The driving principle behind the IBC2023 Innovation Awards is to recognise transformative innovations that address real-world challenges.

In 2023, the judging panel acknowledged projects that demonstrate groundbreaking innovation in AI-led automation for quality control, super-low latency in live sports OTT streaming, live event versioning technology for language-tailored coverage, and cloud-native software playout for origination of content TV channels.

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The four projects chosen for the Content Distribution shortlist were: Cellcom Israel, ITV UK, TelevisaUnivision in Mexico, and Sky Group across Germany, Italy and the UK. The winner of the IBC2023 Innovation Award in the Content Distribution category will be announced at a ceremony in IBC’s Premier Lounge at 18:00 CEST on Sunday September 17th.

Cellcom Israel: Streaming live sports with super-low latency

With an increased number of live sports and other premium content carried by streaming networks worldwide, one of the biggest challenges for broadcasters and operators is latency — the time it takes for data to transfer across a network and be displayed on the screen of the viewer.

In the case of live sports streaming, latency can result in a delay of up to 40 seconds in comparison to four seconds for traditional broadcast, causing viewers to miss a major moment during the sports event and become dissatisfied with the service.

There are three processes in the streaming chain that add latency: encoding, packaging, and delivery. The first two account for about three seconds each, adding six seconds to the signal, whereas delivery can take anything up to 25 seconds in the worst-case scenario. This accumulated delay can have a significant impact on viewer enjoyment, so the goal is to bring it down as much as possible without compromising the viewer experience.

Israel telecommunications company Cellcom wanted to solve this critical issue and provide subscribers with an outstanding OTT experience during premium sports events, including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Cellcom needed a reliable solution to ensure viewers could watch games in as close to real time as possible.

Cellcom engaged Viaccess-Orca (VO) and Broadpeak to deliver super-low latency for live sports streaming over OTT set-top boxes. Using the innovative solution, Cellcom reduced latency down to three seconds on 4K TVs in the living room, providing sports fans with the ultimate viewing experience.

ITV UK: AI-led automation of segmentation and QC workflows

As a broadcaster, ITV faced the challenges of segmentation including repurposing content catalogues.

Traditionally, this was hugely time-consuming and required diligent work, potentially exposed to human errors. ITV previously marked around 13 types of segments in content manually, which were both physical segments like colour bars, blacks, and slates, and creative segments like recaps, PRTS, credits, programme part segments and bumpers.

Historically ITV outsourced this manual, labour-intensive process to an external party and more recently, it brought it back in-house. Having worked in both scenarios, it was clear to ITV that though segmentation was a mandatory task, it involved grossly inefficient use of resources, was prone to errors (even with two passes being done by a human), was expensive, slow, and did not add value to the content.

Prime Focus Technologies was given the opportunity to transform the efficiency of the process and to minimise the turn-around time for segmentation and subsequent quality control for ITV. PFT proposed an AI-led automatic segmentation solution, followed by QC on CLEAR AI platform with ITV-specific customisations. Other technologies deployed by ITV were AWS S3 cloud object storage and Google optical character recognition (OCR).

ITV has since been able to bring down the time taken for segmentation by 75%, saving significant costs by eliminating redundant systems. This has been validated by over 20,000 hours of content across different genres.

After leveraging PFT’s AI/ML technologies, ITV’s segment marking and QC touched 95-98% accuracy levels. The entire process can now be completed in about 2-3 minutes, instead of the 15-20 minutes it took when performed manually.

Sky Group: Cloud-native software playout across European territories

The Sky Group Playout Platform project has been a notable example of client and vendor collaboration, leveraging the full benefit of cloud native software and improving the excellent service availability for millions of customers across Europe.

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View of playout centre at Sky Italia in Milan

After an in-depth RFP process with leading playout providers, the decision was made to put the BCNEXXT product VIPE at the core of the new group playout platform.

In a shift from competing systems, the cloud-native VIPE system pre-renders all the assets to be broadcast and creates a compressed transport stream that can be validated ahead of broadcast. This was seen as a key opportunity to de-risk and streamline existing operational processes.

Techex MWEdge was selected to receive the playout engine output and pass the channel back to the On Prem MWEdges for reliable and monitored onward distribution to downstream systems.

Outside of the playout system, there was a requirement to supply the platform with metadata to populate on-screen graphics for the channels. This required a system to act as an integration layer between the existing metadata sources and scheduling systems and VIPE, with Sky choosing Busby from Squared Paper, which is also used to supply voiceovers and subtitles to the AWS S3 locations for playout.

Sky has now migrated 124 content TV channels to the new platform. Michael Montgomery, Head of Playout said, “With channel complexity managed at the render stage, the simplicity of the playout has massively reduced the need for real-time management. As a direct result, overnight operational staffing has reduced by 60%, both improving staff wellbeing and improving communication lines with supporting, non 24x7 departments.”

TelevisaUnivision: Live event versioning to deliver language-tailored live sports

TelevisaUnivision launched its streaming platform ViX to provide global Spanish-speaking audiences with high quality live news, entertainment, and sports content.

Through an innovative partnership with media technology solutions provider LTN, TelevisaUnivision’s sports division, TUDN, delivers language-tailored, culturally relevant live sports streaming coverage of 4,500 live events per year to diverse Hispanic audiences across the USA and Mexico.

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ViX’s live sports offering has helped drive total viewership to 25 million monthly active users

Harnessing LTN’s new fully-managed live event versioning solution, LTN Arc, TUDN acquires, brands, monetises and versions live sports content from top domestic and global football competitions at an unprecedented scale — bringing customised coverage to underserved audiences and driving cultural engagement.

Through LTN’s ultra-low latency (<200ms) and 99.999% reliability IP-based LTN Transport Network, the LTN Live Video Cloud ingest solution and LTN’s own automation-driven content versioning platform, TUDN can acquire and aggregate high quality live signals from sports stadiums across Europe, South, and Central America in various formats and bitrates.

To ensure content is branded and enriched for downstream consumption, LTN provides decoration services from its centralised production facility. It inserts graphic overlays for branding of TUDN content, audio mixing, announcer integration and metadata insertion for SCTE triggers to enable digital dynamic ad insertion.

ViX’s high quality live sports offering has helped drive total viewership to 25 million monthly active users on the platform’s ad-supported tier alone, with a monthly growth of 26% in total streamed hours in Q1 2023. The launch of ViX’s premium subscription tier has played a key role in a 7% increase in TelevisaUnivision’s subscription and licensing revenues, while total advertising revenues also increased 6% in Q1 2023.

Want to know more? You’ll find more information about this year’s awards, the finalists and the judging panel on our IBC2023 Awards page.