World Sport Group Calms Streaming Challenge With Digital Rapids

By Ken Kerschbaumer

World Sport Group, an Asian-based sports-marketing and media company, has selected Digital Rapids to provide encoding and content-management support for its live-sports-streaming efforts.

“There are two pieces to the service,” says Mike Nann, Digital Rapids director of marketing/communications. “One is encoding systems that take the live satellite feed and make it Web-friendly, and the other is delivering content to a postproduction facility so highlight clips can be built and available on-demand.”

World Sport Group selected Digital Rapids’ StreamZ encoding systems and Broadcast Manager multi-encoder management software for their streaming operations. The company produces almost 600 days of sports events and more than 1,000 hours of live-sports programming annually, across more than 30 countries. Headquartered in Singapore, it holds the digital rights for the continent’s leading club and national-team football competitions and sought a robust streaming solution that could be easily managed to handle their high volume of live events.

Eight StreamZ systems encode source satellite feeds into Web-viewable output formats, which are streamed live to content-delivery network Akamai for live distribution to viewers. At the same time, highlight clips of these matches are produced in World Sport Group’s postproduction facility, with StreamZ automatically transcoding the finished clips to Web formats and delivering them via FTP. Digital Rapids Broadcast Manager provides centralized management and control of the StreamZ systems.

Nann says the difference between Digital Rapids’ offering and others is the first-hand experience in the broadcast world of its founders and employees, leading to an understanding of broadcast-quality and mission-critical technical support. “That is something we set out to do as we built an enterprise-scale management system that handles multiple streams and encoders simultaneously. In the broadcast world, we learned centralized management and rerouting and switching signals.”

Digital Rapids management software ties the video encoders together so that, if one of the encoders or a feed fails, it can switch to another encoder and get an Internet streaming-video signal in front of viewers.

Also easing the process is the Control Room view, which allows the user to monitor up to 16 channels and up to eight encoders on one screen.

Although World Sport Group will encode the video signals for streaming at its broadcast facility in Singapore, an increasing trend among broadcasters is to bypass the broadcast-operations center and stream directly from the field to viewers. To meet that growing need, Digital Rapids has introduced TouchStream.

“It’s a portable video-streaming device that is the size of a loaf of bread and can stream from the event’s location,” says Nann. “If you don’t have an available satellite window and you have decent Internet lines, you can bypass the satellite window altogether for huge savings.”

Streamlined software controls are accessed through a touchscreen interface with integrated live-video monitoring and VU meters for audio validation, eliminating the need for laptops, keyboards, mice, and separate monitors. A choice of formats — AVC/H.264 (including Adobe Flash Player 9), VC-1 (Windows Media), On2 VP6 (Adobe Flash 8), 3GPP, and MPEG-2 — lets users target audiences and platforms from Internet TV to mobile phones.

A $4,000 version handles SD video signals while a $10,000 version is available for HD needs.

“Venues are becoming increasingly friendly towards these sort of things, with so much wireless Internet accessibility becoming the norm,” says Nann. “But we tell our customers to make sure they aren’t on the same network as the media and reporters. Someone sending a huge photo image can cause problems so we recommend finding dedicated bandwidth.”

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