“When it comes to cutting-edge technology and audience engagement, sports broadcasting is always at the forefront in adopting new practices, challenging accepted wisdoms and breaking down barriers. And as a media and content company providing services to major brands and sports associations in the UK and Europe, Sportsbeat has had to adopt the same forward-thinking philosophy.” - Ric Sumner, Head of Broadcast and Social at Sportsbeat.
When it comes to broadcasting, it doesn’t matter how big your clients are. You want to provide the best video delivery possible whether it’s for 5 million viewers or just 200 viewers. How you do this becomes a more challenging question, and boils down to the technology behind your content. With live streaming, you’re at the mercy of your internet connection. How do you guarantee solid streaming if events can be held at any random location?
It’s a problem Sportsbeat had to tackle for the Virgin Money London Marathon, the largest marathon by attendance in the world. This year, the London Marathon brought in over 40,000 athletes to run the marathon, and the event wanted to make sure all eyes were watching from home. But traditional TV wasn’t their goal for the broadcast. Instead, they wanted to publish their live show to the event’s social platforms on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. That’s why they brought in Sportsbeat, a long-time video production partner.
Sportsbeat is a multimedia company that handles the sports division of Beatmedia Group. Since 2013, Sportsbeat has been involved with producing the London Marathon’s promo video content. But this year, they were brought on to not just produce videos, but stream live video of the marathon.
Here’s how they did it flawlessly with 4G LTE cellular bonding:
Challenge of Streaming a Marathon
“In the British sporting and cultural landscape, the London Marathon is a very big deal. It’s covered by the BBC One, and just about everyone in the country knows when the marathon is taking place. This year, they even broke the £1 billion milestone for charity. It’s a very high-profile event and the organizers are one of our biggest clients.”
“For us, the pressure was on because the event’s social footprint is big. Millions of people watch on TV, and from those numbers we can estimate how many people will be tuning in online. Craig Mitch is a presenter in the UK that did a lot of work with the Football World Cup, and they had a daily show in Moscow for the World Cup Finals in 2018 called The Lion’s Den. Their media strategy won a lot of awards, and kind of set the standard for campaigns going forward. Basically, other sporting events now want to follow in the English football team’s footsteps.”
“The main challenge out there is reliability and robustness. We’re working in a saturated network environment, with thousands of people flooding through the exhibition to collect their race bibs during the week and huge crowds crossing the finish line in front of mass crowds of spectators cheering them on. We knew we’d be competing for a diminishing slice of network availability. Our equipment had to be the strongest in a very crowded environment. So we decided to employ both the VidiU Go and Link Pro.”
“Our job was to broadcast a show by moving throughout the race capturing on-the-spot interviews. We needed a way to bring our video from the camera back to HQ in our hotel room on the other side of London so we can add graphics and other overlays to it. So we created a hybrid system.”
“We used a Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro with a B4 lens sending video to a VidiU Go, which was mounted right on top of it. The VidiU Go also had 2 Nodes that provided bonded 4G LTE data so we have that extra redundancy for streaming in such a saturated area. Our producer carried the Link Pro Backpack around, with 6 SIM cards from a combination of our UK carriers EE, Vodafone, Three and 02. We used the bonded WiFi signal from the Link Pro as an extra connection for the VidiU Go. So the VidiU Go had 3 total internet sources: 2 Nodes and 1 Link Pro.”
“We sent a feed from Core to our Cube 625 decoder in the hotel room. This fed the stream to our Blackmagic ATEM TV Studio where we added the graphics and did the mixing. The program went out to a VidiU Go in the hotel room and over to the London Marathon’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.”
Why Link Pro
“Wherever we were throughout that week, we were always streaming around thousands of people. You can imagine how difficult it would be to get a reliable 4G pipeline to stream in these conditions. So my mantra now is: the more SIMs, the better.”
“With 6 different SIM cards on it, the Link Pro provided the crux of the bandwidth. The Nodes on the VidiU Go also gave us extra backup just in case the data from the Link Pro dipped. The bonding was very consistent and reliable, and having 2 independent systems fully backed up with 4G modems gave us the peace of mind that we could broadcast from the crowded streets of the marathon without any issues.”
“The reason we chose the Link Pro over a Bond is because we’re a very multifaceted agency. In this case, we used it to live stream. But other times, we’ll be out shooting a video and the client wants same-day edits. We can’t just rely on McDonalds’ free WiFi everywhere we go, so the Link Pro gives us high-speed internet so we can edit from anywhere. It adds an extra layer of usefulness for us.”
“In the next year, I’m hoping to be involved in more sports broadcasting. We’re working with the Cricket World Cup and the Rugby World Cup, and next week we’re off to Switzerland to shoot a short film documentary about a wheelchair marathon racer.”
Learn more about Sportsbeat at www.sportsbeat.co.uk.