Fox Sports is the umbrella brand for the new sports television network in the Netherlands. It’s operated by Eredivisie Media & Marketing, a Dutch media venture owned by Fox International Channels (51% stake since August 2012), Endemol, the Dutch top-tier football league, Eredivisie, and the Dutch football association KNVB. The sports network currently offers two premium television services: Fox Sports Eredivisie and Fox Sports International. Fox Sports Eredivisie, which has been on air since 1 August 2013, holds the exclusive rights for live coverage of the Eredivisie, Eerste divisie (second-highest division) and KNVB Beker (the national cup competition). Its programmes are broadcast on three separate channels. Fox Sports International, launched on 17 August 2013, offers live coverage of Europe’s most-watched international football, such as UEFA Europa League, England’s Premier League and Italy’s Serie A.
From early 2012 Eredivisie Media & Marketing launched its TV Innovation Project aimed at completion in time for the new 2013-2014 football season. The project’s primary objectives were twofold: to improve the quality of content contribution across multiple platforms; and to improve the overall viewer experience.
As Victor Winkelhagen, head of production at Endemol Sport explains, “To be innovative and get the most out of our content, we need to centralise it.”
Endemol Sport has a longstanding working relationship with EVS across various OB and studio projects, so were well aware of the speed and reliability of EVS technology. EVS’ expertise in sports production workflows and its Sports360° concept convinced Eredivisie Media & Marketing that this was the right partner for the project. A key deciding factor was the way EVS technology allowed Endemol Sports to easily link servers at various venues to a centralised media platform at the broadcast centre in order to access more content faster.
The scalability of EVS technology and its easy integration with third-party systems also had a significant impact on the decision-making following Fox International’s acquisition of a 51% stake in Eredivisie Media & Marketing and its plans to expand the operations.
Due to the trust in its expertise and ability to offer a complete workflow, including second-screen media delivery (Sports360), Eredivisie Media & Marketing and Endemol Sports chose to commission solutions directly from EVS.
Centralised ingest platform
– Five XS servers each capable of recording up to four signals
Ingest of up to 20 live feeds simultaneously
XCDAM HD (MPEG-2 422 LonGOP) for increased interoperability
DNxHD (VC3, Intra-Frame) for maximum reactivity during live productions
– XStoreSAN for nearline storage with a capacity of 3000 hours of XDCAM HD material (86 TB) + 9000 hours of lo-res material (7 TB)
– IPDirector suite to control the XS servers and manage content, including Ingest Scheduler to dispatch the incoming feeds either to the nearline storage or the Avid Interplay/ISIS systems and live logging (metadata input and log sheet creation)
– IPBrowse application, which allows journalists and assistant producers to swiftly search for relevant material on the nearline storage from their desktop or laptop (EVS supplied 30 licenses)
Up to 30 users can search for lo-res proxies simultaneously
Provides an intuitive interface with a video player to facilitate the search
Users can easily select content and send it to different destinations, including Avid post-production systems
“The IPBrowse application has been a real eye-opener for us. Not only does it help us save time, it also allows us to enrich our editorial work. For instance, when a presenter is referring to a specific event or player during the post-game show, we can immediately search for the related clip with IPBrowse and send it for playout on the background monitors,” says Winkelhagen. “Being able to work with a centralised media platform has led us to become much more effective in our editorial work and has even helped us to promote different packages across the network”.
There are two types of metadata that are added to incoming feeds:
– Objective metadata, comprising of match statistics (e.g. goals, fouls and yellow cards).
– Subjective metadata, which is based on visuals (e.g. reactions from the players, fans or coaches and quality of strikes).
Both are used to compile a log sheet that contains several fields (e.g. description of the event, keywords and colours to identify the action and ratings).
The objective metadata is completed in London by Opta, Eredivisie’s official statistics provider, and automatically integrated into the IPDirector database via the Ingest Scheduler. The subjective metadata is added by loggers at the broadcast centre who view the match, verify the Opta log entries and add information based on what they see. The metadata is available in real time for all users of the IPDirector suite. Using the IPLog2Post tool, all of the log entries are automatically associated with media in the Avid systems. In total, there are six logging stations at the broadcast centre, with each logger creating between 200 and 300 logs per match.
Live studio production set-up
A total of three galleries are used for productions, housing:
– XT3 servers with LSM remote control panels are used for replays, creating highlights packages and quick turnaround of content
Also supports dual encoding: XDCAM HD and DNxHD
All servers are connected via EVS’ high bandwidth media-sharing network XNet2
Allows to access content directly from the XS ingest servers
Managed by the IPDirector suite, which allows operators to transfer content recorded on the XT3s to the nearline storage and Avid systems, or vice versa
– XS servers for studio playout, including finished edits from the Avid systems
Up to six channels per server and two servers per gallery
Any content recorded on the XT3 and XS servers can be saved as a clip and enhanced with graphics provided by Reality Check systems and Vizrt as well as Piero sports analysis tools from Red Bee before playout or transfer to the nearline storage and Avid systems. Projection equipment was provided by JVR.
Instant connection to venues
An important element of this new workflow is the ability to easily exchange media between the OB trucks at the venues and the broadcast centre at the MediArena in Amsterdam. During a match, LSM operators at the venue create clips which are automatically extracted from the XT3 servers and transferred to the nearline storage at the broadcast centre via Aspera’s high-speed transport technology (300Mbps fibre connection). All incoming clips corresponding to a time code are automatically linked to a log sheet that is produced by the loggers at the broadcast centre. As a result, journalists and assistant producers have easy access to clips created at the venues as the live action happens, unlike before when they needed to wait until the match was over to create highlights. Content on the nearline storage can also be transferred from the broadcast centre to the different venues. On average between 75 and 100 clips are created per match.
Victor Winkelhagen explains further: “There are two major benefits from this workflow. One, we can start to compile clips for highlights and promotional material a lot sooner, which saves us about an hour of work compared to the past. Second, we can tell our stories differently and enrich the live programme with relevant content that has been overlooked by LSM operators at the venue but spotted at the broadcast centre, such as an angle that clearly shows a penalty.”
At the venues operators also use EpsioLive, EVS’ live sports graphic tool, which forms an essential part of the LSM remote control panel, to insert the offside line into the first replay.
Second screen media delivery
In addition to its television services, Fox Sports also offers a second-screen application called Sidekick. With this application, subscribers can choose to view match-action from different camera angles and review statistics directly from their tablet or smartphone. The application was designed by Infostrada and the media package is fed with EVS’ live multicam media delivery platform C-Cast.
The second-screen workflow is a two-man operation based in Amsterdam: one operator using IPDirector to create clips as well as add descriptive keywords to each clip, and the other to review all angles and manage their approval from a standard workstation. Once approved, the clips and associated metadata are transcoded to Infostrada’s CDN and available within seconds on the Sidekick app.
Third party integration
EVS systems provide efficient and fast production workflow, with tight integration with:
– Avid post-production
– Opta sports data
– Reality Check systems and Vizrt graphics
– Red Bee Piero sports analysis software
– Aspera high-speed transfer technology
Jan de Vries – Director Operations & Infrastructure at Eredivisie Media & Marketing
Arjan van Westerloo – Managing Director of Endemol Sports
Victor Winkelhagen – Head of production at Endemol Sport
Luc Doneux – EVP Sports Division at EVS
Nicolas Bourdon – SVP Marketing at EVS
Sébastien Verlaine – Marketing Manager EMEA at EVS