Leading the Ultimate Revolution in Streaming Sports
As a fan, one of the most exciting places to experience a sporting event is standing on the sideline. You can hear the on-field chatter, the pump-up speeches and even bits of in-game strategy. Imagine if a similar perspective could be produced for an online audience. When the NexGen Network (NGN) had the initial spark to launch an online network, it was driven by the idea of revolutionizing coverage of the top Ultimate Frisbee (“Ultimate”) events and making the tournament experience accessible to fans everywhere. Ultimate is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and NGN set out to give fans the ability to live stream games, see instant replays from multiple camera angles, listen to color commentary and view high quality on-demand footage of their favorite teams. NGN had a clear picture of the streaming experience it wanted to provide, but could it find a video processing system powerful enough to make it a reality?
Background: A New Leader in Niche Broadcasting
A relatively new sport, Ultimate Frisbee was invented in New Jersey in 1968. The first intercollegiate competition was held between Rutgers and Princeton on the Rutgers University campus in 1972. The earliest video footage of the sport dates back to 1976, and as technology has evolved, so has coverage of Ultimate. The last decade has been full of video milestones for the sport, as more and more videographers travel to record footage at tournaments and make it available on the Web. CBS Sports Network picked up Ultimate as part of its coverage of “The Alt Games: College Action Sports Championship.” Highlight clips can even be seen now and again on ESPN as part of SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.
Today Ultimate is played by over five million athletes worldwide. Professional Ultimate teams are emerging, and fans are following their favorite players and teams online as they compete in international tournaments. Though new to the industry as of January 2012, NGN is the broadcasting leader in the sport of Ultimate and provides a top-quality online viewing experience.
Challenge: Reaching Fans All Over the World
The shift to Internet video delivery of live sporting events offers the opportunity to reach fans wherever they are. However, it also presents unique challenges in preparing and delivering high quality video content. For an online audience, source material must be compressed to appropriately-sized bitrates for reliable and efficient video streaming on a large scale. At the same time, streamed content must retain high visual and audio quality in order to provide an engaging viewing experience.
Sports enthusiasts all over the world want the opportunity to watch full games of their favorite teams at any time, and fans of Ultimate are no different. While NGN’s initial vision was to make games available live, supplying video on-demand was also important for those viewing across different time zones, meaning NGN needed to find an encoding solution that featured strong archiving capabilities. System flexibility would also prove to be critical, as each tournament venue presented unique challenges ranging from connectivity concerns to the broadcast schedule itself, which might feature a game played on turf in daylight one day and a nighttime matchup on grass the next.
Solution: Elemental Live a Team Player
NGN found a solution to power its best-in-class broadcasts of live Ultimate with Elemental® Live. Elemental Live is a video processing platform that provides encoding for live event streaming to online and mobile platforms. In NGN’s case, a single Elemental Live unit provides both the capacity and speed required to deliver multiple high quality video streams ranging from SD to HD for the network’s live broadcasts.
“The most notable feature of Elemental Live compared to other encoders I’ve used is the quality of the encoding,” said Kevin Minderhout, Executive Producer of NGN. “It does a remarkable job making low bitrates look great while handling so much data at once.”
Elemental Live is one of the workhorses in the NGN live streaming workflow. The feeds from multiple cameras at tournament venues are directed into a NewTek 3Play, which enables instant replay capabilities for the broadcast—a first for live Ultimate streaming on the Internet. The producer for each game chooses which camera angles provide the best view using a Blackmagic switcher, which outputs a master HD-SDI feed to the Elemental Live system. Elemental Live then outputs multiple high quality streams for live playback on connected viewing devices. The system also produces a Blu-ray quality archive in real time for post-production purposes.
“I have not found any purely software solution that can compete with Elemental from a quality and convenience standpoint,” said Minderhout. “The fact that we can deliver live streams and create additional archives means we never have to transcode again down the road.”
Video streams are delivered from Elemental Live to DaCast, an all-in-one streaming platform, for delivery to connected devices. DaCast leverages the EdgeCast content delivery network (CDN) for its live distribution of Flash streams. NGN also makes full games available for on-demand viewing.
“We’ve found Elemental Live to be one of the most reliable encoders used by our customers,” said Benny Fischer, Solutions Architect at EdgeCast. “Not only that, but the way Elemental has integrated EdgeCast into its user interface makes life that much easier for the users’ end-to-end workflow.”
NGN Streaming Workflow
Benefit: Taking the Online Tournament Experience to Another Level
With Elemental Live, NGN provides Ultimate fans with a viewing experience on par with some of the top professional sports leagues. The system merges the benefits of general purpose processors with the versatility and forward compatibility of intelligent software to give content providers like NGN unmatched price-performance for video compression.
Using the DaCast platform, NGN is able to monetize its live broadcasts through pay-per-view and subscription-based models. As a DaCast-endorsed live encoding system, Elemental Live seamlessly integrates with the streaming platform to enable a high-quality experience with minimal technical issues for not only viewers worldwide, but the operators at NGN as well.
“Those I’ve dealt with on the Elemental team have been so supportive, top to bottom,” said Minderhout. “They have gotten me up and running at even the most precarious of venues. In the midst of the immense pressure of delivering a live event, the peace of mind Elemental provides is unquantifiably valuable.”
The flexibility and ease of management offered by Elemental Live allows NGN to leverage the encoder in a variety of situations outside of its standard workflow. Whether this means uploading archived content from the encoder to Vimeo as an on-demand asset for viewers or using the system to stream the 2012 Club Championships via YouTube Live, Elemental Live delivers.
Elemental is committed to leading the multiscreen video revolution, providing excellent customer service, and allowing consumers to enjoy the highest quality streaming video on any device – anytime – anywhere. To learn more about how Elemental Live delivers video to any screen at any time, visit the Elemental website at elementaltechnologies.com.
- Stream video to a niche market worldwide
- Facilitate an engaging online viewing platform
- Adapt workflow at challenging venues
- Deliver an experience on par with major broadcasters
- Stream the highest quality live and on-demand video
- Leverage flexibility of a software platform
- Recognition as the best brand streaming Ultimate
- Multiple methods of monetization
- Strong viewership numbers internationally
Viewership by the Numbers: Truly an International Sport
“I have not found any purely software solution that competes with Elemental from a quality and convenience standpoint. The fact that we can deliver live streams and create additional archives means we never have to transcode again down the road.”Kevin Minderhout
Executive Producer, NGN
“They have gotten me up and running at even the most precarious of venues. In the midst of the immense pressure of delivering a live event, the peace of mind Elemental provides is unquantifiably valuable.”Kevin Minderhout
Executive Producer, NGN