U.S., Latin American Networks Tap CenturyLink for Live World Cup Feeds

MOSCOW--Some technology-facing aspects of the 2018 World Cup were revealed Monday ahead of the soccer tournament's big kick off next Thursday (June 14) in Russia.

CenturyLink, which polished off its acquisition of Level 3 Communications last November said it will transmit live feeds from the tournament to top networks in the U.S. and Latin America, including Fox in the U.S., TV Azteca in Mexico, and RCN and Caracol in Columbia.

Those broadcasters, representing a subset of broadcasters in the region that will work with CenturyLink for the World Cup, will tap CenturyLink’s Vyvx Solutions to provide routes in the transmission of tournament and other World Cup content feeds from Moscow, Russia to each programmer’s master control facilities.

[Read: Telemundo Deportes Partners With Panini For World Cup AR Experience]

Fox Sports and IBM, meanwhile, said they will collaborate on an A.I. initiative across multiple Fox Sports programming for the World Cup. More specifically, Fox Sports will use IBM Watson Media’s A.I. video technology to streamline production workflows to rapidly classify, edit, and access match highlights in “near real-time,” they said.

That A.I.-facing capability will help Fox Sports curate “engaging” video clips and match highlights, the companies added. The collaboration will start with the launch of The Highlight Machine, an interactive experience developed by IBM’s iX unit that enables viewers to browse FIFA’s archive of past matches and to create custom highlights by year, team, player, and play type.

Back to CenturyLink’s involvement, the company has been working closely with local telecoms in Russia and the International Broadcast Center that puts together the source feeds for the broadcasters, Bill Wohnoutka, vice president of global internet and content delivery services for CenturyLink, explained, noting that CenturyLink will work with its broadcast partners to deliver content in multiple formats, including standard- and high-definition as well as 4K.

In addition to transmission, CenturyLink’s Vyvx platform will also handle encoding, decoding, onsite operations, monitoring, and frame-rate conversion.

Getting those logistics lined up alongside the security requirements present some of the big challenges around this year’s World Cup, as “it’s pretty complicated to get content out of Russia, Wohnoutka added.

Among the group of broadcasters working with CenturyLink for the World Cup, Fox’s networks are on tap to broadcast 64 matches live, more than the previous four tournaments combined, and the most-ever for an English-language network, Keith Goldberg, VP of global operations and transmission services for Fox, noted in the release.

“That’s more than 350 hours of total programming, and CenturyLink will play a critical role in enabling us to deliver that content to millions of viewers across the U.S.,” Goldberg added.

Update: Fox Sports also announced details for its FIFA World Cup Hub, which will provide live streams and full replays of the aforementioned 64 matches, as well as access to bonus feeds (including “team channels”), commentary, rosters, stats and highlights. Following similar work done during last season’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, Fox Sports said it will again team with LiveLike on a social VR offering that features a digital suite and three, multi-angle feeds from each match.

Fox Sports noted that its World Cup Hub will provide access to digital content across FoxSports.com and the Fox Sports App.

Fox Sports said adidas is the presenting sponsor for the Fox Sports streaming effort across digital platforms for the entire tournament. Coca-Cola is on board to sponsor the short-form 90 in 90 match highlights. Coca-Cola and adidas are co-sponsoring the Team Channels feature.