Pac-12 Conference Expands Deal With AWS for Cloud Workflows, Content Creation

Pac-12 Networks is leverage AWS cloud technologies, including AWS Elemental Media Services to re-imagine its infrastructure and workflows

The Pac-12 Conference has extended its strategic relationship with Amazon Web Services, going all-in on the cloud, machine learning, and media workloads. Pac-12 leverages AWS’s services for a wide variety of production use cases, including its website, mobile applications, and Pac-12 Networks, to transform the collegiate sports experience for its millions of fans.

As a key part of its all-in migration, Pac-12 will move business-critical databases to Amazon Aurora to gain the speed and availability of a commercial database with the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of open source.

Pac-12 Networks, the sports media production arm of the conference, is taking a new approach that takes advantage of AWS cloud technologies, including AWS Elemental Media Services, to re-imagine core master control production workflows as well as content archive, personalization, and monetization. The innovations demonstrate that higher-quality services can bring greater fan engagement and enhanced advertising revenue. By tying together a standardized video encoding source that feeds a comprehensive cloud production workflow and distribution network, Pac-12 Networks stands at the forefront of a fundamental change in how colleges produce sports media.

AWS is powering live broadcasts of 850 games for Pac-12 collegiate sports over the 2018-19 season. By moving the Pac-12 broadcasts onto a standard cloud platform powered by AWS, every aspect of the media workflow can be enhanced and made more flexible for production and syndication. Pac-12 Networks is connecting its 10Gb multi-venue contribution network to AWS using a 1Gb AWS DirectConnect. AWS Elemental MediaLive and AWS Elemental MediaPackage services prepare all live streams for delivery in Apple’s HLS format to IOS, Android, Web, Chromecast and Apple TV devices.

AWS analytics, machine learning, and digital media services enable Pac-12 to innovate and develop new cloud-based solutions that can anticipate and exceed fans’ media and entertainment needs. For instance, Pac-12 runs its advanced media infrastructure on AWS using Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), AWS Elemental MediaLive, and AWS Elemental MediaPackage to bring personalized, broadcast-grade games to a broader audience on any device. Pac-12 is quickly setting up new production workflows at scale on AWS for live-to-video-on-demand (VOD) content and over-the-top (OTT) streaming to provide more personalized viewing experiences for collegiate sports fans. In addition, Pac-12 will use AWS machine learning services such as Amazon SageMaker to automate core content workflows—building, training, and deploying models that capture gameplay and highlight clips, and deliver closed captioning for broadcasters in real time.

“We’ve chosen to go all-in on the world’s leading cloud to drive digital transformation across the entire organization, and to enhance our innovation and workflow processes so that we can bring new offerings and better experiences to market faster,” says Mark Kramer, VP, Engineering & Technology at Pac-12 Networks. “Video quality has been absolutely gorgeous during the game for linear broadcast and TV Everywhere audiences. It was a huge positive transition for us – a new level of experience, years in the making.”

Taking the new cloud-centric approach, master control – the brains of Pac-12 Networks’ operation – uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon Glacier as petabyte-sized primary archives for all recorded content, and as the basis of an automated ingest workflow. The ability to call on unlimited amounts of Amazon S3 storage as required liberated other aspects of the production workflow, to enable, among other things, the creation of a new live-to-VOD capture feature. Because of the seamless use of this cloud workflow, AWS Elemental MediaTailor now provides a straightforward option to perform server-side ad insertion for both live and on-demand content, creating a whole new basis for content monetization. Other AWS services at play in the Pac-12 cloud infrastructure include AWS IAM, Amazon CloudFront, Amazon EC2 Autoscaling, Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) and Amazon Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) to provide a secure, highly effective backbone for TV everywhere service delivery.

“As we standardize on AWS machine learning and media services, we’ll be able to usher in a new era of entertainment for collegiate sports enthusiasts,” continues Kramer. “Our fans will benefit from highly reliable and personalized viewer experiences, even in times of rapid traffic spikes like conference championships or rivalry games, and our internal teams will be able to experiment with ease using AWS services to rapidly test new ideas. The unmatched breadth of functionality, agility, and security that AWS provides has been, and will continue to be, instrumental to our success in the cloud. The way viewers expect to consume games is completely changing. Without AWS, we couldn’t meet our fans’ needs.”

In the future, automated processing of the same assets with AWS Machine Learning services adds the potential for a whole new range of service enhancements, including automated gameplay highlight clips, and real-time closed captioning for broadcasters. Another potential future application involves AWS Lambda, a serverless application model that uses less compute for processing clip and highlight generation. In this workflow, the second a game is over, Pac-12 Networks would have all assets, such as game highlights, directly accessible for streaming and syndication partners. As a result, a wide variety of highlight options could be made available to fans, offering a much richer post game experience.

“College sports fans expect exceptional viewing experiences no matter where, or how, they are watching,” says Teresa Carlson Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector at AWS. “AWS delivers the scale, reliability, and breadth of functionality needed to give fans access to high-visibility Pac-12 conference games. Already, Pac-12 is tapping into our services to find new ways to connect with collegiate fans without being limited by an on-premises architecture. Since AWS services remove the upfront capital infrastructure expenditure and months of configuration, Pac-12 is primed to deliver championship quality experiences to audiences of any size for any sport.”

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