FOX Ups Resolution, Drops Latency With AWS-Powered Streaming
FOX’s commitment to its cloud-based media production and delivery platform continues to pay off as seen with its latest production for the 2023 National Football League (NFL) championship match up. An implementation nearly four years in the making, the updated and scalable video workflow powered coverage of the event, with support for 4K resolution and HDR color, delivered in near real time. Leveraging a backbone built on Amazon Web Services (AWS), the FOX team optimized settings from signal acquisition through end-viewer delivery to ensure a premium viewer experience across devices, raising the non-4K default to 1080p from the previous 720p.
“When delivering live video to millions of people, building resiliency in every part of the workflow is essential. As we prepared for the 2023 big game, we knew that we wanted to enhance video quality and reduce glass-to-glass latency to create the shortest path to audiences,” says Mayur Srinivasan, VP, Video and Player Engineering at FOX.
As the team progressed in advancing the video delivery workflow, they began testing it during select live streams of FIFA World Cup games at the end of 2022, reaching as many as two million viewers. The fast pace and continuous movement of soccer challenged encoders, prompting the team to solve for delivery of crystal-clear visuals throughout dynamic play with consistency across devices. Those key learnings were then applied to other sports.
“We paid close attention to the details, like making sure the score card is visible and that a big end-game confetti moment would translate properly, even if the viewer has a poor network connection,” explains Srinivasan. “We also worked closely with encode video engineers to find the right settings so that we could deliver a consistent visual experience across different devices.”
FOX EVP, Media & Broadcast Operations, Jeff Dow adds, “Having AWS behind our platform helped us provide the same high-quality experience to parts of the country where there are last mile challenges. That was a huge accomplishment.”
During the football championship, more than seven million viewers tuned into FOX’s digital stream, double the audience from the year prior. Video was delivered less than one second behind the antenna feed, and provided a pristine viewing experience regardless of connectivity. Since the event, FOX started rolling out the enhanced video streaming workflow across its coverage in various configurations.
“Even though the event was so massive, AWS gave us the confidence that our platform could scale to meet the demand and provide the stability delivery would require. This has freed us to continue focusing on improving the video quality and developing more creative aspects – such as interactivity,” notes Dow.
With AWS serving as the underpinning of FOX’s production and delivery ecosystem, typically one signal flows into its cloud infrastructure during events. The FOX platform then leverages various AWS Media Services, including AWS Elemental MediaLive to prepare and protect the video, and AWS Elemental MediaStore to store and deliver assets. Employing a multiple content delivery network (CDN) strategy, Amazon CloudFront ensures secure, low-latency video delivery. The platform also makes use of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances for scalable compute, and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets for data storage. To optimize latency, the FOX and AWS teams worked together to create the shortest possible content delivery path for customers, without compromising the experience with re-buffering.
Part of the continued success of the FOX team can be attributed to the close coupling of its internal player and video backend teams. At the same time, it has a unified strategy in how it uses AWS for linear and digital distribution, building workflows in tandem to accelerate transmission speed and reduce potential bottlenecks. As the team further closes the latency gap, it creates opportunity for interactive experiences.
“Since our digital and linear teams work together and take advantage of the same technology, we can move quickly and provide a great experience to viewers, however they choose to consume the content,” concludes Dow. “Working with AWS as our technology partner, scale is never a concern, and now that we’ve improved the visual experience, we can also start exploring new monetization opportunities.”