Fox Sports

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Case Study

 

Fox Sports Chooses Anvato To Live Stream The Super Bowl

 

“It’s not only the encoding, but scheduling of the encoders and players that enable seamless playback on iOS, Android and desktop, but also seamless integration with complex broadcast automation that makes Anvato unique.

 

Mike DeBrincat – Executive Director, Fox Digital Media

1st Time

the Super Bowl was streamed in a mobile app

1.1 Million

simultaneous streams

0 Failures

or loss of service

Fox Sports’ Story

 

Fox Sports set out in 2013 with the goal to launch two nationally-distributed cable sports channels, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2. Its TV Everywhere multiplatform live streaming product Fox Sports Go (FSGO) was perhaps even more ambitious. It allows viewers to watch over 1,100 events a year in high-definition using their connected mobile and desktop devices.

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In October 2013, FSGO launched on Anvato Media Content Platform, offering games sourced from nearly 250 live sports feeds, including those from the Fox Sports cable networks regional sports networks, and local affiliates. In February 2014, FSGO streamed the biggest game of all; over one million people simultaneously watched the Super Bowl on desktop and mobile devices (both Apple iOS and Android) without failure or loss of service. This was the first time Super Bowl was streamed in a mobile application.

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Top Notch Live Encoding

 

FSGO is often praised with its pristine picture quality on every platform both mobile and desktop. Under the hood, FSGO utilizes Anvato’s software-based Live Encoders to create Apple HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) in multiple bitrates so that each user can watch the video delivered at the right bitrate for their network bandwidth.

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Live Scheduler Driving Automation

 

With almost 250 live linear channels ultimately making up FSGO, automation is critical. Controlled by Anvato’s Scheduler, Live Encoders start and stop at scheduled times eliminating need for human operators to manage operations.

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Playing Apple HLS on Every Platform

 

FSGO plays a single stream format (Apple HLS) and not only on iOS, but also desktop, and Android devices using Anvato’s Player Development Kits. This approach simplifies encoding logistics and minimizes bandwidth cost while maintaining top stream quality.

Authorization and Authentication

 

FSGO makes games available to cable subscribers and it uses Adobe Pass to authenticate with multiple cable operators, a.k.a multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs).

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User and Device Rights

 

Content rights can be very complicated, as they vary from league to league. For example, in the case of Major League Baseball, FSGO users can watch a game anywhere in the country they could watch that game at home on their couch (“couch rights”). The National Football League, however, only lets FSGO users watch the games that they could watch if they were watching television in a hotel in that market (“hotel rights”), and only on a tablet or desktop (no smartphones).

Monetization For Local And National

 

FSGO is unique in that it enables Fox affiliates to insert locally-sold advertising during local ad breaks in its designated market areas (DMAs). FSGO needed to give local stations ad inventory around the high-profile sporting events, including NASCAR, NFL, EUFA Champions League, and MLB’s regular season, All-Star, Championship Series and World Series games.

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To address the various requests from sales, Mike DeBrincat, Executive Director of Video Platforms at Fox Sports in partnership with Anvato architected FSGO with flexibility in mind.For national events like NASCAR, a viewer may see the original ad payload, or Fox promos may be stitched in at the national ad breaks. When the live stream gets to a local ad break, those ads are local – sold and inserted by each market’s local sales team. Using a commercial scheduler tool built by Anvato, local affiliates upload and create each ad pod that they want to stream in each local ad break. Serving hundreds of markets around the country, this level of control and automation can only be achieved by Anvato.

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Pushing The Envelope – Streaming The Super Bowl

 

The Super Bowl is the iconic sporting event in North America. As Sports fans were looking forward to Super Bowl XLVIII, Clark Pierce, senior vice-president of mobile and advanced platforms, and Mike DeBrincat, technology executive director of video platforms, turned to two of the most innovative partners in the industry. “We knew we were building something that had not been built or conceived of up to now,” Clark said, “so that was how we came to working with Akamai and Anvato.”

Encoding, Scheduling And Players Meet Scalable Content Distribution

 

Only Anvato’s high-quality software encoding and sophisticated end-to-end cloud platform can support Fox’s diverse broadcast infrastructure. “Its not only the encoding, but scheduling of the encoders and players that enable seamless playback on iOS, Android and desktop, but also…

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seamless integration with complex broadcast automation that makes Anvato unique” added Mike DeBrincat. Akamai’s content distribution network was the most reliable and scalable to support the massive scale required by Fox Sports. Akamai provides its highly-scalable Intelligent Platform CDN, which includes 115,000 production servers in 85 countries. Akamai also provides the security tools that enforce blackouts, geo-fencing and device compliance. In the case of the Super Bowl, FSGO was able to enforce blackout rights inside the stadium down to the IP-address level.

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Redundant Architecture Ensures Nobody Misses A Single Play

 

In the case of the Super Bowl, six active and synchronized encoders in three different states pushed live streams across the diverse Akamai network to ensure a signal would always be available.

 

If an encoder in a facility went down, the active-active encoder configuration ensured a live signal. If the source signal or outbound connection at the primary broadcast facility failed, Anvato seamlessly switched to a secondary, or even tertiary location. Using this highly scaleable and reliable software encoding architecture, Anvato, together with Akamai, was able to support an average of 528,000 users per minute throughout the entire Super Bowl, peaking at 1.1 million simultaneous users.

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Hybrid Cloud Combines Performance And Cost Savings

 

Anvato’s pay-as-you-go business model is also highly advantageous to Fox Sports’ growing operations. All application software is in the cloud, and encoding is both in the cloud and on premise – whichever is the most cost effective for Fox Sports. Access to Anvato’s platform is paid as a monthly access fee per channel; there are no hardware fees.

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Akamai provides its highly-scalable Intelligent Platform CDN, which includes 115,000 production servers in 85 countries. Akamai also provides the security tools that enforce blackouts, geo-fencing and device compliance. In the case of the Super Bowl, FSGO was able to enforce blackout rights inside the stadium down to the IP-address level.

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One Supply Chain Rules It All

 

With all the complexity that Fox Sports has to deal with regarding content rights and ensuring quality-of-service on dozens of devices, they only need to call on one TV Everywhere vendor for everything from encoding through the player. What might typically take a handful of partners to achieve, Anvato has in one end-to-end, turnkey live streaming platform.

Summary

 

Launching and maintaining a live streaming service to demanding sports fanatics is no small undertaking. Incorporating advertising from local affiliates into the Fox Sports Go live platform was smart, innovative and unprecedented. From securing content rights and acquiring hundreds of linear signals, to live encoding with national and local ad stitching, to content delivery, geo-fencing and cross-platform authentication and device playback, the potential points of failure are too numerous to count – but have been hedged by the right technology partners.

 

By partnering with Anvato and Akamai, Fox Sports has a scalable and dependable infrastructure for years to come. As viewers demand a more sophisticated live sports experience on new devices, and online viewership numbers steadily increase, Fox Sports is confident that its live encoding and delivery infrastructure is adaptable to whatever tomorrow may bring.

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