The countdown is on for the Paris Olympic Games, which begin on 26 July and run until 11 August. As well as a showcase for sporting prowess and achievement, the event also presents a huge opportunity as well as a challenge to those responsible for ensuring every moment is captured and broadcast to viewers around the world, with streaming services set to play an increasingly important role.


Rick Young, LTN

Indeed, Rick Young, SVP and head of global products at LTN, believes that the Olympics “promises to be a real watershed moment for streaming live sports”, while Rory Renwick, business development director at Accedo, says streaming is set to be a fundamental part of the Olympics, “with key stakeholders, Olympics Broadcasting Service (OBS), Intel, NBCUniversal, Warner Bros Discovery, and France Télévisions using streaming and next-generation initiatives to take Olympics coverage to a whole new level”.

The streaming opportunity

Jakub Kruczkowski, strategic business manager at Spyrosoft BSG, which until recently was known as Better Software Group, agrees that the Olympics are shaping up to be an important event for the evolution of streaming technology in sports broadcasting.

“We can expect several advances and challenges this year as media companies look to increase viewer engagement and manage the complexities of live broadcasting on such a large scale,” Kruczkowski says.

For example, “it is almost certain that Paris 2024 will be produced in ultra-high definition (UHD), high dynamic range (HDR) and 5.1.4 sound. One of the most significant advances we can expect is the improvement in the quality of the materials offered, thanks to which we will be able to see four times more details than in full HD quality. If we add three-dimensional sound to this, users will be able to feel like they are in the middle of the action,” Kruczkowski says.


Jakub Kruczkowski, Spyrosoft BSG

He also points out that mobile technology is playing an increasingly important role, especially in response to the growing trend of practicing sports on the go. “The apps will likely offer enhanced features such as personalised real-time notifications and social features. This mobile-centric approach will help broadcasters reach a wider audience around the world,” he says.

Renwick from Accedo says the event will be the perfect showcase for what streaming can do to elevate sports broadcasting, and will also be a good indicator of how sports experiences may be moving to augmented reality (AR) as use cases become more fine-tuned and relevant.

“We’ll see a whole range of next-generation initiatives being leveraged to deliver engaging and immersive experiences to viewers – such as volumetric video being used to create live 3D footage of athletes that fans will be able to stream, and AI powered tools personalising and customising sports videos automatically in real time. Coverage will also be more immersive than previous years with ultra HD, cinema camera lenses, immersive audio, drones and 8K,” he says.


Rory Renwick, Accedo

Renwick adds: “Already we can see how media companies are viewing this year’s games as the perfect opportunity for experimentation around new ways to drive engagement and monetisation. Warner Bros Discovery recently announced the planned launch of its Max streaming service in Europe ahead of the Olympics; the service will stream every live event from the games and will be a great test of how well sport can drive users to subscribe. Streaming is also increasingly being seen as a vehicle to engage younger audiences in sport, and this Olympics will be the perfect opportunity to target that audience and test how streaming can make the content entertaining and engaging for that demographic.”

Meanwhile, Roland Sars, CEO Media Distillery, observes that the summer Olympics also provide an opportunity “for some of the lesser-followed sports — think archery, canoeing, handball — to get on prime time TV at all.”

However, Sars says it’s not always easy for fans to find specific events within a lengthy, live, unscripted programme that jumps between multiple events happening simultaneously. “So, we expect accredited broadcasters to put a lot of focus on improving discoverability of individual events within their coverage of this year’s games.”

New innovations

While broadcasters can improve discoverability by clipping segments for their website or social media, for example, Sars thinks this is of limited benefit to the rapidly-growing audience on big screens. He suggests introducing clear chaptering by event and sport within the full replay of Olympics coverage.


Roland Sars, Media Distillery

“Of course, with this kind of live, multi-sports programming, the metadata around what event is featured at which exact point in time is not usually available. That’s why we’ve developed our Topic Distillery solution which uses AI to automatically identify topics inside a live programme and generate chapter markers with meaningful descriptions. By analysing the stream in real-time, we can make the AI-generated topic metadata available really quickly to the consumer-facing applications, helping to better serve the vast majority of catch-up viewers who watch within hours of a show being broadcast,” he says.

Young from LTN agrees that the Olympics is a great opportunity for media companies to move beyond the usual perimeters. “We have already seen steps to make this happen, with NBC announcing that it will air the opening ceremony at 150 IMAX locations in the United States and Canada. Through IMAX, we will see how the theatrical experience can make live sports more immersive on the big screen, providing a truly special visual spectacle.”

Young notes that IMAX has partnered with LTN to utilise technology to deliver more immersive experiences and alternative live content. “LTN can get the feed to where the consumers are while ensuring heightened experience and quality. This partnership has been hugely successful so far and the Olympics will prove to be a major milestone for delivering live sports going forward,” he says.

Meanwhile, TVU Networks is partnering with France Télévisions to launch the Paris 2024 Olympic channel from 8 May. The channel will exclusively use the cloud, 5G and Starlink satellite technology to broadcast the Olympic flame’s journey across France.

Paul Shen, CEO of TVU Networks, notes that this partnership marks the first time a major event is broadcasted entirely over the cloud and describes it as a step forward in challenging the traditional broadcasting methods.

Hamish Muiry, head of sales at M2A Media, further observes that broadcasters are experimenting with monetisation opportunities around live event content to generate ad-revenue, grow subscriptions and reduce churn.


Hamish Muiry, M2A

“Project complexity and time-to-market can be greatly reduced by outsourcing to purpose-built solutions, and enhancing ease of delivery is key when provisioning a smooth service to customers. For those broadcasters looking for operational agility and cost efficiencies ahead of the Olympic Games this summer, the pay-as-you-go model of cloud media services will no doubt be a serious consideration,” he says.

Key challenges

Despite all these opportunities, there are of course significant challenges. As Kruczkowski of Spyrosoft BSG notes, the “sheer volume of data coming from multiple high-quality live streams requires a robust, scalable cloud infrastructure and efficient data management solutions to ensure seamless delivery. There is also the constant threat of cyberattacks, which requires advanced security protocols to protect both transmission integrity and user privacy”.

From a technology provider’s perspective, Kruczkowski adds, “implementing artificial intelligence to automatically generate content and recommendations can be crucial when dealing with hundreds of hours of such important content. For example, AI can and should be used to automatically generate highlights (selecting highlights) and then distribute them based on specific user preferences.”

Sergio Carulli, chief product officer of MainStreaming, also points out that the “limitations of traditional CDNs, primarily developed for static content like caching and web acceleration, have become apparent. These systems weren’t equipped for the dynamic requirements of live streaming. This mismatch underscores the necessity for innovation in live streaming technology, especially for events of this scale.”

Carulli adds: “Recognising the need for a dedicated solution, our company, MainStreaming, has developed a new video delivery technology tailored for scalable broadcast-grade live streaming”.

The company’s Edge Video Delivery services, built on its Intelligent Media Delivery solution coupled with its Edge Network, “ensures both high QoE and high ROI, by effectively managing the unique demands of broadcast-grade live sports streaming. Our services incorporate advanced features such as real-time analytics, data security, and anti-piracy measures,” he says.

Elsewhere, Sergio Ammirata, founder and chief scientist at SipRadius, points to the challenges of choosing the right codec for mission-critical links.


Sergio Ammirata, SipRadius

“AV1 ticks a lot of the right boxes, except one,” he says. “It has traditionally been viewed as too processor-intensive for realtime delivery. That aside, it is widely recognised as delivering excellent results, in bandwidth as much as 50% less than a traditional codec like H.264. It is also royalty free.”


According to Ammirata, SipRadius has addressed the processor challenge, implementing the codec in original software running Intel GPUs. “We have also provided the encapsulation into MPEG-TS so it can flow seamlessly through existing professional streaming fabrics. For those that prefer JPEG-XS, we have an MPEG-TS encapsulation for that codec, too.”

Paolo Cuttorelli, SVP for global sales at Evergent, also remarks that subscriber onboarding, entitlement, and payment processing tools are really put to the test around high-profile live sporting events.

“The ability to handle scale is fundamental to capitalise on expensive sports rights, and if it doesn’t go right you may lose those customers forever. Millions of user requests need to be processed simultaneously to ensure viewers can seamlessly access live streams,” Cuttorelli says.

In his view, content providers need specialised technology to handle peak engagement periods around live events, “not only to guarantee viewers have a frictionless onboarding and viewing experience but also to drive long-term retention rates and ensure money isn’t being left on the table.”

Mass-market appeal

Ultimately, Cuttorelli says, live sports are one of the biggest subscriber pulls for any streaming service. “Content providers that can attract viewers to their platform for must-see events like the Olympics should prioritise a fan-centric feel across every step of the subscriber journey — helping deepen customer loyalty and unlocking upsell opportunities that deliver long-term revenue possibilities long after the closing ceremony.”


Paolo Cuttorelli, Evergent

Cuttorelli cites research from Kantar, which revealed European fans spend a lot of money on sports video subscriptions, with the average bill standing at €88 per month. “At a time when households are under increased pressure to reduce their subscription costs, content providers need to get closer to fans than ever before,” he says.

To gain a competitive advantage, he says, sports streaming providers must track and proactively act on changing consumer behaviour insights. “Collecting as much first-party data — any information gathered from direct interaction with your customer base — is essential as this information truly is a treasure trove to inform your decision-making and live sports events are perfect opportunities to build upon that treasure trove.”