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Sports Streaming Sensation: Harmonic

Posted on Jun 6, 2023 by FEED Staff

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With the cloud as the great enabler of scalability and superb quality, live sports streaming is continuing to grow at a phenomenal rate, as head of sports for EMEA & APAC at Harmonic explains to FEED

It is often said that sports is the definitive trailblazer when it comes to the adoption of new broadcast technologies and production techniques. Live streaming is clearly no exception, and its growth over the last few years – both in terms of the range and quality of services – has been truly breathtaking.

Moreover, with Verified Market Research forecasting that the livestreaming video market for sports will expand by almost 25% per year until 2030, it’s evident that we’re only in the early stages of a phenomenal industry journey. So it follows that the technologies underpinning the production and delivery of sports streaming must be responsive, versatile and of the highest quality.

“If you look at the market, you can see a steady flow of eyeballs moving to streaming to enjoy their favourite games and teams,” asserts Thomas Decieux, head of sports EMEA & APAC at Harmonic, the worldwide leader in virtualised broadband and video streaming solutions. “Therefore it’s no surprise to find that the technologies and product ecosystem required to meet this demand have also been developing steadily.”

In terms of how manufacturers – including Harmonic – seek to support the live sports streaming revolution, Decieux highlights a quartet of critical capabilities: “Video quality, scalability, targeted advertising and resilience – those are the elements that are of the greatest importance.”

VOS360 delivers versatility

Harmonic’s own efforts in this area are centred upon VOS360, which it describes as the world’s most advanced end-to-end cloud-native video processing and delivery SaaS (software as a service) platform. 

Frequently employed to orchestrate the most-watched tournaments on the planet, VOS360 optimises live video delivery with flexible and real-time scaling in order to manage peaks in viewership – an essential quality for live sports.

As Decieux observes, the current popularity of VOS360 – which can run on a wide range of public cloud platforms – is the product of “having started to invest in the cloud about eight years ago, in advance of it becoming the big industry trend it is now. That early start has allowed us to really push the capabilities of the cloud, and take a leading position in this market.”

Moreover, it is now evident that cloud-based operation is especially suitable for the variable nature of sports streaming. “It fits well with the on-and-off nature of events, and means you can have access to the resources you require when you need them,” states Decieux. “There is also a great opportunity to develop a resilient architecture and make your operations very robust – something that can be done with our VOS360 solution.”

The platform continues to develop as ideas about monetisation and advertising evolve. To this end, the VOS360 Ad SaaS lets users maximise their ad inventory and CPMs with dynamic ad insertion. Capable of being used on top of existing VOS Media or via integration with third-party video solutions, VOS360 Ad offers pinpoint personalised experiences for live, linear and VOD content.

The cloud has proven to be completely transformative for the efficient delivery of ads to an ever-expanding consumer base. 

“Running a system in the cloud makes it possible to insert targeted ads at scale,” Decieux goes on to explain, adding that the growth of live sports represented ‘a major scaling challenge that needed to be met’. 

“We have proven that VOS360 can do this many times over the years, involving very large-scale elements and server-side ad-insertion capabilities,” he says.

Looking forward, Decieux is excited about the potential of AI, with Harmonic’s EyeQ technology leveraging it to reduce the bit rates by up to 50% without impacting quality.

“We see AI as a whole set of technologies that could be utilised throughout the entire value chain, all the way from production automation to personalisation of the viewer experience,” he explains. “It’s going to play a big part in helping customers connect with the content they want. So yes – live sports streaming is already a phenomenal market and is going to carry on developing in many exciting ways.” 

Originally published in the Summer 2023 issue of FEED.

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