Skip to main content

BBC streams Games to multiple platforms with Adobe Primetime

Following up on the recent announcement that Adobe (opens in new tab) worked with NBC to provide live streaming for U.S. sports fans, Adobe has announced a similar cooperation with the BBC.

With the Olympics on home ground, the BBC has pulled out all the stops to ensure comprehensive coverage of the Games across all devices. With a well-established presence in OTT video through the iPlayer, and an existing mobile presence, the broadcaster had built up an expectation from license-payers that this year’s coverage would be better than ever.

Delivering to multiple devices over IP is an evolving technology as codecs and wrapper change. Add to that content protection, in the form of DRM, and delivering content over IP is like trying to hit a moving target. As consumer devices increase in processing power, platform suppliers naturally want to take advantage of improvements in technology to deliver the optimum video quality at the minimum bandwidth.

When the PC was the only IP-connected device, a proliferation of standards evolved, from Real Media, through Windows Media and QuickTime (with assorted codecs) to where we are today, with MPEG DASH poised to dominate.

The choices expanded as connected TVs and mobile devices came along. The once ubiquitous Flash is not supported by some Internet TVs, or by iOS — the iPhone and iPad.

Adobe has developed several products to track these moving targets, and the BBC and NBC are using their latest platform, dubbed Project Primetime. This integrated platform includes Adobe Media Server (AMS), Adobe Access DRM, the Auditude video ad platform and Site Catalyst analytics.

The BBC’s requirement for games coverage was to simultaneously stream to smartphones, tablets and connected TVs with support for Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android, as well as the TVs. The BBC also wanted to easily create highlight packages for on-demand viewing. The BBC will be using parts of the Primetime platform, not having the need to serve ads. The challenge was to create an efficient publishing platform for the relatively short timescale of the Games. They need to easily create highlights on the fly to deliver to their content management system (CMS). Adobe supplied the Primetime Highlights Server SDK to facilitate this process.

The AMS packages feeds for live and on-demand delivery in HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS) format and the HTTP Live Streaming format (HLS). The BBC will use both formats to deliver video across devices.

The Primetime simulcast will allow viewers to access 24 live streams in HD via the new BBC interactive video player, a new, HTML5 app built with Adobe PhoneGap (a framework for creating cross-platform HTML5 apps for smartphones and tablets). Adobe worked closely with the BBC to provide adaptive bit rate video playback technology built using the Open Source Media Framework (OSMF). The framework has a three-tiered architecture including the UI, the advertising and reporting layer and the delivery layer. The platform supports plug-ins that third parties can use to add functionality.

Traffic for an event like the Olympics potentially stresses CDNs, so to help deliver the best experience to viewers the BBC will load balance across several CDNs. This network fault tolerance, plus the combination of AMS and OSMF, should ensure that streams are not interrupted.

The rapid conversion of live video to on-demand clips using Primetime Highlights allows audiences to experience key events throughout the games, even if they cannot watch it live. Primetime Highlights ingests pre-encoded video streams, quickly re-assembling them into clips with full adaptive bit rate support. Highlights has been completely integrated into the BBC’s data management flow, so the video experience will be supported by synchronized metadata about the sport and the athlete.