NFL Draft Reflections: For Epic Transmission Plan, SRT Protocol Came Up Clutch

Haivision’s open source video transport protocol was foundational to the delivery of more than 600 live feeds

It’s been well publicized what an accomplishment last month’s virtual NFL Draft production was. In about a month’s time, the league — and its broadcast partner, ESPN – completely turned over what was supposed to be a spectacular live display in Las Vegas to a completely remote, at-home, and socially distant execution.

The more one peels back the layers of what it took to make it happen, the more impressive the effort – while understated on air – becomes from behind the scenes.

With the league distributing more than 100 home broadcast kits to Draft prospects and even more setups to coaches, GMs, and select owners, the NFL and NFL Media were juggling upwards of 600+ live video feeds over the course of Draft weekend.

NFL Media managed more than 600 live video feeds from the homes of prospects, coaches, and GMs during the 2020 NFL Draft. They secured the delivery and security of those feeds with the help of the SRT video transport protocol.

The NFL’s internal IT team knew this would be a true challenge when it became clear that not only would they be relying on non-video production professionals to set up these kits in their homes, but that the video delivery would be reliant on the capabilities of everyone’s at-home WiFi connectivity. They needed to take every step they could to make this as easy and seamless in possible in the areas where they could control it.

According to John Cave, VP, information technology, football solutions for the NFL, that’s where the SRT open source video transport protocol played a key role. SRT — which stands for Secure Reliable Transport and is developed and championed by the video streaming technology developer Haivision — gave the NFL a significant boost in the quality, reliability, and security of the video signals coming from the hundreds of smartphone cameras scattered in these homes across the country.

“Security was extremely important to us,” says Cave, noting they were dealing with not only the issues of the broadcast but the more critical issues of actually ensuring the Draft was executed efficiently. “The IT folks at all of the clubs, those are the real heroes as it relates to this project.”

The league pre-loaded all of the iPhones with the Larix Broadcaster free app, which encoded video (in H.264 and HEVC) and audio while offering SRT’s built-in encryption and whitelisted IP addresses to protect against hacking.

John Cave, VP, information technology, football solutions, NFL

According to Haivision, all of the streams coming from the various sources through the Larix Broadcaster app were sent via the public internet to Haivision SRT Gateways in AWS, a solution for secure routing of live video streams across different types of IP networks.

The Haivision SRT Gateways were deployed in the cloud, at the NFL’s league office in New York City, at ESPN’s Bristol campus, NFL Media in Los Angeles, and other critical partner locations. With this system in place, the technical and operations teams working behind the scenes on Draft night were able to securely route live SRT streams across internet connections and bridge networks while enabling local multicast for production resources that fed live to air on on demand playback workflows.

SRT is far from a new solution for the NFL and Cave’s IT team, which has been reliant on the protocol for the past five years for the encoding of live video coming from stadiums and shipping it around to multiple points around the world, including the league’s New York City office, NFL Films in New Jersey, and NFL Network in Los Angeles. In fact, this year, the league even expanded its use of SRT when it began feeding low-latency video to domestic and international sportsbooks, as well as the league’s data partner Sportradar.

“So we said, ‘okay, we know how to do all of that,’” notes Cave. “How do we scale it up to a much bigger, bigger level [for the NFL Draft].”

Check out all of SVG’s in-depth coverage of the 2020 NFL Draft: