2 mins

Across the world, sports fans are demanding higher quality video, with less delay and more features than ever before. We explore how the convergence of IP and traditional broadcast technologies is empowering providers to deliver just that.

To remain competitive, sports broadcasters are making the move away from traditional satellite models to IP broadcasting - which is more flexible, scalable and reliable.

As broadcasters’ networks have become more complex, they must seamlessly route video from its capture location to a production centre and then back out to third-party networks and consumers themselves at the speed of a tweet. Additionally, the customer’s tolerance for outages, delays or low-quality feeds has significantly declined. 

On top of this, broadcasters need to meet the demands of the world’s emerging media consumption markets, whose network infrastructure and requirements can differ significantly from more established ones. China and India in particular are an increasingly important part of any broadcaster’s global distribution network.

For U.K. based global sports media company Perform Group, a robust global IP broadcast network is a key enabler to bring tennis fans closer to the game – without increasing their operating costs.

Perform and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) partnered to create WTA Media, a strategic partnership which was defined as one of the most significant investment in women’s sport at the time. WTA Media is currently responsible for the production and delivery of all global tournaments for the WTA.

“Satellites are cost-prohibitive for so many of our partners,” says John Learing, managing director of WTA Media and EVP of production partnerships at Perform Group. “Customers have to make a decision how much content and at what price they can take. But fibre allows us to go to our customers and say: ‘Here’s all the content, take as much as you want, and air it across as many platforms as you want.’

“It helps us grow the game – not just linearly but through social, through OTT, through every platform that’s becoming the preferred platform for today’s audience.”

Initially, this meant simplifying their operations, involving multiple video and data networks - each of which had different media formats - into a single content delivery network. 

Leveraging its global infrastructure, Telstra designed a unique network solution that could deliver video from the WTA Tour’s 47+ locations across the globe, including some via “dual and diverse” fibre connections. This network is designed for the high stakes of real-time video, with built-in redundancy and two geographically diverse paths to its location for maximum resiliency.

Through the network’s capacity to deliver multiple feeds from each event or even multiple events in parallel, Perform Group has been able to increase its annual WTA content by 2,600 hours – while maintaining the flexibility to scale down operations during quieter consumption periods.

“Since its launch in 2017, WTA has increased its production means by 70 per cent,” says Learing. With this leap in content capture by WTA Media, women’s professional tennis is growing rapidly and thriving in new markets.”

Additionally, the flexibility of the networking solution enabled the partners to collaborate on other aspects of the broadcast, such as the innovative NetCam miniature live cameras which debuted at the 2017 WTA Finals, which provided tennis fans with footage captured directly from the net itself.

“What Telstra’s netcam allows us to do is bring the audience in closer to the actual action,” Learing says. “They get to be right in centre court, at the net. They get to see the speed, the athleticism. NetCam brings the viewer into the rectangle and allows them to experience the sport more than they ever have before.”

The tiny, lightweight cameras are based on Telstra’s Globecam™ technology, which has also been deployed in the National Rugby League to offer fans a new way to connect with their favourite sport.

The Telstra IP media platform for WTA Media has now been in production for eighteen months. The network was designed with flexibility to evolve with the future roadmap of women’s tennis. With an eye on future technologies, Perform and the WTA can deliver live feeds through their WTA Media Portal for multiple tennis tournaments while simultaneously delivering Ultra HD.

The network’s core features are simplicity, reliability and the flexibility to accommodate the evolution of Tennis broadcasts to Ultra HD and 4K in the future. Telstra is in discussions with Perform Group to deliver selected upcoming WTA tournaments in 4K later in 2018.

This article originally appeared on Telstra Insight