Streaming Vendors at League Summit Eye Growth
While much of the focus at the League Technology Summit this week was on stereoscopic 3D production and its inherent challenges, there were also plenty of new broadband services and applications from providers of streaming video technology.
NeuLion, which provides streaming video services for sports leagues like the NHL and NBA as well as foreign-language IPTV offerings such as the Chinese-language pay-TV service KyLinTV, was at the Summit showing its new application for the NBA, League Pass International.
The subscription service, which is available in more than 200 countries and territories outside of the Americas, offers live HD video of every NBA game, including multiple live games at the same time, as well as condensed versions of games. It has full DVR functionality, instant replay, advanced data features and several viewing options including full screen, picture-in-picture, and quad screen.
League Pass International, which NeuLion launched for the NBA this fall, was demonstrated on both an Apple iPad and a PC at the Summit; it is also available on smartphones including the iPhone, Android and Blackberry platforms. NeuLion also showed the Quality of Service (QoS) management console that the NBA uses to get detailed metrics on consumer usage of the League Pass International product.
NeuLion also demonstrated NFL Game Rewind, an online service which provides on-demand access to every NFL game each week, and showcased the latest version of NHL Gamecenter, a streaming application which lets hockey fans watch out-of-market games live.
The 2010-2011 season marks the fourth that NeuLion has delivered Gamecenter, which originally launched on PCs and laptops but which is now available on a variety of IP-enabled devices including Android and Blackberry smartphones, the iPad, and connected devices for the TV such as the Roku set-top and Sony PlayStation 3 game console. NeuLion executives say they are also working with various CE manufacturers to bring the company’s streaming apps to new broadband-enabled “smart TVs.”
“The future is a multiplatform, multidevice strategy,” says NeuLion Pre Sales Engineer Will Weiss.
Portable production pioneer NewTek demonstrated the latest version of its TriCaster “truck-in-a-box” live production system, the TCXD850. The TCXD850 combines the functionality of a production switcher with Internet streaming capabilities, and can handle up to eight camera inputs or external sources. The $25,000 system also supports traditional live broadcasts through a range of professional outputs, and has been used as such by the NBA for coverage of the NBA Development League.
With built-in Adobe Flash and Windows Media encoding, the TCXD850 is gaining traction among broadcasters and cable networks for “second-screen” applications where a major event is also being streamed to the Web, says NewTek Sales Support Engineer William Waters. It is also being used for smaller-scale broadcast coverage of sports such as high-school football.
In addition to switching and streaming, the TCXD850 also delivers full multiviewer capability. That is helpful for previewing the live virtual sets, complete with virtual camera moves, which it can deliver.
The TCXD850’s virtual-set capability, based on NewTek’s proprietary LiveSet technology, is one of the system’s most powerful features. It has proven popular for college sports production, says Waters, as a single announcer or commentator in a press box with a green screen “can get a studio look.”
Streaming encoding and transmission specialist Streambox demonstrated the delivery of full-frame, 4:2:2 3D HD video over an IP link using its hardware-based encoders and decoders and propriety ACT-L3 compression algorithm. The new Streambox 3D system works over bit-rates from 10 to 25 megabits-per-second, says Streambox CEO Bob Hildeman, and costs about $45,000 including both send and receive hardware. Compared to traditional delivery methods, says Hildeman, the IP-based system is “a much lower-cost way to do 3D contribution.”
Streambox also used the Summit to pitch sports broadcasters on Avenir, the portable video transport system it launched last April at the NAB show. Avenir is a hardware-based HD/SD encoding system which bonds up to eight 3G/4G wireless cards in a backpack-sized device to give robust throughput from the field. Hildeman says that Avenir, which sells for about $18,000 not counting software or hardware-based receive equipment at the station, is attracting interest as a cost-effective solution for providing contribution feeds for high-school or college-football coverage.
With the rollout of new LTE (long-term evolution) wireless transmission technology, Avenir could also achieve significantly more throughput, as a single LTE card can pump between 2 and 17 megabits, says Hildeman. In congested urban markets bit-rates for LTW would average far lower that 17 Mbps, of course, but Hildeman says that in Seattle Streambox is finding consistent speeds of 1.5 to 2 Mbps per LTE card.
Another Summit exhibitor mining second-screen profits was Origin Digital, a unit of global consulting firm Accenture which provides a range of streaming video services through a Software as a Service (SaaS) business model. With satellite downlink facilities in both Denver, CO, and the United Kingdom, Origin Digital can handle any type of Web broadcasting requirement, including live ingest, encoding and streaming; creating customized video players; and implementing digital rights management.
The company counts CBS, ESPN, the NFL and UFC as customers. For example, for UFC fights Origin Digital takes live feeds, encodes them at four different bit rates and streams them out on a subscription basis to various outlets, including UFC’s new service on the Roku box.
The Weehawken, NJ-based firm is seeing increased interest in mobile video from its programming customers, says Origin Digital account manager Matt Lennon.
“Mobile is what we’re getting more and more questions about,” says Lennon. “Everyone wants to be there, with a suite of products that can go to any mobile device.”