Levels Beyond Dives Into Sports Marketplace With UFC Partnership

2012 is likely to be a watershed year for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The budding mixed-martial-arts (MMA) league’s new television contract with the Fox Sports Media Group will drastically increase its exposure.

Levels Beyond's Reach Engine is the foundation of a multi-vendor video production environment, integrating content editing, transcoding, and delivery solutions to create an automated workflow process.

The partnership — which covers live events and programming on Fox, Fox Deportes, FX, Fuel TV, Speed, and all of Fox’s regional sports networks — will require original-programming output of 350 hours this year, up from the 90 hours aired in 2011.

With exponentially more content and partners, UFC needed a more comprehensive and streamlined media-archival and -distribution system. The league turned to Levels Beyond, the video-library-management and workflow-software provider, which makes its first splash in the sports marketplace with this partnership.

“Levels Beyond demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the production and distribution challenges we face in delivering the sport of MMA to multiple distribution points in the U.S. and in 130+ foreign territories,” says Christy King, director of new media and technology for Zuffa, owner of the UFC brand. “Their Reach Engine software platform delivers the flexibility, speed, and overall performance required of both our demanding production crews and hugely varied technical requirements of worldwide distribution outlets.”

A key element of the transition was the digital migration of UFC’s entire 19-year content library, consisting of 30,000+ hours of content, for vastly improved content archiving, access, and production around live MMA bouts.

According to Levels Beyond CEO/founder Art Raymond, a staff of 20-30 employees and interns worked around the clock for nearly a calendar year to capture, tag, and organize nearly two decades’ worth of UFC content.

“They have ever-expanding opportunities for revenue,” says Raymond, “based on getting their library in a highly digital, highly ease-of-use format, and in a native ability to get that library up through a Web frontend where people like Fox and the international networks can come in on their own.”

Through Levels Beyond’s Reach Engine system, which contains a 6-PB store of content, rightsholding partners can gain access via the Internet to UFC content, previewing particular programming or fights that they are purchasing, pull highlights for their own clip reels, and export them as an Avid or an Apple Final Cut project.

“We fundamentally changed the way meta-management occurs at the level of timeline in the video,” says Raymond. “So not only are you capturing meta at the video level, but you can actually relate and associate media, functions, and facilities for content output at the level of the timecode within how you’re storing the video. So it’s beyond just search and reuse; it’s a faster, simpler, better way to assemble video and prepare it for reuse and injection into projects.”

The system, which is also used for sending content to the public, is an efficient distribution channel for UFC, which needs to access its live and archived content on the fly in a myriad of venues, and push it to any partner or viewing device.

Previously, the process required editors to have a working knowledge of UFC and its archival history. Now, through the use of metadata, content can be easily obtained through keyword searches and filters. Editors and production and distribution partners can use the Reach Engine Web interface to find and retrieve footage, making UFC a tapeless environment. This, obviously, saves both time and money as well as storage space at the league’s new production facility in Las Vegas.

The archival system also offers UFC significant revenue opportunities, enabling the league to push content more quickly to its mostly young and technologically savvy fan base on Xbox Live, Hulu, iTunes, and other over-the-top (OTT) applications.

Levels Beyond has also created a custom front that allows UFC editors and producers to view all 20 camera angles at a typical UFC fight on one parallel Web-based player.

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