Octoshape, America One Team Up To Stream US Open Tennis

When fans stream live sports on broadband players, they look for a high-quality broadcast available in the home or on the go, supplemented by features like live chat, DVR functionality, and picture-in-picture. Words like high definition, live broadcast, and free stand out and encourage fans to click, stream, and return for more.

One word they never want to see: buffering.

Avoiding the need for buffering was a goal when Octoshape, building off its success at the French Open earlier this year, once again teamed with America One and Tennis Channel to stream live video from the recent US Open tennis tournament. Its streaming-media technology relies on a pool of servers and steers away from traditional adaptive-bitrate streaming protocols.

For the first week of the tournament, Tennis Channel streamed the first match played in Louis Armstrong Stadium each day live on its Website, for a total of five matches. Its broadband player for the US Open featured instant-on, DVR functionality, live chat, and stats.

Denmark-based Octoshape enabled content delivery through its streaming-media technology and server infrastructure on the backend, while America One handled encoding and delivery responsibilities on the frontend.

Signal Sustained Without Sacrificing Quality
Octoshape’s technology works differently from other streaming technologies, breaking the relationship between distance and quality in the content distribution network (CDN).

“If you look at the CDN space today, it’s all constrained by this one fundamental truth: that distance equals quality,” says Scott Brown, U.S. general manager/VP of strategic technology partnerships for Octoshape. “Basically, streaming-media technologies need to have a server close to the end user to get high quality.”

This is often accomplished by placing hosts as close to the end user as possible or by building various networks around the Internet to create a host infrastructure.

According to Brown, this relationship between distance and quality is maintained because transport protocols cannot sustain a high-quality signal across the Internet.

“There’s a big movement in the space around adaptive-bitrate streaming,” he says. “[Streaming-media technologies] have to move the video quality up and down frequently, like every 10 seconds, because of this fundamental problem. They have to be able to shift the video quality, or they’ll get buffering. [With] adaptive bitrate, they can avoid buffering by changing the video quality up and down to meet their variable throughput.”

Because sports fans, long accustomed to watching in HD, do not want to see the quality of the broadcast shift between HD and SD to accommodate the variable-throughput problem, Octoshape focused on breaking the relationship between distance and quality to create a technology that could sustain high-quality video over a long period.

Octoshape’s throughput-optimization technology is not susceptible to latency and packet loss the TCP- or chunked-HTTP-based protocols are. It relies less on adaptive bitrate. Rather than connecting to one server and getting the entire video stream from that server, Octoshape draws the video stream into its server infrastructure, splits the stream into unique pieces of data, and disperses the “streamlets” across a pool of servers.

“When you connect to Octoshape, you don’t just connect to one server. You connect into the system, and then you can pull small little pieces of data from any of the video sources out there,” Brown explains. “If a server goes down, you don’t get impacted. If there’s a data center that goes out or a fiber gets cut, the user doesn’t know because Octoshape is constantly pulling small little bits of data from many places.”

Connecting Technology With Functionality
America One, a sports and entertainment network based in Fort Worth, TX, facilitated Octoshape’s relationship with Tennis Channel on the frontend. With Octoshape providing the server infrastructure, America One’s operational staff worked with Tennis Channel to develop the customized broadband player and provide the on-site encoding that would allow tennis fans to stream live matches over the network’s Website.

“We sent someone out to Tennis Channel, we configured all the boxes there at their facility in Santa Monica, and we made the event available to the audience for free using the Octoshape backend,” says America One CTO Paul Dingwitz.

After another successful tournament, Octoshape and America One look to continue their strategic partnership at future events.

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