Based in Skien, Odds Ballklubb carries a storied tradition as Norway’s oldest existing association football team and a member of Eliteserien, the country’s top professional league. Prior to the 2018 season, Odd, as the team is commonly known, sought new paths to generating revenue from its high-value video content. Rather than selling rights to a third-party broadcaster or content provider, the team’s leadership preferred a direct approach that would afford greater control over its content, facilitate innovation and experimentation, and support an engaging, personalized experience for its ardent fan base.
The time and expense associated with designing, acquiring and maintaining a traditional over-the-top (OTT) video infrastructure made cloud services an attractive option for Odd. Similarly, the time and resources required to develop systems for managing a paid subscription model called for outside expertise and a turn-key e-commerce solution.
In Crystallize, a cloud-based platform for building and managing subscription-based video services pioneered by Norwegian product developer Snowball Digital, Odd found both the video processing and delivery technology and the e-commerce capabilities it required, all powered by AWS services. Odd selected Crystallize as the foundation to launch a new subscription-based live and on-demand video service, Gullpila, bringing the service live in only six weeks from project kickoff.
Crystallize is a new service with a uniquely innovative platform-as-a-service approach to building and managing subscription-based video services in the cloud. It combines a robust e-commerce engine to manage subscriber access and process payments with a complete video processing and delivery infrastructure. Designed as a “headless” e-commerce solution, Crystallize enables Odd to customize the user experience for its audience and easily integrate with back-end services via REST API, GraphQL, and webhooks. The platform’s e-commerce functionality relies on the Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), AWS Lambda function, Amazon ElastiCache for Redis, and AWS Elastic Beanstalk application.
AWS Media Services execute the cloud-based video processing and delivery for the Crystallize platform‘s video workflows. For Gullpila’s on-demand content, AWS Elemental MediaConvert transcodes file-based inputs uploaded to Amazon S3 by the Odd video team for distribution through the Amazon CloudFront content delivery network (CDN), with automation triggers provided by AWS Lambda and analytics supported by Amazon Kinesis Data Streams. Crystallize enables Gullpila’s live streams with AWS Elemental MediaLive, which encodes real-time video inputs, and AWS Elemental MediaPackage live video processing to prepare content for delivery to connected devices via CloudFront.
Within weeks of launch, Odd signed hundreds of subscribers, establishing a new source of significant recurring revenue, and its subscriber base continues to grow at a steady rate, validating the business model. Subscribers enjoy exclusive, unlimited access to live and on-demand streaming video including match highlights, player interviews, tips and tricks, and other fan-friendly, behind-the-scenes content, with monthly subscriptions priced at 59 kr (about $7.50 USD) or a one-time fee of 599 kr for the full season.
“Crystallize and AWS give us control over our content monetization strategy and the agility to quickly adapt to what subscribers value most from our service,” said Einar Håndlykken, Managing Director, Odds Ballklubb. “Both the transactional aspects and the technical workflows of a paid subscription video service are built into the solution, which allows our creative talent to focus on developing new content, innovating outstanding viewing experiences, and building connections between the organization and our supporters.”
According to Bård Farstad, CEO of Snowball Digital, “The Crystallize platform lets forward-thinking organizations like Odds Ballklubb customize video services to their audiences, while taking advantage of a virtually turn-key solution for distributing OTT video, at scale, to subscribers anywhere. We’re delighted by the capabilities of AWS solutions to enable services like Gullpila – and any Crystallize customer – to engage their audiences in new ways and generate new revenue streams.”
On May 19, millions of viewers from across the U.K. and Europe will flock to TVs and connected screens to witness the solemn ritual and gilded tradition of the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. For Sky News, the historic event has become a singular opportunity to bring viewers a powerful, interactive experience and a world first in the way it uses machine learning to enhance the user experience of a live-streamed news event.
To achieve this functionality, Sky News has collaborated with Amazon Web Services and AWS partners GrayMeta and UI Centric to bring machine learning-enhanced live video at scale to 23 million Sky viewers.
“Sky continuously searches for ways to innovate and bring better coverage to its customers. This new functionality allows Royal Wedding viewers greater insight into one of the biggest live events of the year, wherever they are. We’re excited by the software’s potential and ability to give audiences new ways of consuming content,” said David Gibbs, Sky’s Director of Digital Sports and News Products.
As Sky News announced today, users of the Sky News app will see much more than a procession of guests as they arrive at the castle. The app’s “Royal Wedding: Who’s Who Live” functionality will automatically highlight celebrities as they appear on screen and immediately present details about their connection to the royal couple with on-screen captions and graphics. Users can navigate the celebrity data without leaving the app and keep the primary video content on-screen, enjoying a self-guided, hands-on experience for every celebrity sighting.
A video feed from an outside broadcast van located near St. George’s Chapel will capture faces of arriving guests and feed the signal to an AWS Elemental Live small form factor appliance located nearby for real-time ingest to an entirely cloud-based workflow. Video processing is handled with the AWS Elemental MediaLive service. AWS Elemental MediaPackage integrates digital rights management for secured distribution over the Amazon CloudFront content delivery network (CDN). Sky News will also use the AWS Elemental MediaPackage service for live-to-VOD applications such as catch-up TV.
In parallel, Sky News is combining the GrayMeta data analysis platform with the Amazon Rekognition video and image analysis service for real-time identification of celebrities and tagging with related information.
Finally, Sky News is using the Amazon CloudFront content delivery network to unify the content for faster distribution to viewers. UI Centric has designed and developed the front-end application and video player to enhance the viewing experience and to leverage the Sky machine-learning workflow.
“We’re excited to have helped Sky News successfully build and deploy the Royal Wedding: Who’s Who Live app,” said Alex Dunlap, General Manager, AWS Elemental. “The high visibility and unpredictable audience size for this type of event made AWS cloud services, including those for media, a great solution by giving Sky the ability to test quickly, only pay for what was used, and produce a reliable, high-quality experience in a matter of weeks. Sky News is making their content even more engaging to viewers by enriching content with AWS machine learning services.”
Arrivals for the Royal Wedding will begin at 9:30 a.m. GMT and continue until the ceremony begins at 12:00 p.m. GMT. The Royal Wedding: Who’s Who functionality is accessible at Sky News online or via the Sky News app for mobile devices.
For more information about AWS Media Services, visit https://aws.amazon.com/media-services/
Quality-defined variable bitrate (QVBR) control is a new rate control mode designed to deliver consistently high-quality video viewing experiences that keep your audiences coming back for more, and your budget under control – saving you up to 50% on storage and delivery costs in the process.
If you’re interested in learning how QBVR works, watch our on-demand webcast for a detailed explanation of the technological and business benefits. You can watch the QVBR webcast here.
In the meantime, this short, visual summary illustrates how QVBR improves video quality when compared to constant bitrate and variable bitrate modes:
Figure 1: How constant bitrate affects video quality
- Using bits when not needed, because you've already met video quality requirements
- Not having enough bits when needed, resulting in lower video quality
- Different types of content require different bitrate choices
- Operator must take a best-guess approach when selecting the bitrate
Figure 2: How variable bitrate affects video quality
- Encoder uses as many bits as required to hit average bitrate, even if not needed for video quality
- Operator needs to pick the average bitrate per asset
- Selecting average to peak ratio is not straightforward
- Different settings needed for different content types
- Can’t get to optimal bit savings unless you encode multiple times and iterate to get lowest bitrate required by asset
Figure 3: How quality-defined variable bitrate control benefits video quality
- Bitrate control that automatically adjusts to different kinds of content and scenes
- Encoder automatically adjusts actual quantization
- Built on statistics developed for perceptual encoding such as AQ, MD, and RC
- Save bits when quality level is reached (don't use what you don't need)
- Use more bits to maintain quality level for complex scenes get
At the 2018 NAB Show, NewBay Media’s Video Edge magazine honored QVBR with a best in show award. AWS Elemental is pleased to be recognized, but what’s most gratifying is knowing our customers are using QVBR to address complex but very common operational problems in ways that save them time and money. You can get more info about the specific video quality problems QVBR solves, its advantages, and its simple set up and operation here: What is Quality-Defined Variable Bitrate (QVBR)?