Video: Where The Puck Is Going: What’s Next for Esports & Sports Streaming

How’s sports streaming changing as the pandemic continues? Esports has the edge on physical sports as it allows people to compete from diverse locations. But both physical and esports benefit from bringing people into one place and getting the fans to see the players.

This panel from Streaming Media, moderated by Jeff Jacobs, looks at how producers, publishers, streamers and distributors reacted to 2020 and where they’re positioning themselves to be ahead in 2021. The panel opens by looking at the tools and the preferred workflows. There are so many ways to do remote production. Sam Asfahani from OS Studios, explained how they had already adopted some remote workflows to keep costs down but he has been impressed at the number of innovations released which help improve remote production. He explains they have a physical NDI Control room where they also use VMix for contribution. The changed workflows during the pandemic have convinced them that the second control room they were planning to build should now be in the cloud.

Aaron Nagler from Cheesehead TV discussed the way he’s stopped flying to watch games and has changed to watching syncronised using LiveX Director with his co-presenter. Within a few milliseconds, he is seeing the same footage so they can both present and comment in real-time. Intriguingly, Tyler Champley from Poker Central explains that, for them, remote production hasn’t been needed since the tournaments have been canceled and they use their studio facilities. Their biggest issue is that their players need to be in the same room to play the game, close to each other and without masks.

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The panel discusses what will stick after the pandemic. Sam makes the point that he’s gone from paying $20,000 for a star to stay overnight and be part of the show. The pandemic has made it so that sports stars are happy to be paid $5,000 for the two hours on a programme without having to leave their house and the show saves money too. He feels this will continue to be an option on an on-going basis, though the panel notes that technical capability is limited with contributors, even top dollar talent without anyone else there to help. Tyler says that his studio has been more in demand during Covid so his team has become better at tear-downs to accommodate multiple uses. And lastly, the panel makes the point that hybrid programme making models are going to continue.

After some questions from the audience, the panel comments on future strategies. Sean Gardner from Xilinx talks about the need and arrival of newer codecs such as AV1 and LCEVC can help do deliver lower bitrates and/or lower latency. Aaron mentions that he’s seen ways of gamifying the streams which he hasn’t used before which helps with monetising. And Sam leaves us with the thought that game APIs can help create fantastic productions when they’re done well, but he sees an even better future where APIs allow information to be fed back into the game which will be able to create a two-way event between the fans and the game.

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Speakers

Jeff Jacobs Moderator:Jeff Jacobs
Executive Vice President & General Manager,
VENN
Aaron Nagler Aaron Nagler
Co-Founder,
Cheesehead TV
Sam Asfahani Sam Asfahani
CEO,
OS Studios
Sean Gardner Sean Gardner
Snr Manager, Market Development & Strategy, Cloud Video,
Xilinx
Tyler Champley Tyler Champley
VP Marketing & Audience Development,
Poker Central

Video: Winner takes all: Unlocking the opportunity in video games and esports.

Even without the pandemic, esports was set to continue its growth over 2020. By the end of 2020, esports had had quite a boost while other sports were canceled. And whilst esports is a large market, it’s still often misunderstood by those unfamiliar with it. This panel recently looked at not only how Covid had changed esports but also how traditional broadcasters can engage with this popular entertainment segment.

The session starts with an overview of the Asian esports market with Daniel Ahmad from Niko Partners. In 2019 there were 1.3 billion gamers in the whole market. In China, there were 321 million PC gamers who spent around $14.6 billion, plus a mobile gaming population which, by 2024, will have doubled their spending to $32 billion across 737 million gamers.

With esports clearly on the rise, the Sports Video Group’s Jason Dachman has brought some of the key players in esports together, Anna Lockwood from Telstra, Steven Jalicy from ESL, David Harris from Guinevere Capital and Yash Patel from Telstra Ventures. Straight off the bat, they tackle the misconceptions that mainstream media has regarding esports. Steven from ESL says people are quick to dismiss the need for quality in esports. In some ways, the quality needs, he says, are more demanding. David Harris says that people overstate esports’ size today and underestimate how big it will be in the future. Anna Lockwood on the other hand sees that people don’t realise how different and powerful the stories told in esports are.
 

 
Asked to talk about how Covid changed ESL’s plans in 2020, he explained that at the final count, they had actually done more events than last year. ESL had already switched to remote working for much of the technical roles in 2018, at the time seen as quite a forward-thinking idea. Covid forced the rest of the workflows to change as stadium appearances were canceled and gamers competed remotely. Fortunately, the nature of esports makes it relatively easy to move the players. Post-Covid, Steven says that arenas will be back as they are very popular and an obvious focus for tournaments. Seeing players in the flesh is an important part of being a fan. But much of the technical changes, are likely to stay at least in part.

Jason Cacheman asks the panel why esports on linear TV hasn’t been very successful. Many of the panelists agree that the core fans simply aren’t that interested in watching on linear TV as they already have a set up to watch streamed which suits them, often, much better. After a question from the audience, their suggestions for incorporating linear TV into esports is to acknowledge that you’re talking to a group of people who are interested but really don’t know, possibly, anything at all. Linear TV is a great place for documentaries and magazine shows which can educate the audience about the different aspects of esports and help them relate. For instance, a FIFA or NBA esports tournament is easier to understand than a Magic: The Gathering or League of Legends tournament. Linear TV can also spend time focussing on the many stories that are involved in esports both in-game and out. Lastly, esports can be a conduit for traditional broadcasters to bring people onto their digital offerings. As an example, the BBC have an online-only channel, BBC Three. By linking esports content on both BBC Two and BBC Three, they can get interested viewers of their broadcast channel to take an interest in their online channel and also have the potential to appeal to core esports fans using their digital-only channel.

Other questions from the audience included the panel’s opinion on VR in esports, use of AI, how to start working in esports, whether it’s easier to bring esports engineers into broadcast or the other way round. The session finished with a look ahead to the rest of 2021. The thoughts included the introduction of bargaining agreements, salary caps, more APIs for data exchange, and that what we saw in 2020 was a knee-jerk reaction to a new problem; 2021 will see real innovation around staying remote and improving streams for producers and, most importantly, the fans.

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Speakers

David Harris David Harris
Managing Director,
Guinevere Capital
Steven Jalicy Steven Jalicy
Global Head of Streaming,
ESL Gaming
Anna Lockwood Anna Lockwood
Head of Global Sales,
Telstra Broadcast Services
Yash Patel Yash Patel
General Partner,
Telstra Ventures
Jason Dachman Moderator: Jason Dachman
Chief Editor,
Sports Video Group

From WebRTC to RTMP

Continuing our look at the most popular videos of 2020, in common with the previous post on SRT, today we look at replacing RTMP for ingest. This time, WebRTC is demonstrated as an option. With sub-second latency, WebRTC is a compelling replacement for RTMP.
 

 
Read what we said about it the first time in the original article, but you’ll see that Nick Chadwick from Mux takes us through the how RTMP works and where the gaps are as it’s phased out. He steps through the alternatives showing how even the low-latency delivery formats don’t fit the bill for contribution and shows how WebRTC can be a sub-second solution.

RIST and SRT saw significant and continued growth in use throughout 2020 as delivery formats and appear to be more commonly used than WebRTC, though that’s not to say that WebRTC isn’t continuing to grow within the broadcast community. SRT and RIST are both designed for contribution in that they actively manage packet loss, allow any codecs to be used and provide for other data to be sent, too. Overall, this tends to give them the edge, particularly for hardware products. But WebRTC’s wide availability on computers can be a bonus in some circumstances. Have a listen and come to your own conclusion.

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Speaker

Nick Chadwick Nick Chadwick
Software Engineer,
Mux

Video: What is HESP Ultra-Low-Latency Streaming?

Is it possible to improve on CMAF’s offer of an ultra-low-latency, scalable protocol with good viewer experience? This is what HESP, the High-Efficiency Streaming Protocol, promises. With almost instant channel change times and sub-second latency, it’s worth taking a look at those protocol created by THEOPlayer to understand where it might work in your workflows.

Presented by Pieter-Jan Speelmans and Johan Vounckx from THEO, we hear some more detail surrounding HESP’s inception. Quality, latency and bitrate are often referred to as a triangle where if you improve one or even two, the remaining factor will get worse to compensate. HESP plays in the triangle connecting ‘viewer experience’, ‘low latency’ and ‘scalability’. If you compare WebRTC with CMAF, you see that WebRTC prioritises low-latency streaming but suffers in terms of scalability. CMAF, being 2-5 seconds higher latency, has much better scalability but the channel zapping times are high which affects viewer experience as well as overall latency. HESP, contests Pieter-Jan, actually improves all three. It’s able to do this because it’s not extending existing protocols which weren’t designed to meet all these requirements, rather it’s bringing in new techniques which shift the whole equation.

THEOPlayer has created the HESP Alliance which is devoted to standardising the HESP technology through the IETF or other avenue, promoting adoption through marketing and the creation of tools, certification and management of intellectual property. The talk outlines the decoder royalties which can be payable by subscriber, per subscriber per hour, or per device.

Source: THEOPlayer

Looking at the technical details, we find out that you can actually start playing an HESP stream without downloading the manifest. While HESP does have manifest files, they change very infrequently. If a new one is changed at short notice, the server can ask players to download one by embedding a message in the stream. The channel zapping speed is achieved using two streams, an initialisation stream and a continuation stream. The initialisation stream just I and P frames allowing you to start playing immediately. The continuation stream is intended to be the low-bitrate stream used after the establishment of the stream.

HESP uses two modes: Maximal Gain and Maximal Compatability. Maximal gain aims to have the lowest latency, lowest bandwidth and lowest zapping times. It has long segments with 1 frame chunks containing one I or P frame. The Maximal Compatability mode, however, allows you to reuse Low-Latency DASH and LLHLS streams and uses 6-second segments with 200msec chunks including B frames.

THEOPlayer claim 7x less delivery delay, 20x lower zapping times and a 20% bandwidth saving over CMAF with broad compatibility with many TVs, android, iOS, Web, streaming devices.

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Speakers

Pieter-Jan Speelmans Pieter-Jan Speelmans
CTO & Founder,
THEOPlayer
Johan Vounckx Johan Vounckx
Vice President, Innovation,
THEOPlayer