Streamteam Nordic and Grass Valley enhance the broadcast experience of Finnish ice hockey with new remote production hub
One of Streamteam’s biggest customer, Telia, won a six-year media agreement with SM-liiga to broadcast more than 450 matches each year via IPTV set-top boxes, online streaming and mobile devices, beginning in the 2018-2019 season. As part of its contract with SM-liiga, Telia was given the remit to improve the viewing experience for fans. Enabling viewers to engage with content on the device and in the location of their choice, at a time of their choosing, was also key.
Across all content types, but especially in live sports, consumer expectations for first-class immersive viewing experiences is rising. Broadcasters, content providers and production companies are under pressure to deliver more high end content with a visual impact that is “as good as being there”. The digital landscape also demands that content is available via a wider range of platforms for anytime, anywhere access.
Meeting this insatiable appetite for richer content experiences usually involves sending large production teams and sometimes multiple OB vehicles out on location. OB production is a costly undertaking – even without considering the pre- and post-event logistics, set-up and take down times and the miles of cabling involved. Downward pressure on budgets has seen media organizations seeking to better utilize their resources, maximize the value of their content, and look at new and more efficient ways of producing live content. Faster, more efficient workflows, more flexible infrastructures and remote production models are all high on the priority list for broadcasters and media companies as they take on the challenges of the current mediascape.
Remote production is increasingly appealing for live sports production, requiring less equipment and fewer staffing resources on site. Most importantly, remote models enable production teams to maximize equipment and resources – the same team can support multiple events in a day from a single centralized base.
Against this landscape, and in the wake of discussions with Telia about its requirements for SM-liiga, Streamteam Nordic decided to enhance its production capabilities with a 4K/UHD remote facility and virtual studio in Helsinki.
In order to cover more than 450 matches per season simultaneously in HD and UHD, with sometimes as many as seven games taking place at the same time in arenas across Finland, Streamteam Nordic decided a centralized production hub was the most efficient approach. The solution includes eight production rooms, an audio control room, five off-tube rooms, and an MCR (master control room) connected to seven remote sets. Also part of the hub is a centralized video referee room with up to four video referees overseeing live matches. One of the largest broadcast investments in Finland to date, Streamteam chose to take a hybrid approach, leveraging IP workflows for interconnecting the venues and hub, while production within the hub and the studio uses 3G baseband format.
Streamteam Nordic’s technical solutions provider, Broadcast Solutions, turned to Grass Valley to outfit this new facility. Within the hub, Grass Valley’s Momentum media asset management and workflow automation platform is partnered with eight Kahuna production switchers and a Sirius 850 video matrix (456×840). Built on top of a hugely flexible and simple to use workflow automation tool, Momentum’s MAM functions – such as metadata entry and revision, proxy file playback and content re-versioning – enable Streamteam to remain in complete control of their workflows.
There are also thirteen Grass Valley LiveTouch replay and highlights servers providing 90 camera ingests and 16 replay channels to support 8 panel operators. The Momentum systems handle the file and metadata transfer between the LiveTouch servers and Telia´s OTT platform. Grass Valley’s LiveTouch replay and highlights solution delivers an intuitive touchscreen panel that’s easy to use and makes slow motion and instant replay workflows fast and effortless. This was clearly demonstrated when Freelance replay operators, familiar with other systems, were able to easily work with LiveTouch from day one at Telia with no formal training. LiveTouch is also the only hybrid system where 3G or UHD can be ingested in one server with the option of 3G or UHD replay.
Juha Koskela, CEO at Streamteam Nordic, said: “The way viewers consume media is dramatically shifting. They want more freedom to access and watch their favorite content on their own terms, so it’s important for us to invest in infrastructure that can effectively help us cater to this demand. Producing high-quality, live sporting events that meet audience expectations is a significant undertaking. We knew from the very beginning of this project that it was absolutely critical to have only the best equipment and technologies to meet the demands of tech savvy ice hockey fans in Finland for a flawless viewing experience – regardless of which screen they are using. Grass Valley was a fundamental part of making this investment such a success. The company’s longstanding expertise in live sports production made them the ideal partner to work with on this project.”
The establishment of this production hub will support plans for future growth, and more live sporting events. This facility is equipped to handle a number of formats, multiple camera signals, as well as file and metadata transfer, making it a prime location for any subsequent projects.
With Grass Valley’s robust suite of live production resources, Streamteam can now seamlessly support mixed resolution media, UHD (2160p) and 3G (1080p). The production hub also supports new delivery platforms with publishing options to the web and VOD at multiple resolutions, driving audience share through the SM-liiga website and supporting metadata in and out to enable search by end users. The remote production hub has reduced the number of operational and technical staff needed at each event, saving budget and maximizing time and resource during live production.
Tim Banks, vice president, EMEA at Grass Valley: “Broadcasters need flexible, agile infrastructures and workflows to meet the challenges of today’s rapidly evolving mediascape. This state-of-the-art remote production facility is unmatched in Finland. A lot of collaboration and work went into this project, and the end result is a mark of significant skill and teamwork by all involved. There are exciting, developments on the horizon, and we look forward to being part of Streamteam’s continued evolution of its production capabilities.”