Indy Racing League embraces IPTV

By Ken Kerschbaumer

‘The Indy Racing League is the latest sports organization to take advantage of the power of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), striking a multi-year deal through 2009 with WhiteBlox to deliver multiple camera angles to racing fans over the Internet.

“After we saw the success that the Indianapolis 500 had in drawing a massive global audience through online broadcast, the decision to move forward was easy,” says Adrian Payne, Manager of Online Services with IRL.

The exclusive deal will provide the league with WhiteBlox’s unique online broadcast technology suite for all practices, time trials, and races. The company’s previously teamed up for the online broadcast of the Indy 500, which drew hundreds-of-thousands of viewers from every state in the U.S. and 88 countries around the world.

The online Indianapolis 500 program offered multiple camera angles and community participation functions, taking advantage of WhiteBlox’s IP broadcasting technology. Home viewers could instantly choose between six in-car cameras in addition to the main view, all of which were being broadcast live simultaneously.

“The viewer becomes the director,” says Greg Demetriades, WhiteBlox CEO. “Viewers can choose the camera angle and also participate in an online community through chat.”

The system is located within the production vehicle shooting the race, with each 1 RU HP server pumping out two camera feeds. So a race may need three or four racks of gear to have ample power for six to eight cameras.

“We have a proprietary encoding technology that enhances the Windows Media format,” says Demetriades. “It also has 43 different on-screen elements that can be used to design the screen.” The Windows format can shoot out the video as MPEG2, MPEG4, SD, or HD.

Monetizing IPTV is always a challenge but Demetriades says WhiteBlox takes advantage of interactivity to rotate spot ads and sync the insertion to individualized coupons that have codes to identify the user at the point of sale. “It helps know when the user logged in, logged off, and what they did in the system,” he adds.

Since its launch WhiteBlox has been involved with a number of leagues, including the USOC where it handles streaming of U.S. weightlifting events and the University of Florida and Rice University (although the intense competition for college streaming rights has resulted in the company moving away from colleges).

“The real key is clear audio,” says Demetriades. “By making it easy for the viewer to hear you can help their eyes adapt to the video. Of course, you still need good video and we consider ourselves to be experts in the one, two and 10-foot experience.”

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