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Beat the Clock: Live Sports Streaming at Scale

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Streaming viewership raced ahead of traditional TV platforms in 2023, with U.S. audiences streaming 21 million years’ worth of video throughout the year – a 21% increase from 2022. Streaming live sports is following a similar trajectory – in fact, this year’s Super Bowl was the most streamed ever.

Moving live sports from traditional TV platforms to streaming can be a big win for sports fans.  When done right, efficient streaming improves the viewing experience significantly and introduces interactive fan experiences, such as user-controlled immersive multi-angle cameras, real-time stat updates, and more.

However, to succeed in streaming sports at scale, streamers must commit to delivering the best video quality and reliable and advanced experiences, all while cracking down on piracy. In this game, there’s no winning without dedication.

But first, they need the content. While the biggest streamers have the advantage of deep pockets, even they face significant challenges in streaming live sports at scale.

One of the first hurdles they must overcome is the sheer cost of it all. Amazon Prime’s deal for NFL Thursday Night Football rights cost them a whopping $13 billion, paying roughly $67 million per game in rights fees alone.

With such eye-watering sums involved, there’s a lot at play.

The Viewing Experience

The big win for streamers comes when they achieve the high-quality experience their viewers rightfully demand, including video quality and low latency.  

While sports streaming has the potential to be far more engaging and interactive than traditional broadcast, it can only do so once it addresses image quality and latency. In fact, 19% of consumers who avoid live streaming, cite latency issues as the reason why. After YouTubeTV bought the rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket satellite package for $2 billion, the streaming platform was met with scrutiny and questions about its ability to stream with low latency.

Luckily, YouTubeTV has proven its skeptics wrong in many areas, which is impressive considering the technology for mass-scale sports streaming is constantly evolving.

An end-to-end workflow where every single step is low latency – from capture to playback – can help streamers prove the latency skeptics wrong. Synamedia provides exactly that and enables content providers to securely distribute content, delivering best-in-class viewing experiences with premium picture quality and low latency.

Missing a shot is not an option, and low-latency is the winning play.

Scalability

With changing sports consumption patterns and an increase in streaming, video service providers have to be ready to deliver at scale. Sports are popular and watched by many, so when big sporting events – like the World Cup or the Super Bowl – take place, streamers have to be ready for the influx of viewers and be primed to scale.

That’s why it is critical to have technologies that use AI – or at least ML – to analyze and predict spikes in viewership to scale resources up and down with enough agility to absorb demand spikes while keeping infrastructure costs under control.  

For those sports content owners who want to monetize their long tail content, or create a pop-up channel in seconds, the latest just-in-time processing technology turns the traditional approach on its head. Instead of provisioning infrastructure just in case viewers might tune in, self-service SaaS technology only springs to live when it is required – saving energy and cutting costs. Importantly it is proven to scale to support even the most popular World Cup games in 2022. We use the same concept in our everyday life: when we leave a room, we turn off the light, so we don’t waste those resources.

And speaking of resources - scalability in streaming is extremely costly. Using the right compression technology enables streamers to deliver the same quality stream as its competitors, at a much lower bitrate which means they can deliver the same HD quality stream all while saving around 15-16% on CDN delivery cost compared to its competitors.

Security

Unfortunately, we can’t talk about streaming – particularly sports streaming – without addressing security. Live sports content is highly valuable, and has a dedicated fanbase, which makes it an attractive target for pirates.

This, coupled with the pressure on household budgets, means that we are already seeing increased consumption of pay and free pirate services.  

The only way to tackle this issue is with anti-piracy security solutions that protect content. If not, video service providers risk losing significant revenue to piracy – up to $9.8 billion a year, according to a study across seven countries – which jeopardizes their ability to continue offering live sports content and risks breaking their contractual obligations with the rights holders.

But it’s not only up to streamers, rights holders also need technological countermeasures based on operational intelligence with support from law enforcement to detect and take down illegal streaming.

Technology for the Win

Combining advanced streaming technologies powered by AI, cloud-based just-in-time technology, and a robust security layer, sports streamers have all their bases covered to succeed in delivering live sports at scale.

Sports are exciting – not only because of the thrilling games and matches – but because streaming them pushes the boundaries of technologies and opens up doors to more revenue streams. More importantly, consumers are craving it, so let’s give them what they want and knock it out of the park!

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from Synamedia. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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