and Asia, Eleven offers innovative pricing

Turning the action up to 11, the Eleven Sports Network is partnering with NeuLion for multiscreen delivery in all its markets. Launched in 2015, the network previously offered limited streaming options. With its multiyear NeuLion agreement, Eleven is offering live and catch-up programming to viewers in Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland, Singapore, and Taiwan — with Malaysia on the way.

The partnership began on May 18, just in time for the FA Cup final, and covers streaming to laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

Eleven has streaming rights to matches from UEFA Euro 2016, as well as to Formula 1 racing and NBA games.

Eleven has streaming rights to matches from UEFA Euro 2016, as well as to Formula 1 racing and NBA games.

Eleven’s portfolio of licenses comprises football from UEFA Euro 2016 and La Liga BBVA, races from Formula 1, and basketball from the NBA. It also offers innovative ways to get that content: viewers can buy a daily, weekly, or monthly pass or one for a specific series. The network’s viewership spans several time zones, so it created a catch-up service for when live viewing isn’t an option. Viewers have 24 hours to watch any event that Eleven live-streamed.

“A lot of the games are going to kick off at 8:00 UK time or 9:00 European time, which is obviously 2, 3 in the morning in Asia,” says Tom Middleditch, head of digital, Eleven. “What this feature will allow someone to do is wake up in the morning and watch the match as live. As long as they’ve turned off their phone and stayed away from social media, they can enjoy the match as if it was live.”

Eleven partnered with the sports-streaming experts at NeuLion for its online service. Not only does NeuLion have years of experience streaming sports across the globe using its NeuLion Digital Platform, but it was able to deliver a multiplatform solution on a tight deadline.

“Within the whole process, we spoke with a lot of different partners,” explains Danny Menken, group managing director, Eleven. “[NeuLion is] a really, really good platform.”

Middleditch explains, “We started the whole process talking to different suppliers three months ago, but we didn’t really start building. Some of the suppliers I [asked about] a timeline to go live for the FA Cup final just said, ‘Okay, we can’t do that.’

“Straightaway,” he continues, “I was extremely impressed with the fact that NeuLion could hit our really strong deadlines but also [would be] able to do that on multiple platforms. Originally, I didn’t expect to be able to launch on mobile and tablet this early.”

Eleven was also pleased with NeuLion’s ability to offer different pricing options. The flexibility of multiple passes keeps fans happy by letting them sign up for exactly what they want.

“We’re involved with the platform, the delivery, the experience,” says Chris Wagner, EVP/co-founder, NeuLion. “We did about 63,000 live events last year, with content owners and content-right holders like Eleven Sports Network, where they use our platforms to deliver their content, monetize that content.”

To ensure that Eleven’s customers get a strong stream, NeuLion takes the live sports feeds directly from Eleven and, in some cases, directly from the venue. NeuLion’s encoder renders that at the highest bitrate — between 6 Mb and 8 Mb — and then sends it to a NeuLion cloud data center for transcoding and demuxing, preparing the live video for adaptive streaming. The company provides four or five bitrate profiles for each device, from 700 kb on the low end to 4.5 Mb on the high end. The final stream quality depends on the viewer’s device and internet connection, Wagner says.

Neulion’s multiscreen platform allows delivery to laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Neulion’s multiscreen platform allows delivery to laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

For delivery, NeuLion works with three content-delivery networks (CDNs): Akamai, Limelight, and Level 3. NeuLion is essentially a CDN manager, providing service-level agreements and managing CDN switching as needed.

“NeuLion has deals with all three CDNs,” Wagner explains. “It allows us to take advantage of any of their networks that are best performing at the time and in the right country.”

After a successful digital launch with the FA Cup, Eleven will stream the 2016 UEFA European Championship (Euro 2016), which begins today, to Singapore and Taiwan. And the network is looking ahead to next year’s football season.

“In the coming years,” Menken says, “OTT will grow quite fast, disrupting the whole distribution industry. We are very happy with this new partnership with NeuLion. Already, the first few weeks brought us a lot, and this is just the beginning. We really believe that, for us, this is the future, and that’s why we put all our energy and effort into it.”

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