OBS leverages Alibaba‘s cloud technologies for value-added service delivery at Tokyo 2020, offering key broadcast services accessible from anywhere.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has been a game-changer for broadcasters, showcasing new possibilities for the sports, entertainment and media industries with solutions on the cloud, especially with strict pandemic-induced restrictions on travel and large-scale events.

In collaboration with Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), Alibaba’s cloud solutions supported service delivery for Rights-Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) for the first time during Tokyo 2020.

Built on the platform provided by Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group and Worldwide TOP Partner, OBS Cloud offers an innovative broadcasting solution for content delivery that drives operational efficiency and greater agility.

Traditionally, broadcasters of the Olympics have only been able to implement and test their equipment upon arrival at the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) in the host city, and the physical space dedicated to broadcasters on site has always been in high demand.

Brought together by OBS and Alibaba, and operated entirely on the cloud, OBS Cloud is designed to help transform the media industry for the digital era. The partnership between Alibaba Group and the International Olympic Committee began in January 2017 when the two parties signed a long-term strategic agreement. 

Cloud advantages

While cloud technologies have been gradually adopted for content creation and distribution purposes in broadcasting, the extremely demanding requirements for volume, speed and latency that are inherent in ‘live’ sports broadcasting of major events have kept the use of the cloud at a low level, despite its multiple advantages.

Apart from providing inherent flexibility and scalability, the use of the cloud alleviates the problem of limited timeframes that broadcasters used to encounter when setting up, testing and commissioning their on-premises systems.

As the host broadcaster, OBS can now provide most of the visual and audio assets of the Olympic Games to all RHBs through the new cloud platform efficiently and securely. Broadcasters can also set up their own content creation, management and distribution systems on OBS Cloud, a solution that has been optimized to address the particular needs of the most demanding live multi-sport workflows.

The proprietary OBS Cloud leverages Alibaba Cloud’s services featuring best-in-class technology infrastructure to create an optimal media broadcasting environment for all RHBs of the Olympics.

It offers a suite of solutions including supercomputing capabilities, high-speed connectivity directly from the IBC, easily accessible cloud storage considering the demanding Olympic requirements, real-time monitoring, live video and audio broadcasting services, and media processing.

Key benefits experienced during the recently concluded Olympic Games in Tokyo include:

  • Cost-efficiency and worldwide manageability in storing, managing and delivering huge quantities of created content
  • Faster deployment with reduced set-up time and utilizing fewer onsite resources
  • Remote post-production and production with content accessible from any location via an internet connection

Yiannis Exarchos, Chief Executive Officer, OBS, commented: “The partnership with Alibaba Cloud is transforming how we broadcast the Olympic Games to the widest possible audience – this is perhaps the biggest technological change in the broadcasting industry for more than half a century since the introduction of satellite transmission, which was introduced to Olympic broadcast coverage for the first time at Tokyo 1964.”

After the Games, RHBs also have the flexibility to move their deployment home or keep the asset within the OBS Cloud for future Olympic events.

Selina Yuan, General Manager of International Business, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, said: “We are confident that OBS Cloud will deliver tremendous benefits to media organizations in terms of cost-efficiency and worldwide manageability, and help digitally transform the way RHBs broadcast the Olympic Games. The agility that comes with cloud infrastructure allows faster deployment time with fewer onsite resources, while the flexibility of a cloud platform enables remote post-production and production to be done faster – and from any location with an internet connection.”

Experiencing Content+

Leveraging Alibaba technologies, Content+ – OBS’s content delivery platform – was fully migrated to the cloud for delivering short-form content, content asset management and content production.

Delivering short-form content: During Tokyo 2020, an estimated 7,000 to 9,000 short-form content clips were produced by the OBS Content+ crew to help enhance RHB coverage. 17 RHB organizations and four news agencies subscribed to the full service of receiving those clips through a user-friendly web-based interface. The thousands of clips are accessible by the RHBs’ digital and social media teams from any location in the world to supplement their own Olympic coverage.

Content asset management: Through Content+, RHBs were able to access all Olympic content produced by the OBS – including live content – as it is being produced. 31 RHB organizations have signed up for this full service to be able to easily browse through the low-resolution files in near-real-time and retrieve any content in any of their global facilities. The access to live coverage allows RHBs to mark part of the live content and download it for their own post-production needs, simultaneously when the games were still happening.

Content production: Used as part of post-production workflow, OBS used the Content+ platform for remote editing and standards conversion; a feature that will be extended as a service to the RHBs for future Olympics.

In addition, two RHBs received live distribution of Ultra High Definition (UHD), High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Internet Protocol Video and Audio package during Tokyo 2020, allowing them to deliver 4K content to their viewers.