Building a business case to monetize live events needs to balance the many cost factors involved in producing the content against the ways of monetising the value of the video content itself. The cost of a commercial for the Superbowl (which most recently exceeded $5.5 million) is always good for making headlines, but not every event has such mass-audience draw.
New video content platforms that offer content dedicated to a particular sport or sporting series are growing rapidly. The business success of these platforms is not only dependent upon managing the costs of producing the event, but also monetising viewer presence from the platform, as viewers explore additional content and extend their viewing time beyond the core event.
In providing a content-rich platform, the success of the channel or platform can depend on the costs related to bringing new content into the production centre.
The transition to remote production – accelerated in many instances by COVID-19 – has done much to drive new efficiencies into live event production. The costs involved in deploying personnel on-site have been reduced, and centrally located staff can be utilised more efficiently, by having them available to work on multiple events.
For production team members, centralised office working is preferable for creating a work-life balance than regular stays away from home. In addition, with a view to achieving environmental sustainability goals, centralised production is proving to significantly reduce the impact on the environment.
Contributing to cost reductions
Remote production is also impacting the costs associated with bringing raw content back to the production centre.
In the past, when production costs were heavily influenced by the cost of the contribution feed, which often involved a satellite link, on-site production delivered a benefit. In most cases, the total costs associated with contribution feed costs to produce on-site, including reduced contribution feed and the equipment to transport the video, would likely be lower than for remote production.
With the rollout of fibre IP circuits, however, the cost balance of connectivity has changed, as the cost per Mbit continues to decline. These changes have enabled remote production techniques for major events. However, IP fibre prevalence has not, in many cases, reached minor event locations. Furthermore, with new multi protocol label switching (MPLS) installs costing in the region of €10,000 to €20,000, the payback on an install can be a number of years.
With IP MPLS connectivity costs proving an inhibiting factor for some minor events, production teams have been exploring other technologies. For example, cellular network bonding has been successfully deployed as a connectivity path, while the use of the increasingly ubiquitous public internet has also been explored.
Use of the public internet presents some challenges to use as a reliable medium for professional video connectivity. The same quality of service guarantees are not implicitly present, as they are for other network connections. Public internet connections are therefore at risk of service disruption resulting from network jitter and packet loss, to name just a few.
As a tool for delivering robust IP connectivity across the public internet, many production teams have been turning to the secure reliable transport (SRT) IP protocol to deliver reliable video delivery.
The SRT protocol builds on the UDP IP protocol and adds a number of enhancements at the application layer to deliver on the needs of the broadcast industry. These include having the ability to insert data retransmission, forward error correction and AES security, all governed within the boundaries of managing these toolsets to achieve low latency transmission.
By applying SRT to a public internet connection, production teams now have a widely- available video contribution network that delivers low cost and robust communication.
New market dynamics
What could these advances in IP protocols deliver for production teams, content rights holders and platform operators?
Content rights deals signed with major leagues often include the rights to televise or stream additional events. In some instances, these additional events were simply not broadcast, owing to unjustifiable production costs and a more niche viewership making the events uneconomic to produce. A similar situation exists for new platform providers considering offering over the top (OTT) or app-based services, where the cost of acquiring content may not be covered by the monetisation of the service.
SRT and remote production change the market dynamics. Content carriage costs can be dramatically reduced and staff efficiencies are increased. Content rights can now be exploited: platform providers can access new content at affordable prices, and content production teams can take advantage of the demand for new revenue streams.
Equipment vendors are bringing on stream new products that offer SRT capability, most frequently via integration into standard video contribution encoders. These devices can contribute back video feeds originating from either fixed cameras, or from wireless cameras that offer go-anywhere flexibility to deliver immersive point-of-view perspectives.
This year, Mobile Viewpoint and parent company Vislink have been looking to go beyond the standard encoder product offering, with products to complement the ability to contribute over the public internet by offering bonded cellular connectivity, so allowing content producers to capture video content for remote production from almost any location over any network.
Michel Bais, Technical Director