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How Data Centers Serve Up Superior Connectivity for Sports Streaming

By Bryan Hill, director of marketing & business development, digital media at Interxion.

The National Football League (NFL) kicked off its 100th season, trailing the return of College football, with millions of fans flocking to stadiums so they can cheer for their favorite teams, and even enjoy more games from the comfort of their own homes. Over the past couple of years, there has been a surge in those leveraging the NFL's digital platforms to stream football games versus watching via traditional broadcast.

But what's more, there has also been a broader trend demonstrating that sports streaming in general is on the rise, with worldwide revenue from sports digital media growing by 11.5% over the next few years. In fact, the rise of streaming services, such as Netflix, in general has changed the way we as consumers perceive television. These new viewing habits have driven a growing number of digital players to enter the sports arena with over the top (OTT) viewing platforms. In the past year we already saw tech giant Amazon secure ATP World Tour Tennis and Premiere League rights, along with 2018 and 2019 NFL Thursday Night Football rights.

Reliability, Latency and Quality - Oh My!

For consumers, video buffering, poor picture quality or even content that won't load can completely ruin the viewing experience - and user experience is the pillar on which all successful OTT services are built. The good news is that, for sports right holders looking to stream their content online to consumers, there is an opportunity to forge a personal and direct relationship with fans through customized content, on a global scale. Think on-demand content, en masse. This opens up potential new audiences, particularly mobile-first or mobile-only regions, where consumers are watching content on their smartphones. The make-or-break factor for success in these regions, however, is a connectivity infrastructure that can stream content, without fail.

This is where the core challenges of streaming sports content lie: latency and reliability. The stakes are higher with live streaming than with traditional OTT models, such as binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix. Buffering, poor picture quality, or even content that simply won't load are unforgivable experiences for consumers that have plenty of choice in a competitive OTT market. But live streaming, particularly for sports, has the added complexity of avoiding lag time and latency. Imagine how disappointed you'd be if you were streaming a big game at home, but heard crowds of people cheering down the street several seconds before you see the touchdown yourself.

So how can rights holders balance the three key ingredients of successful sports streaming - reliability, latency and quality - to capitalize on the reach of OTT platforms and live streaming?

Highly connected data centers are at the core of the transition of live sports content from broadcast to OTT. It is simply not possible to effectively deliver OTT content without access to a community of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). In fact, CDNs and clouds are very important when it comes to sports content, as sports traffic is more likely to hit peaks on Saturday or Sunday, for example, than any other day of the week. As stated above, user experience is the key for a successful OTT service of any kind (from online banking to live video).

When it comes to live streaming, think of the journey data must make from the camera filming the content to the screen watched by an end-user. Moreover, carriers are critical for the ingest of the broadcast feed from satellite downlinks or venues delivered over fibre. As a result, valuable live sports content is best delivered via highly connected data centers because they serve as the ideal environment to direct that data instantaneously, which is necessary when even a few seconds of lag is unacceptable.  

Here's where colocated data centers can help sports rights holders achieve the quality and reliability they need, through a wide range of connectivity and cloud solutions. It's important for data centers to cater to all styles of content across all platforms, bringing together ISPs, CDNs and software solutions in a buzzing community, to support everything from production to OTT delivery. And as OTT streaming blossoms, and new technologies such as 5G and UHD place more demand on networks, cloud- and carrier-neutral data centers are well-placed to help broadcasters navigate market change and deliver superior connectivity during bandwidth-intensive events.

What's Next

It's an exciting time to be in the sports broadcasting industry and it's encouraging to see how technology is making advancements in live streaming possible. This is particularly the case as more players and platforms enter the space, OTT grows in popularity among viewers, and companies increasingly seek to ensure that regulatory measures are met. But what it ultimately comes down to is being able to ensure that the companies can deliver best possible experience for their viewers - and highly connected, cloud- and carrier-neutral data centers make that possible. I personally can't wait to see how the data center's role comes to fruition as these trends unfold over the next year.


About the Author

Bryan Hill, Director of Marketing & Business Development, Digital Media, Interxion

Bryan Hill 

Bryan directs Interxion's strategy and relationships within the Digital Media industry and is focused on the transitions in the media sector including in digital advertising and marketing automation and video gaming/AR and VR.

Bryan has a strong background developed over 20 years in the digital media sector where he has held positions in digital content licensing, online video creation/ distribution and social online gaming. Always at the intersection of industry transitions- from analogue to digital video and photography through the evolution of single player gaming to multiplayer immersive environments.

Prior to joining Interxion, Bryan spent ten years in senior positions at Getty images where his titles included Director of Ecommerce Operations, European Director of Sales & Product and Head of Online Marketing. He also spent four years building up Fifty Lessons, an online video platform partially-funded by the BBC.
Published Tuesday, September 17, 2019 7:29 AM by David Marshall
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