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Delivering American Football to Europe

Posted on Oct 15, 2023 by FEED Staff

Summer saw the European League of Football and Qvest form a one-of-a-kind partnership, developing a full-service FAST-channel playout solution for the flourishing sport

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Founded in 2020 by Patrick Esume, commissioner, and Zeljko Karajica, CEO, the European League of Football (ELF) kicked off its first season back in 2021. It came about after a progressive trend of interest in the sport began to bubble to the surface from some of the major European countries. The sport itself however, has been present in Europe since the eighties.

“The ELF uses a franchise system, just like the NFL,” begins Chris Hahn, PR manager for the European League of Football. “We started with eight franchises from three countries, and each year we get more, increasing our presence in Europe.

“We recently had a game at the seventh biggest stadium in Hamburg, Germany – the Volksparkstadion – with 32,000 people in attendance,” explains Hahn.

In the European League of Football’s second year, it had 12 teams from five different countries. Now it has 17 teams from nine European countries. The league’s sudden growth is astounding, and resultantly, the sport now has a much more widely distributed fanbase to reach – beyond the reach of previous mediums, like packed-out stadiums and its known guerilla social media marketing. 

“We are trying to expand our reach across Europe,” Hahn continues. “We want to place American Football on broader shoulders, not only economically, but also in the sense of media outlets and accessibility.”

FAST track to 2023

It didn’t take long for the team at ELF to realise the most efficient, profitable method to cater for an expanding fanbase was to start up a FAST channel. 

Many sports content providers have harnessed the advantages offered by FAST – the key ingredient to launching any successful channel is to have plentiful high-quality content. Naturally, sports offer reams of content – be it live, match highlights or punditry. Once you have made the content, the profitability starts to filter through its advertising structure.

However, how does one simply spin up a FAST channel? 

As an all-in-one cloud-playout product, makalu by Qvest is a software-defined, highly automated playout automation for broadcasters and content providers of any kind and size. “We did on-premises playout for 25 years,” introduces Frank Mistol, managing director at Qvest Stream. “Five years ago, though, we decided to change this approach into microservice-based architecture.”

Using makalu, you can simply spin up TV channels in the cloud, configure them and start distributing content once the assets are loaded – a process that takes only a few moments. 

“Makalu has been designed for publishers, content-owners and broadcasters – in which you can create and manage all kinds of playout channels, and where those channels can be operated and created quickly.

“It comes with a range of functions, from ingest to distribution, and it can also be deployed on public and private cloud, providing the opportunity to be used in a hybrid approach.”

Mistol outlines the four pillars of business benefits gained by deploying with makalu:

Business agility: Something necessary when lacking capital investment or wanting to try out new niches in the market.

Economics: With its OpEx model, the makalu platform answers client demand for shorter contract periods.

Operations: It’s a solution that offers flexibility for various broadcast environments.

Distribution opportunities: Customers want a centralised operation that works from anywhere – something offered by makalu.

“When we first met with ELF, we discussed what we could do to use the momentum of this sport’s growing popularity to increase the audiences outside of stadiums,” continues Mistol.

“It didn’t take long for the ELF team to decide to have one central partner that not only provides the infrastructure and operational services, but also includes integration into advertising pools to enable monetisation of their content.” 

It takes two to tango

The technology partnership between Qvest and ELF symbolises a coming together of decades of technological and playout experience – welded with the invaluable knowledge of sports decision-makers and leagues, to deliver FAST playout that sits within a new era of sports broadcast. This is paired with the central factor that it boosts fan experience of the game by a monumental amount.

“The content just keeps on coming,” Chris Hahn emphasises. “We produce 107 games throughout the course of the year – live and on demand. Qvest was the perfect fit; it provides wider access to people around the world.”

The collaboration offers a new level of online-based broadcasting experience for all football fans outside of stadiums.

The pair’s aim is to establish these channels on as many platforms as possible, making the growth of fascination in American football accessible to increased target groups, converging the sport’s popularity and economic development. 

Originally published in the Autumn 2023 issue of FEED.

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