It seemed like there were a million good points made earlier this month when Sportsnet announced our OTT platform as the technical foundation for their reimagined SN NOW service. How we’re leading the shift from one-size-fits-all sports telecasts to experiences that are personalized for each viewer. How our technology will be able to pave the way for features that demand real-time delivery. How we’re partnering with our friends at Deltatre to create dynamic UXs that increase viewer engagement. And more.
What came through in all of our discussions – with Light Reading, Sportico, nScreenMedia and others – is something that can’t be understated: When the Sportsnet team rolls out the next generation of SN Now this fall, it will be important to focus not only on the new features available at launch, but more importantly on how the platform will drive more innovation in the months to come. The platform is enabling Sportsnet to iterate, evolve, test, and roll out new features and capabilities for their fans on a continuous basis. Welcome to agile.
If you missed the announcement, here’s a recap: Leveraging our cloud partners at Microsoft Azure and the UX expertise of Deltatre, we’re helping the Sportsnet team revolutionize OTT sports. We’re walking before we run – focusing on video quality and reliability, high degrees of personalization, and advanced statistics overlays – but Alfredo Tan, Rogers Sports & Media’s visionary SVP, Strategy, Data and Product, made it clear that the product roadmap is ambitious. “I would anticipate that every three to four months you will see significant feature enhancements for at least the next 12 to 18 months,” he told Cartt’s Amanda Oye.
We’re not going spill too many beans ahead of Sportsnet’s plans, but here’s how we described the capabilities in our conversations with the media last week:
- Personalized fan experience – Right now, the broadcast nature of sports television delivers the same product to every viewer. Using our cloud-native platform, telecasts can be tuned to individual preferences. For example, a viewer who watches a hockey game from the opening minutes until the final whistle can do exactly that, while someone more attuned to highlights and features can see a have those needs met instead. (I wonder if my personalized channel can save my Maple Leafs from their endless post-season disappointments??)
- Rapid iteration of new features – When features must be purpose-built from the ground up, the high cost of ROI or even potential failure discourages experimentation. Using our microservices architecture, advanced data analytics and CI/CD DevOps, we’ll be able to help Sportsnet identify new opportunities, create new features quickly and cost-effectively, and evaluate their effectiveness in A/B testing environments. Being able quickly to choose which ones to accept – and which ones to trash – minimizes risk and can spur imagination.
- (Ultra-) low latency – A major hurdle for live streaming sports – and the in-game wagering that is on the horizon – has been the lag in real-time delivery. As Sportico noted, we’re using “chunked transfer encoding” that “reduces latency by transmitting video via a series of infinitesimally small data packets” between the origin, the encoder, the CDN and the video player.
It might be brash to say that there are no limits to what types of features are possible, but if technology has taught us anything, it’s the need to keep your options open. I think it’s safe to say that our Firstlight Media team, the team at Deltatre and the smart people at Rogers Sports & Media and Sportsnet all have ideas about what our cloud-native platform will allow us to do together. But nScreenMedia’s Colin Dixon spotted the real potential in a heartbeat: “You’re building a platform,” he said, “to do things that you may not even know that Sportsnet wants to do.” Among the many points made last week, I couldn’t have said that one better myself.
On a personal level, this one is literally “close to home”. As Firstlight Media continues to grow our partnerships with leading sports and entertainment organizations around the world, it’s particularly exciting to be able to partner with an innovator like Rogers Sports & Media in my own hometown. The fact that my friends, my family and my Sunday morning hockey crew will be seeing their favorite sport on a platform our company built makes it even more personal. I can’t wait for the season to start.