NBA Streamlines B2B Content Delivery With Cloud-Based NBA Content Network

The new self-service portal serves as ‘the content storefront’ for licensees and NBA teams

Prior to the 2016-17 season, the NBA launched a cloud-based B2B portal that allows NBA licensees and NBA teams to quickly search and download finished video, images, news/information, and social-media content from the league. The NBA Content Network dramatically streamlines the way that the NBA’s content partners request and receive media content from the league on a day-to-day basis, while providing these outlets with a more expansive view of the content they have rights to and can request rights to.

The NBA Content Network portal allows league partners to access content they have rights to and preview other content for purchase.

The NBA Content Network portal allows league partners to access content they have rights to and preview other content for purchase.

“We have built a B2B portal that is basically the content storefront of the NBA,” explains Chris Halton, VP, media and distribution technology, NBA. “The NBA Content Network was created to satisfy the insatiable appetite our fans have all over the world. We deal with partners that reach fans in over 215 countries and territories, and they want the various content that we have available so they can then service fans around the world.”

How the New Portal Works
Available now to almost 200 content partners and all 30 NBA teams, the NBA Content Network houses all of the league’s finished media product. The league’s in-house team has indexed all this content and “normalized” the metadata so that tags like player ID and team ID are labeled consistently across all assets, improving discoverability.

When a user logs in, the self-service tool allows access to content that matches the user’s rights deal. Finished content is available for immediate download — along with all the associated metadata — at various bitrates. In addition, the user can view a 30-second clip of content not covered in the rights deal and directly request access to it from the regional account manager with the click of a button. In addition to the finished-product archive, users are presented with hand-curated, “best of” NBA content each night.

The NBA tracks these content requests and inputs the data into its own system in an effort to track the most in-demand content and improve in-house content creation.

“If people love a certain type of content and they’re downloading it, then let’s create more of it,” explains Halton. “We are able to track this in real time globally. We have a technical dashboard that shows content being downloaded over time — right down to the country and city where the [client is located]. So, as you get into local-content creation, you might have a particular player from a particular area of the world [where the player] is really popular, and that’s the type of content that that region is downloading. We now have visibility to that in the content-creation process.”

This significantly expands league partners’ view into NBA content compared with the previous workflow.

“Previously, affiliates would only receive nightly content delivery via FTP,” says Halton. “[Partners] didn’t know if there was more content available that [they] had license to, and we didn’t make it very searchable. Also, there was no two-way communication. We wanted to improve our efficiency, and that’s exactly what we did. Now [the partner] doesn’t need to e-mail NBA headquarters [in Secaucus, NJ] and wait for time zones to align before getting a response. If they have rights to that content, this system knows it, and they can download it immediately.”

In addition, the NBA has deployed a set of ReSTful (Representational State Transfer) APIs to allow users to directly ingest media to their content-management system. The Content Network provides up to 6 MBps via the cloud and allows Aspera high-speed file transfer directly from the NBA’s Secaucus production facility to any partner’s facility throughout the world.

“[Content partners] can now consume these APIs directly into their content-management systems with all the associated metadata,” says Halton. “We have several partners already that are taking the feeds direct.”

A Massive Project in the Making
The NBA Content Network is hosted on the AWS cloud, and the user application was built by partnering with technology companies Cxense and AcquireMedia in conjunction with NBA in-house technology and operations teams. The league also provided additional in-house storage capability at its Secaucus production facility to accommodate high-res content requests from the portal. If a user requests a broadcast-quality clip, that content is transferred via Aspera from Secaucus to the user’s facility rather than via the AWS cloud.

“To support our broadcast partners requiring high-res media for direct download, we expanded our local-storage and software capability within our operation, enabling our clients to transfer this media directly to their facility,” says Halton. “With the click of a button, partners can initiate the transfer of the high-res copy to [the partner’s] location via Aspera anywhere in the world. And again, it’s on demand, and it’s self-service, with no phone calls or e-mails; they can do it themselves.”

Given the various sources and subsystems the NBA receives content from, metadata normalization represents one of the most significant in-house aspects of this technology overhaul. Halton and company aggregated all the ingest feeds in Secaucus and put them through a process to create uniform metadata across all the NBA’s assets. That content was then indexed and fed into the Content Network.

Accommodating the user-entitlement layer was another significant undertaking in building out the Content Network. Given the multitude of content-rights deals established across the world over the years, the NBA wanted to ensure that partners had access only to the content they are entitled to. To do that, the league conducted a massive inventory of every rights agreement to ensure that licensees had access to the correct packages and then did another inventory to determine which content the NBA would be comfortable providing as a value-added service.

Reaction From Content Partners
Since the launch in October (after a pilot effort with a few key partners earlier in 2016), partner feedback concerning the NBA Content Network has been extremely positive, according to Halton. In addition, NBA teams are now downloading content on a nightly basis and integrating it into their in-venue videoboard shows.

“We’ve received reports from several clients, as well as our teams, that they love the ease of use and transparency,” Halton says. “Our growth internationally is of the utmost importance to us, and that is where the Content Network is key. The league is and always has been very open and receptive to new technologies. We realized that we needed not only to retool and modernize our delivery mechanism but also to increase transparency and ease of use to our clients. This is a great story, where technology meets purpose in the spirit of delivering all the great content we have available to our fans.”