EBU starts a new era in free-to-air sports broadcasting

Last month we learnt about a new development within the world of sports broadcasting: the creation of the Eurovision Sport streaming platform, which marks a significant evolution in the field. Spearheaded by the European Broadcasting Union and in close collaboration with technology partners like Nagravision, this initiative aims to redefine how sports content is delivered and experienced across the globe. As our readers dig in the interview with Jean-Baptiste Casta, Head of Strategy & Business Operations at Eurovision Sport, they’ll gain insights into the intricate process of bringing this ambitious project to life, from the technical hurdles to strategic decisions that shaped the platform’s development.

Within this interview to Jean-Baptiste Casta, TM Broadcast International offers a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges faced and the innovative solutions employed to overcome them, highlighting the platform’s commitment to providing high-quality, free-to-air sports content. From managing complex geo-blocking rules to integrating diverse content schedules and ensuring a smooth user experience, the interview sheds light on the collaborative effort to make Eurovision Sport a reality. With this conversation, readers will discover the platform’s mission to complement traditional broadcasting, its approach to content management, and the vision for its future in the sports broadcasting stage.

 

Who have been the main technology partners involved in the development of the Eurovision Sport streaming platform and what roles have they played in its creation?

I’m thrilled to discuss our collaboration with Nagravision, a Kudelski Group company, in the development of the Eurovision Sport streaming platform. This partnership represents a significant step forward in our mission to bring high-quality, free-to-air sports content to fans worldwide.

Nagravision has been an instrumental technology partner in this venture. Their expertise in content protection, media, and entertainment solutions has been invaluable. As one of the world’s leading independent providers in these areas, Nagravision’s role has been multifaceted, focusing on the technical operations of the Eurovision Sport platform. This includes managing content, user experience, and ensuring a secure, immersive, and easily navigable digital environment for fans to enjoy their favorite sporting events.

Our collaboration has enabled us to aggregate sports rights effectively and complement the offerings of Europe’s Public Service Broadcasters. The platform’s design allows for minute-by-minute rights management and provides a comprehensive sports guide, managing thousands of hours of content across various sports categories and dedicated portals for Federations and sporting organizations.

Innovation is at the heart of Eurovision Sport, and Nagravision’s contribution has been pivotal in ensuring we can offer customizable viewing experiences to fans. The upcoming integration of the Eurovox service, an AI-based live translation of sport commentaries, is a testament to our commitment to innovation and inclusivity, enabling fans across Europe to follow their favorite events in their preferred language.

Together with Nagravision, we are dedicated to enhancing the future of broadcast media, ensuring that high-quality sports content is accessible to all, free of charge. This partnership is a cornerstone of our strategy, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration to bring unparalleled sports viewing experiences to fans around the globe.

 

What MAM technologies and solutions have been used to manage the vast sports content available on the Eurovision Sport platform?

I’d highlight our platform’s use of advanced MAM (Media Asset Management) technologies integral to managing our extensive sports content library. Utilizing solutions like those described for the OpenTV Video Platform by NAGRA, we ensure efficient content curation, personalization, and seamless delivery across multiple devices. This includes a comprehensive metadata management system for dynamic content cataloging and an analytics-driven approach for understanding consumer behavior, crucial for adapting our offerings in real-time to meet viewer demands.

 

What kind of storage solutions and web architecture has been implemented to ensure a smooth and efficient user experience on Eurovision Sport?

The platform is 100% cloud based, using many leading global cloud technology partners such as AWS. The snappiness of the user experience is facilitated by very extensive caching on the client app.

 

What were the development timelines for the Eurovision Sport platform from conception to launch?

The EBU has been exploring the opportunity to launch a direct-to-consumer sport platform during the past couple of years. A certain number of pilot projects, to evaluate the various technologies as well as the market opportunity were run during that period.

 

What technical and non-technical obstacles were encountered during the development of Eurovision Sport and how were they solved?

During the development of Eurovision Sport, we faced several challenges, both technical and strategic. Technically, managing complex geo-blocking rules and integrating diverse schedules from numerous federations required bespoke tools, which we developed specifically for these tasks. We also addressed the challenge of content delivery by implementing measures with CDN providers to ensure even less popular content remains accessible. On the non-technical side, our focus was on sustainable monetization through advertising and sponsorships, carefully balancing programmatic ads with direct sales campaigns. Importantly, we clarified Eurovision Sport’s role as a complementary platform to EBU Members, enhancing rather than competing with their coverage, and providing unique content not available on traditional free-to-air channels.

 

What were the main objectives that led to the development of Eurovision Sport and how do they align with the EBU’s mission?

The main objectives are to provide additional live (or replays) coverage to sport events, 1) in complementary to EBU Members coverage and 2) full coverage to sport events that have no or limited broadcast support from media. We are a Public Service therefore we aim to provide the fans free access to the content, no pay per view or subscription to pay.

 

How does the EBU plan to measure the success and impact of Eurovision Sport in terms of reach, user engagement and satisfaction?

Everything we do is done in close collaboration with EBU Members and the Sport federations we are partnering for media rights. Their feedback and satisfaction are key too. We will constantly listen to all stakeholders to adapt and improve the way we bring sport to fans. Fans feedback will also be the other indicator for us. If the sport community support these initiatives, if we manage to provide the sport fans the content they want to see, we will have achieved our Public Service Media mission which is to democratise access to sport.

 

What cybersecurity measures are in place to protect the Eurovision Sport platform and its users’ data against online threats and security breaches?

Regarding to this issue, as we made sure of it at first, we can assure that Nagra followed all GDPR regulations and recommendations to protect user’s data.

 

How does Eurovision Sport manage user authentication and authorization to ensure secure access to content?

The process is easy: every user has to be registered and email address verified to have access to the content playback. The content itself is encrypted and DRMised using the Nagra MultiDRM solution. For each content access, a DRM-license is generated for the user.

 

What file compression protocols does Eurovision Sport use to optimize live and on-demand video streaming while maintaining high image quality?

We use fully standard cloud video encoding provided by AWS elemental. Packaging and delivery are relying on the use of Apple HLS + MPEG-DASH packaging for OTT delivery.

 

How does Eurovision Sport balance the need for efficient compression with user demand for broadcast quality and sports federation standards?

With adaptive streaming we deliver multiple qualities to fit the Users’ bandwidth. With good network connectivity, the user can benefit form 720p and even 1080p HD quality

 

What systems and practices does Eurovision Sport use for audio file management, especially with regard to video synchronization and sound quality?

We ingest the source feeds using SRT transport streams including Video and Audio. The re-encoding process keeps the sync between audio and video avoiding desynchronisation issues

 

How does Eurovision Sport ensure consistency and high quality audio across all viewing platforms, including mobile devices, web and connected TVs?

HLS and DASH are adaptive streaming protocols providing different stream qualities. All devices having a good internet bandwidth will benefit form the same highest Full HD quality.

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