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The evolution of media services for the sports industry

Questions with Laurent Seve, Marketing Manager at BCE and Maria Möller, Partnership Manager at BCE.

BCE (Broadcasting Center Europe) continues to evolve 20 years after its creation. The company offers a wide selection of media service in each area of the broadcasting industry.

Let’s take a look at BCE’s recent evolution such as its range of services for the sports industry.

BCE performs all kind of media services. Could you tell us a little more about your areas of activities?

After 20 years of constant development and innovation, BCE has evolved to a unique position on the market as services provider, system integrator and software developer.

Our media services range from: broadcasting, playout, offering dedicated solutions as well as mutualized and virtual solutions; to IT, with datacenters and numerous managed services for hardware, monitoring, storage and security; digital media operations (including ingest, digitization, post production, graphics, OTT and content distribution); Telecom (BCE is a Licence D Telecom operator and operates a worldwide network); transmissions (with a teleport and numerous transmission sites for TV and radio transmissions); and production (live streaming, OB vans, SNGs, studios).

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On the system integration side, we have always taken the big technology steps before the market, whereas it was file-based workflows in 2000 or more recently IP. This constant search of new technologies gave us the possibility to partner with key technology providers and research centers in order to make the media market evolve and to provide the best solutions for our customers. As a result, our system integration team expertise covers both IT and Media and allows the establishment of hybrid projects in any media and non-media area.

BCE is also about software development, because media innovation comes with flexible and tailor-made solutions for content management, content distribution, visual radio, live streaming, OTT, production and social network interaction.

I would like to know a little more about BCE Sports. Is it one of the divisions in which you are investing the most?

BCE Sports is the result of the evolution of the sports world with the rising demand for content from the viewers and the complex interactions with the communities. It is paramount for the Sports industry to broadcast all their games and events but even to be more immersive with behind the scene views. While live content prevails, there is also a high demand for replays and archives.

BCE with its recent acquisitions such as Freecaster, has enriched its portfolio with streaming services, OTT and cloud-based broadcast solutions which perfectly meets the needs of the Sports industry. Thanks to our recent development in mobile production as well as advanced content management system we can provide the Sports industry with solutions that can be immediately integrated in their workflow and used with almost no learning curve.

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The question is not about investing in sports or another division but more in investing in new solutions which can be setup very fast, provide more content to the audience and a better viewing experience.

Sports broadcasting brings together the biggest audiences worldwide.  Can BCE offer its clients the latest technologies applied to sport broadcasting?

BCE infrastructure is completely over IP, which means that our systems are more flexible than any other of our competitors, we can answer the sport production market with 4K quality, 4G/5G transmissions, live streaming solutions and of course live broadcast. Whereas the customer wishes satellite live broadcast or live streaming over the internet, our company holds multiple solutions to answer all the needs of the Sports industry.

For instance, during the latest Marathon in Luxembourg we setup multiple live stream channels and integrated them in one player allowing the viewers to select the camera or runner they preferred. A way to be more in the live action than ever.

For Montreux Volleyball Master (MVM), we setup on site an ephemeral studio with our cloud-based solution to live stream all the sport interviews directly on MVM YouTube and Facebook websites. The interviews where recorded and available online for on demand videos.

In your opinion, what’s the most critical point in Sports broadcasting?

There are two critical points to consider in Sports broadcasting which are the audience reach and the content availability. When broadcasting a Sport event, it is important to ensure that all the viewers will be able to see the event.

BCE, with its strong digital platform, load balancing systems and an extended CDN, ensures the availability of the streams whatever the number of viewers. Its advanced player also adapts to the viewers internet bandwidth allowing them to follow the events in any situation.

Creating a content portal is one thing but managing the content and ensure is availability on the portal is another. To do so BCE has created a strong back office with several CMS solutions which perfectly match the customer needs for live streaming, Replay or VoD on TV, websites or social networks.

What are the most crucial technologies to offer a state-of-the-art Sport broadcast?

5G is the next step in terms of Sport broadcast, it will allow more flexibility in production with the multiplication of automated cameras as well as the integration of 360° immersive cameras and drone productions. All the feeds will be directly transmitted to a centralized production control room linked over IP to our broadcast facility for live broadcast in the highest quality. It will also allow decentralized experience with VR systems on targeted location or even directly at home.

Live streaming with the possibility to interact with the production, whereas it is for event or angle selection, but also live interaction such as online gaming, chats, social network and integration of people experiences from their smartphones.

A strong datacenter to be able to manage the heavy amount of content as well as 4K videos and an important content delivery network to allow the best experience for the audience on a global scale.

And of course, cloud-based solutions to avoid complex on-site configurations allowing faster deployment, reducing the cost while rising the interactivity with the viewers.

Over the years, you have earned the trust of top-level broadcasters. Which well-known clients trust the BCE services?

On the broadcast side, we have many well-known TV channels such as RTL Nederland, BCE provides four dedicated control rooms as well as one dedicated multiplayout platform. Other customers are the Altice Group, RTL Belgium, Mediawan, Blue Ant Media with the playout to Singapore and the Philippines and many other channels with a global footprint.

Regarding the Sports market, we provide services for the: International Equestrian Federation (FEI), Montreux Volley Master, Qatar Olympic Committee, MXGP, ING Marathon, Skoda Bike Tour, ETTC, ThinkSport, La chaine L’équipe and HBS, to name but a few.

BCE is of course active in many other areas and serves about 400 customers worldwide.

What productions are you most proud of?

We are of course very proud of the numerous coverage we do for the Sports events in Luxembourg, but we have proved over the last years that we could put our expertise and innovation at the service of Sports events that were taking place in other countries such as the Montreux Volley Master and the ThinkSport events in Switzerland or the FEI events which have a global footprint.

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Could you name a particular challenge from one of these Sport productions and how you solved it?

The FEI was looking for a partner who would be able to digitize their content, manage their legacy and upcoming assets and facilitate their distribution among members.

This project reflects probably the best the use of our multiple expertise. Thanks to BCE range of services, the federation can ingest its productions, live stream its events and live broadcast its shows to the USA. This project results from a smart combination of BCE’s mass digitization platform, the integration of a Content Management System at FEI headquarters to manage their assets, the use of BCE’s Movie2Me (a file-based distribution solution) to connect the FEI entities and partners such as IMG, live over IP linked to a transcoding farm in BCE’s datacenter and finally BCE’s Teleport to ensure the live broadcast to FEI’s US partners.

BCE is able to offer 4K workflows when it comes to Sport production services. Is this technology currently demanded? In your opinion, will it be a future standard?

While 4K Live streaming is still complicated due to Internet limitations in some areas, 4K is always considered in terms of Sport productions since it is the best way to grab the intensity of events, offer detailed views on actions and provide a more immersive experience for the viewers.

BCE already provides for many customers 4K over IP broadcasting, giving the best results for TV users.

4K is already a standard and it will continue to evolve with higher resolutions in the next years. But what will really make a change for the viewers will be the multiplication of screens with 360° VR experiences, direct interaction with social networks and live camera interaction.

You also provide your clients with cloud services, monitoring, cloud storage, DRM protection, production teams, live streaming, advance player… What is the service most demanded by your customers?

With the wide array of customers and industries, BCE has numerous solutions which cover perfectly the needs of the market. Cloud services and cloud storage are part of a trend which all our customers ask for, but our job at BCE is to analyze the exact requirements of a project and provide the best suited solution.

Regarding the Sport industry, there is a high demand in digitization, storage, content management which is part of a content enrichment strategy to be able to give more to the audience. On the other side there is also a very high demand for live streaming solutions, a way to connect with the Sport fans without having to use expensive satellite coverage or other platforms and with the possibility to ensure screen multiplication thanks to websites, partners, live stream to TV or even social network integration. It also allows these companies to invest in new features to develop more immersive experiences and therefore ensure customer loyalty.

What innovations will mark the future of Sport broadcasting and BCE’s Sport broadcasting services?

5G is definitively the next game changer for Sport broadcasting, it will make productions easier, without having to decentralize the production means. BCE has already tested this technology within production and playout workflows and is well prepared to provide tailor-made solutions to its Sport customers.

Having a lot of content is one thing but delivering the right one to the viewers is another. While 5G will allow enriched productions with more feeds and a plurality of experiences, it will require a strong content management system which will be able to organize the content and plan the live broadcast as well as the on-demand videos.

Finally, more content and more distribution platforms lead to more protection and BCE’s DRM (Digital Rights management) will be the first line of defense for the content providers whereas they are in the Sport industry or not.

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