SVG Sit-Down: Harmonic’s Eric Gallier on Why Public Cloud, SaaS Are Obvious Choice for Live Sports Streaming

Content protection is the goal of the company’s new watermarking-as-a-service

Harmonic stayed very busy at the IBC Show last month, making a series of major announcements in Amsterdam. In addition to adding Google Cloud support for its VOS 360 SaaS platform, Harmonic spotlighted content protection for live sports streaming with a new watermarking-as-a-service in partnership with Nagra and Viaccess-Orca. The company also showcased how DirecTV GO is deploying the VOS360 cloud SaaS platform for streaming more than 100 linear channels in Latin America.

Harmonic’s Eric Gallier: “We are just at the beginning stages of streaming live sports events in UHD HDR leveraging the public cloud, but I am confident it will become more commonplace in the next two to three years.”

In advance of NAB New York this week, SVG sat down with Eric Gallier, VP, video customer solutions, Harmonic, to discuss these IBC announcements, why public cloud and SaaS are an obvious choice for live sports streaming, the increase in live 4K HDR sports content, and trends he sees in the industry today.

Can you provide an overview of Harmonic’s big announcements at IBC this year?
At IBC2022, we made three key announcements related to our VOS360 SaaS platform.

First, we announced Google Cloud support for the VOS360 SaaS platform. Not only is the full VOS360 cloud-native software stack available on Google Cloud, but so are our DevOps capabilities. Our customers committed to Google Cloud now have the ability to deploy the VOS360 SaaS platform for streaming and broadcast applications with unparalleled agility, resiliency, and scalability.

We’re also improving content protection for live sports streaming with a new watermarking-as-a-service offering we developed with partners Nagra and Viaccess-Orca. The VOS360 SaaS platform serves thousands of live events every month for leading streaming services. The watermarking-as-a-service provides customers with a simple, automated, and event-based anti-piracy solution to safeguard live sports content.

Finally, we announced that DirecTV GO, a Vrio Company, deployed our VOS360 cloud SaaS platform for streaming more than 100 linear channels. DirecTV GO is a successful streaming service in Latin America, and scalability was a fundamental requirement to grow its streaming service. It is another testimony from a big-name streaming provider that cloud is the perfect fit for streaming, and the VOS360 platform delivers the scalability, performance, and premium video quality that companies expect.

How are you teaming up with Viaccess-Orca to optimize content protection and with Nagra for SaaS watermarking for live sports streaming?
A recent Research and Markets report estimates that $28 billion in revenues is lost yearly due to sports piracy. This is a huge issue. With Nagra and Viaccess-Orca, we have developed a joint SaaS solution, allowing our customers to schedule watermarking insertion a few hours prior to sports events. During live events, the VOS360 platform inserts watermarking, and the CDN creates unique video segments (with an individual watermarking ID) for each end device and viewer. Harmonic’s DevOps team monitors the event. After the event, our watermarking partner identifies leakage sources and ultimately issues legal notices to platforms that carry pirated streams.

Our joint watermarking-as-a-service solution is innovative because it is event-based, usage-based, fully automated, and server-based, meaning that customers can use a different CMS, client device, and DRM than the ones from Nagra and Viaccess-Orca. Watermarking is triggered on the fly by the customer through our VOS360 platform UI or API just a few hours before the event. At the end of the event, the customer will receive a detailed report from the watermarking partner. The VOS360 SaaS platform is currently deployed by multiple leading sports-content–rights owners worldwide and effectively streams thousands of sports events every month.

As more live sports migrate to the streaming side, how do you expect this trend to impact the technology side of the business? And how is Harmonic evolving to serve this growing sector?
Public cloud and SaaS are an obvious choice of infrastructure and support for live sports streaming. Over the last three to five years, Harmonic has significantly invested in and succeeded at making the VOS360 platform a relevant SaaS solution for sports streaming.

Today, the VOS360 platform is used to stream 2,500 premium sports events per month, including the Super Bowl, Olympic Games, NHL, NBA, and Premier League events.

The VOS360 platform is the ideal SaaS solution for live sports streaming because it is highly resilient. Running in a synchronized geo-redundant configuration with source redundancy and multi-CDN, the platform scales very fast, enabling sports-content owners to register tens of thousands of viewers each second. Users can perform dynamic ad insertion on the server side at scale and deliver pristine video quality thanks to our EyeQ AI-based encoding technology. We also have a DevOps team of more than 100 people to proactively monitor live sports events.

Do you expect more live sports to be streamed in 4K HDR in 2023? After working with NBC Olympics and other partners, are you seeing these workflows become more sophisticated and commonplace?
Yes. During the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the games will be streamed in 4K HDR by multiple customers using our VOS360 platform. Today, we are just at the beginning stages of streaming live sports events in UHD HDR leveraging the public cloud, but I am confident it will become more commonplace in the next two to three years.

What other major trends and requests are you seeing among your sports customers?
The next big trend is low-latency streaming coupled with server-side dynamic insertion. This will help to drive new revenue and business growth for our sports customers.

How did IBC go for Harmonic overall, and are you optimistic about the future role of large trade shows?
We had an outstanding show. Not only did Harmonic make news headlines for its cloud-native and on-prem innovations for video streaming and broadcast delivery, but we were able to connect with industry friends face to face, some of whom we hadn’t seen in person in a few years.

Trade shows play an important role in enabling us to meet with customers and partners, exchange ideas, and lead technical discussions during the conference programs, all of which are much more dynamic and valuable when conducted in an in-person forum.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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