NFL Streaming on Yahoo: How Audio for London Game Got to Fans

By: Dan Daley, Audio Editor, Sports Video Group

The first free, global live Internet broadcast of an NFL game sounded as good as it looked, but it took a complex process to get that audio from London to the fans via Atlanta and Sunnyvale, CA.

The NFL and Yahoo teamed up for the historic live-streaming Webcast, in which the Buffalo Bills battled the Jacksonville Jaguars in London’s Wembley Stadium. The game audio was captured by the CBS Sports crew in the UK, including A1 Phil Adler and submixer Dave Perry, using the same mic-placement and other techniques deployed for NFL-game production in the U.S., according to Glenn Adamo, VP, media operations, NFL.

Both the pregame show and the halftime show originated from the NFL Network studio in Culver City, CA; the postgame wrap was provided by CBS immediately after the game. Yahoo did its own pregame show and, after the closing NFL animation, a full postgame show from its studios in Sunnyvale. NFL Media also did all transmission, commercial insertion, and multi-organization coordination from London.

For a look inside the production operation, CLICK HERE.

All of that audio was backhauled to the NFL’s broadcast-control center in Atlanta, coming in from CBS Sports as 5.1 discrete surround. NFL Media downmixed that to stereo via a frame-sync within Dolby E. It prepared three stereo pairs for transmission to Yahoo: a straight stereo track of the game, including announcers, effects, and nat sound; a mix-minus stereo track for international distribution; and a third, Spanish-language stereo pair for the secondary-audio-program (SAP) track.

“We took the 5.1 stems and mixed those down to stereo in Atlanta, but the SAP track came in from CBS in New York,” explains Binnie Davis Jr., director, media operations distribution, NFL. “We had to marry that track live to the video as it was coming in.”

The process of getting audio from London to Sunnyvale was fairly seamless, says Davis. In fact, he adds, what struck him and others in the control room during the game and in practice sessions was that it was unfettered by broadcast exigencies, notably the need to adhere to dialnorm and other loudness-management requirements.

“We had rerecorded the commercials for the game ahead of time, to make sure their levels were where they needed to be,” he says. “But the game itself was fine without having to deal with loudness issues.” He notes that the overall audio output was monitored for a consistent level on several desktop computers and smartphones, which he says was achieved across the various devices.

The show points the way toward a streaming future for televised sports that is arriving faster than expected. According to the NFL and Yahoo, 15.2 million unique viewers logged into the game, with about 66%, or about 10 million people, in the U.S. The game hit more than 33.6 million total views across all devices on Yahoo and Tumblr, Variety reports, amounting to more than 460 million total minutes of the game.

“I truly felt that this is the start of new delivery method for the sports platform to fans,” Davis observes, “which I believe will only grow with time.”