Just over two months have passed since the 2012 Olympics closed in London, and, while the Games will certainly be remembered for the athletic feats of its competitors, they will go down in history as the first truly digital Games.
The ability to live-stream content to desktops and mobile devices wasn’t reserved for those with the massive infrastructure to support multiplatform delivery. iStreamPlanet and Haivision partnered to create the Go-Live Package, a turnkey, end-to-end, live-streaming and cross-platform video-playback solution available to Olympics-rightsholding broadcasters.
“We talked with a variety of content owners and rightsholders, [and] it became apparently clear that, while there was a desire to stream live content to a wide variety of IP-enabled devices out there, many content owners didn’t have the infrastructure in place to do so,” says Khurram Siddiqui, VP/GM, Europe, for iStreamPlanet. “With the two companies both having their strengths — Haivision in their KulaByte encoders and their CMS and iStreamPlanet in their live capabilities — and we share the risk and build a solution together and we then market it, it would be a compelling offering.”
iStreamPlanet powered the Go-Live Package out of its Broadcast Operations Center in London, leveraging Haivision’s KulaByte encoders. Real-time feeds were acquired via a satellite downlink from desired sports and venues.
“We were taking three flavors of feeds,” explains Peter Maag, chief marketing officer, Haivision. “Certainly, the broadcasters wanted their own channels available, their produced feeds, but we were taking bouquets of originated feeds. Some of the broadcasters wanted neutral feeds, and some of the broadcasters wanted neutral feeds with commentary. We were providing whatever the broadcasters wanted.”
Haivision’s KulaByte encoders supported broadcast-quality HD encoding to adaptive-bitrate streams and multiplatform encoding in Dynamic Flash. The Go-Live solution provided rightsholding broadcasters with the ability to stream up to 24 live events simultaneously to a variety of devices: desktops, iOS devices, Androids, and more.
The Go-Live Package used geo-blocking and encrypted stream delivery to adhere to Olympic Broadcast Committee content use and DRM rules. Customization options were available to the rightsholding broadcasters.
“RTÉ in Ireland asked for us — Haivision and iStreamPlanet — to build a player to sit on their sports Website and allow their users to come online, go into the Olympics offering, and we would basically display all of the sports and the schedule available for that day,” says Siddiqui. “They gave us their design and said we want the Olympics to be featured on our Website in this format, and so Haivision basically wrote a custom-skinned player for RTÉ in the format that was mandated by RTÉ.”
In creating the Go-Live Package, the biggest challenge faced by both iStreamPlanet and Haivision was timing.
“For me, on our operations and infrastructure side,” says Siddiqui, “I’ve gotta find all the bits and pieces, put a design together, hash it out with everyone, optimize it, know that it’s going to work [for] the massive volumes that we’re talking about, and then get all the pieces purchased, shipped into my facility, and get them plugged in [and] wired up.”
Once the infrastructure was built, the companies had to work with the IOC and OBS to gain permission to run licensed feeds on behalf of rightsholding broadcasters and test these feeds in the Go-Live workflow.
Unexpected challenges appeared as well. One such challenge resulted from the inability of the live RTÉ stream to break through corporate firewalls in Ireland. The content-delivery network presented another technical hurdle.
“We had to move to a new CDN configuration late in the game, with days to go before the event,” says Maag. “We had to reconfigure a lot of the nuances on how the viewing experience [was] presented. A lot of late nights, but the show went on.”
Looking back, and ahead
After the 18 days drew to a close and the Haivision and iStreamPlanet teams were able to catch up on sleep, both were able to reflect on the success of the Go-Live Package.
“I hadn’t worked with the KulaByte encoders before. I was pleasantly surprised at how powerful they were, how well they put out stream, and how good it looked,” says Siddiqui. “I was really happy with the results. The acquisition portion that iStreamPlanet handled in London went flawlessly for us, and every piece of equipment behaved. I actually found [that I] and my operations staff were just monitoring and didn’t have to interfere too much and just follow the schedule.”
Although there are no immediate plans to deploy the Go-Live Package, both teams hope to continue the partnership and are confident that the infrastructure can serve future global events.
“One of the things about the Olympics and global event broadcast is that centralized technology can be shared among many different viewing audiences,” says Maag. “As with many sporting events, often there are many different source feeds, and those source feeds can be accommodated through centralized scheduling, encoding, and transcoding resources. Then, through using geo-blocking and DRM, make those available across many different broadcasters.”