NAB 2019: Main Stage Keynote Focuses on Sports, Streaming, and the Cloud
Broadcast, vendor, and sports execs discuss technology’s effect on the fan experience
Sports was the featured topic of the AWS-sponsored Main Stage Keynote titled “Beyond the Field: How Sports Pioneers Are Powering the 360 Audience Experience in the Cloud,” with speakers describing how streaming and cloud technology enhance sports broadcasting.
NAB EVP/CTO Sam Matheny interviewed NFL Media Reporter Cynthia Frelund. She then moderated a panel comprising Stephanie Lone, SVP, engineering, CBS Sports Digital; Rafael Soltanovich, VP, software development, Hulu; Scott Sonnenberg, chief global partnerships officer, L.A. Clippers; and Mark Kramer, VP, engineering and technology, Pac-12 Network.
Explaining how next-gen stats improve storytelling, Frelund said, “It’s pretty cool to see these relational GPS data points being put together in ways that help us tell deeper stories. For me, as a storyteller, it’s all about the why: why is Tom Brady more of a pocket passer, or why are some quarterbacks more successful outside the pocket? These are the types of questions that we are starting to get deeper answers into.”
Lone started off by introducing CBS Sports HQ, a new streaming product offering breaking sports news, fantasy picks, and highlights. She then spoke about streaming Super Bowl LIII, given the significant increase in consumer expectations around streaming since CBS’s latest Super Bowl broadcast three years prior: “Now viewers expect the quality and reliability of broadcast TV when they plug in a streaming stick. Thankfully, those are our roots. We took pages from the broadcast playbook with three major advancements. The first one was helped by AWS Elemental, who provided us with HLS Output Locking.”
This enabled CBS Sports to achieve seamless switching from one ABR stream to a separate redundant ABR stream — seamlessly, without lag or buffering.
The second advance that Lone discussed was having AWS Direct Connects from the broadcaster’s Elemental Live encoders directly into multiple AWS Media Store regions.
She also described the company’s multiple-CDN approach featuring custom configurations to account for such variables as reserved bandwidth, stream quality, and latency to the end user.
Soltanovich explained how the cloud has enabled product innovation over the past two years: Hulu has added live sports and more than 1,000 live linear streams of local channels in each metro area.
Sonnenberg discussed a product currently in beta: “Clippers CourtVision was really dreamt up by Steve Ballmer when he bought the team four years ago. He wanted to put more control in the consumer’s hands, in the fan’s hands, as they watched the broadcast. For as long as we can remember, we have had one option when we watch the feed. They choose what replays; they choose what camera angles. Clippers CourtVision puts that control into the fan’s hands.”
A teaser video demonstrated Clippers CourtVision’s various audio and visual modes. On the visual side, next-gen stats are burned into the feed, producing augmented-reality overlays. The stats visualized include shot probabilities, real-time mascot memes, and a coach’s mode for serious fans. AWS serves as the primary cloud-computing, machine-learning, and artificial-intelligence partner for Clippers CourtVision.
Pac-12 is already known for pioneering remote production and for producing live events of high quality at low cost. Kramer outlined new programs showcasing continued investment in AWS Media Services, including a fall launch of all seven of the broadcaster’s linear networks on AWS infrastructure 24/7/365.
“That is a way of life, by the way,” he noted. “With streaming like that, it’s always on, it always has to work. And we expect it to be beautiful, and it has.”
In addition to talking about Media Live, Media Package, and Media Tailor for ad insertion, Kramer hinted at some forthcoming innovations in using the public cloud for contribution and transmission, a theme echoed by other major cloud providers at NAB 2019.
“We just started using Media Connect to push one stream to multiple endpoints,” he said. “We’re actually investigating using it for transmission in the next few weeks. If we bring in a satellite truck, it’s super-expensive for a multi-day event. To bring in a business circuit is inexpensive, and to transmit that, where now we’ve got things like forward error correction and reliability built into it, that’s just a game-changer for us.”