Move Networks Powers ESPN360.com Upgrade

By
Carolyn Braff
With airtime at a premium on its linear networks,
ESPN360.com, the network’s broadband streaming channel, is becoming a coveted
space for a growing number of sports. This week, that space became more
navigable as ESPN launched a beta 2.0 version of its broadband player featuring
enhanced organization, interactive features, and a five-stream mosaic view.
The 2.0 version of ESPN360, which is available for
free to broadband subscribers of certain telco and cable affiliates, offers
statistics integration that will synch up with the video as fans watch a game.
Team and game stats, current drive information, and statistical leaders will be
synchronized to the live video and updated as the game progresses. A scoreboard
feature is also being added, as well as improved fast-forward and rewind
controls.
To integrate the social aspect of sports into the
platform, a new ESPN Conversations feature allows fans watching the same games across
the country to talk to each other in real time.
“Our feeling is, no one wants to watch a game by
themselves, so we’re going to be able to connect people from around the country
to watch games together,” explains Damon Phillips, VP of ESPN360.com.
When it comes to formats, content on ESPN360.com
runs the gamut.
“Some content is in 16:9, but it depends on the
source of the program,” Phillips says. “We have done NBA games in HD; we also
did the Masters in HD earlier this year. We definitely have the capability to
do HD streaming.”
That capability comes from ESPN’s relationship with
Move Networks, the power behind the broadband player. Through Move Networks’
adaptive streaming technology, ESPN is able to stream high-definition feeds
that look high definition over broadband — even in fast-paced games like
basketball.
“The ability to watch sporting events that have a
lot of motion through streaming protocols in the past has been pretty limited,”
explains David Rice, VP, marketing, for Move Networks. “It’s been pretty choppy
and pretty rough to watch. The video playout that we give ESPN enables them to
capture live sporting events in a very unique way as far as the quality is
concerned. Based on our adaptive streaming, we basically give them a TV-like
experience.”
Adaptive streaming dynamically adjusts the encoding
rate of the streaming video based on a user’s available bandwidth. Delivered
bitrates for ESPN360 start at 768 kbps for SD video and 2.5
Mbps for HD streams but are constantly adjusted based on
network traffic.
The 2.0 version delivers full-screen capability for
the first time, as well as a new mosaic feature that enables five
widescreen-capable concurrent streams.
“ESPN has showcased how this mosaic playout can
work,” Rice says. “That’s something that we’re really proud of, the ability
that we have to show multiple streams going at the same time.”
Move Networks also supplies ESPN with viewership
metrics for the thousands of events available on the platform annually.
“What we’re doing on ESPN360.com is a complement to
what we do on television,” Phillips explains. “We don’t think that the Internet
is going to replace TV, but we do view it as a television network that just
happens to be delivered on your computer. There is only so much space on a
linear network to put events, so 360 becomes a place where we can serve the
cricket fan, the rugby fan, or the college-football fan who wants a second
screen on Saturdays.”
ESPN’s programming deals across platforms, so
content agreements for ESPN360.com sometimes come out of other deals — as is
the case with the NBA, which will stream hundreds of NBA and Euroleague games
between November and May — and are sometimes exclusive to the platform, as was
the University of Connecticut basketball home opener this week.
“Sixty percent of the programming that we have is
exclusive to us, meaning it’s not available on any other ESPN U.S. network,”
Phillips explains.
A new homepage at www.espn360.com
also features a cleaner design and better organization to help fans sort
through schedules and find when their team is in primetime — online.