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AEG Ensures that Live Streamed Events Will Never Fail
Whether it's the Academy Awards, the Super Bowl, or something far smaller, AEG goes to great lengths to make sure live events stream perfectly.
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[Note: This sponsored interview was recorded at Streaming Media West 2012.] 

AEG streams live events for some of the biggest entertainment properties around, so it has to deliver perfect experiences every time. Pulling that off is no small accomplishment. At the recent Streaming Media West conference in Los Angeles, Joe Einstein, AEG's senior vice president of technical services and operations, sat down for a red carpet interview.

"We have eight days of fuel on site, so we can lose LADWP power for eight days. We have fueling contracts," Einstein explained. "We load test our generators every quarter. On top of that, it's diversity across our internet providers. We always go into the CDNs at redundant entry points. So it's sort of that never can fail, whether it's a $5,000 event or a $2 million event. We treat it with the same equipment and experience and staff, because the guy with the $5,000 event, to him it's just as important as the Academy Awards are or the Grammys or the Super Bowl."

While AEG makes streaming live events look easy, a lot goes into creating that upload and distribution system.

"The biggest challenge right now that we see is education on how complicated the process actually is, If you want to deliver something that never, never fails," Einstein said. "There's, you know, from a production to signal acquisition to encoding to delivery to supporting every device. It's very complicated. We try to simplify that process as much as possible, but if you want to support every device and every connected television with a six-hour event that's coming from even just one location, it's a pretty massive task."

For more one how AEG puts live events online, watch the full video below.

Eric: I'm Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, the editor of Streaming Media Magazine and StreamingMedia.com. I'm here with Joe Einstein, who's the Senior Vice President of Technical Services and Operations for AEG Digital Media. Hey, Joe.

Joe: How's it going?

Eric: Great, great.

Joe: Excellent.

Eric: Thanks to you and AEG for sponsoring our Red Carpet interviews and for doing a couple interviews with us. For our viewers and readers who don't know, tell us about AEG Digital Media from a high level first, and then we'll sort of start drilling down.

Joe: Okay. AEG Digital Media is a technical services company when it comes to live events, live linear and sort of just online broadcasting in general. We run a broadcast operations center in Los Angeles here for supporting some of the biggest events like the Academy Awards and the Grammys, as well as a lot of 24/7 linear services, all the way down to your small nonprofit-based events that pass through our facility.

Eric: Now, your online broadcast center here in Los Angeles or just outside of L.A. is a really crucial part of what you offer, what AEG brings to the table. Tell us about what happens there. What's all going on at the OBC?

Joe: So we built the facility from a broadcast background so we'd say never can fail, everything's redundant, any single outage doesn't take down an event. We aggregate all video from all of our events around the world. We have partnerships that give us acquisition facilities in Europe and Sydney and Asia-Pac. We bring everything into L.A. We then process any on-demand content, live content, and then usually push that into one of our CDN partners like Akamai for delivery through a platform that has the player as well as any social media and any other metadata around the live experience.

Eric: Now, from a technical standpoint, what does AEG offer that perhaps some other companies don't?

Joe: I think the biggest thing is the reliability. So we've got, you know, and I think with what just happened in New York, we have, it's sort of a good example, we have eight days of fuel on site, so we can lose LADWP power for eight days, we have fueling contracts. We load test our generators every quarter. On top of that, it's diversity across our internet providers. We always go into the CDNs at redundant entry points. So it's sort of that never can fail, whether it's a $5,000 event or a $2 million event. We treat it with the same equipment and experience and staff, because the guy with the $5,000 event, to him it's just as important as the Academy Awards are or the Grammys or the Super Bowl.

Eric: Right. Now, again, from that technical standpoint, what do you see as the biggest challenges and perhaps opportunities facing the streaming of large or small live events coming up in the next 6 to 12 months, and how do you think AEG and the industry in general will respond to them?

Joe: Think the biggest challenge right now that we see is education on how complicated the process actually is. If you want to deliver something that never, never fails. There's, you know, from a production to signal acquisition to encoding to delivery to supporting every device. It's very complicated. We try to simplify that process as much as possible, but if you want to support every device and every connected television with a six-hour event that's coming from even just one location, it's a pretty massive task.

Eric: Right. And in addition to that, so AEG offers from soup to nuts the entire work flow, but you also offer managed services that customers can come to you for, such as transcoding and encoding and signal acquisition.

Joe: Yeah.

Eric: Which services are you seeing the most interest in and demand for right now?

Joe: Think one of the big services we're seeing is as everyone's focused right now on, "How do I get more content?"

Eric: Right.

Joe: And so obviously to get more content, basic business economics is the price point needs to come down. So we are rolling out with a lot of our clients a managed service product. So it's sort of a hybrid between your traditional co-location - you'd have at a data center and your traditional video services that you'd buy from a video provider. We're putting all that into one quarter rack for our client. They pay a monthly fee for that sort of service. They have full-time access to that hardware. It's usually a hybrid between what we manage and they manage but they have remote access. They can make profile changes, but when their live events come along, they give us the coordinates. They say, "Hey, I need to get a feed out of Denver into my encoders," and we just manage that piece for them. So it's much lower event-based cost, because we're not charging them a setup fee. It's sort of all bundled into this longer-term contract they have which allows them to generate 5, 10, 50 events a week, if they want.

Eric: Right. One of the things I find fascinating that you do is the way that you have, you know, even though AEG comes from broadcast background, you've really gotten ahead of things like social media and second screen experiences with your HAWK and MC platforms, tell us about the kinds of unique interactive social media type of experiences that you can bring to a live event that takes it beyond simply a picture of a concert on a screen.

Joe: Sure. So I think sort of the experience that lives, whether it's a companion experience to a broadcast or it's just an online experience, we're seeing we're using social media to not only drive traffic to the event but allow people that are watching the event to talk about the event and share photos around the event. Not necessarily photos from the event, but  a photo of Bob and his cat watching the show gets posted and then we share that back out. Then everyone starts posting their photos of their cats watching the show. So it just sort of drives the engagement and then we see the viewer times go up, which obviously makes the content provider happier. It makes the advertising partners happier and it makes the content delivery companies happier. So it sort of all-around just sort of generates more business and makes all of the partners get more out of the experience.

Eric: Right. What are some of the most, as you look back on the last, say, 12 months or so, what are some of the most memorable or exciting events or unique events that AEG has delivered.?

Joe: Think in particular it's the events we're doing with the broadcasters.

Eric: Mm-hm.

Joe: So it's things like Academy Awards or "Glass House" that was on ABC where there really, you know, used to be there was this web show, then it was this broadcast show. They were pretty separated. They didn't share any resources, they didn't share budget. We're seeing that come together really in the last year. Started about two years ago, but it's really now the broadcast guys are saying, "Hey. This is an actual medium that we can make money on and really extend the experience." And as we see those two really consolidate into sort of one message to the consumer, that's been pretty cool to watch.

Eric: Very cool. Exciting times all around. I've been speaking with Joe Einstein from AEG Digital Media. I'm Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen signing off from Streaming Media West.

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