MultiChoice recently conducted a successful streaming test of the last four matches of the FIFA World Cup on the DStv Now platform.
The test saw the games streamed live in 4K resolution at a frame rate of 50fps – and a maximum bitrate 2.7-times higher than HD streaming – making the broadcaster the first in Africa to run a 4K live-stream.
“As the screen size of TVs and other devices get larger and the ability of those screens to display more precise images improves, the challenge for video entertainment providers is to provide higher resolution video streams,” MultiChoice said.
Conducting the streaming tests required overcoming multiple challenges, while not affecting existing DStv Now infrastructure.
The company worked closely with Microsoft Azure to test the 4K streaming, making the last four games of the FIFA World Cup available in the higher resolution on DStv Now.
“We ran this trial to better understand third-party managed cloud solutions, test their real-world effectiveness when run with existing digital rights management systems, and get an idea of the costs involved,” said MultiChoice Connected Video CTO Muhammad Khan.
“Two of the key stipulations from our side were that the trial must remain totally independent of our existing infrastructure, and that there would be no need for us to install hardware,” he said.
“I’m pleased to say that the Microsoft Azure team delivered on all fronts.”
The team was concerned with the large jump in video bitrate required to broadcast in 4K, but the tests were successful and DStv Now currently employs the following bitrate profiles, which include the new 4K profile.
During the tests, the live video stream was transmitted to IMG Studio’s teleport in the UK via satellite feed, where it was demodulated and decoded.
After graphics insertion, it was converted into multiple high-quality fMP4 streams and outputted to multiple Azure entry points.
“With the assistance of NTT and Media Excel’s European Partner Garland, the whole 4K production workflow was managed by IMG Studio,” MultiChoice said.
The company said that the process only took 10 seconds longer than standard satellite broadcasts and was a world first for Microsoft Azure streaming at 16Mbps/50fps progressive.
“This was the first UHD live stream in Africa, and doing this at 50 frames per second utilising a new codec was a big win for us and sets us up well for future tests and the eventual deployment of UHD as a new standard for streaming,” said Khan.