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4K Sports Broadcasting: Distribute & Personalize Live Sports Content at Scale Harmonic

4K Sports Broadcasting: Distribute & Personalize Live Sports Content at Scale

See how to deliver live 4K HDR sports with immersive video and audio.

4K Sports Broadcasting: Distribute & Personalize Live Sports Content at Scale
Sports fans around the world demand the highest possible quality of experience with impeccable video quality and zero service interruption. When it comes to important, internationally watched games or tournaments, the stakes are even higher as audience numbers can swell to millions.

Sports fans around the world demand the highest possible quality of experience with impeccable video quality and zero service interruption.  When it comes to important, internationally watched games or tournaments, the stakes are even higher as audience numbers can swell to millions.

For sports content, service providers strive to deliver an exceptional user experience to gain more eyeballs and position their brand in the premium content space. Live sports coverage is the biggest contributor to “appointment viewing” television for fans that wish to be captivated by real-time competition.  As an example, live soccer is estimated to attract 3.5 billion worldwide fans.

Through primary distribution networks, broadcasters and service providers can deliver thousands of high-quality personalized sporting events to millions of reception devices with a variety of resolution capabilities. With the goal of delivering compelling high-quality video sports to globally dispersed audiences, 4K HDR is a leading-edge technology that changes the game in terms of user experience.

Deliver an Immersive Experience for Live Sports

Today's video industry is responding to the market demand for more immersive and personalized content. Take for example Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Dolby Vision leverages a high dynamic range (HDR) format that uses dynamic metadata to optimize the content brightness of each video frame.

Dolby Atmos is the next-gen advancement for audio quality. It renders the sound experience as a 3D-sphere, expanding beyond traditional stereo or multi-channel audio, and providing highly accurate sound placement for listeners to feel as if they are truly immersed in the sound in a more realistic way.

Challenges for Live 4K Sports Broadcasting in HDR

  • Infrastructure costs: On top of handling viewer experience enhancements, service providers also face infrastructure challenges when delivering live 4K UHD with HDR. Processing capacity and bandwidth requirements can create distribution bottlenecks at every step of the delivery chain. Distributing 4K content requires a robust end-to-end solution that can manage 4K HDR media processing throughout the distribution network. This includes enabling affiliates to receive 4K content and be able to acquire the necessary processing capacity.
  • Handling diverse formats: With multiple HDR formats, and various ways to level the HDR content capture, you need a complete toolbox to get you covered on all cases. As operators also accelerate the adoption of content personalization, it can create a need to ensure that the local content and ads produced in different video formats can still be used and inserted into a live 4K sports broadcast feed.
  • User experience management: Immersive experiences, especially for live sports, are a game-changer. With the next generation of audio and video capabilities on the horizon, like Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, video processing and delivery systems need to have the necessary capabilities to process and carry such content all the way from content capture to end-user delivery.
    Another specific user experience point to consider relates to the end-user devices. For the audio experience, consumers with legacy receivers will need the audio must be successfully transcoded for older devices. The same applies to video. If the end-user device is incompatible with specific resolutions, the video encoding will need to account for this.
  • Content personalization: Delivering relatable, more personalized, regionalized content contributes to viewer engagement. Viewer engagement is a growing focus of content providers and advertisers, with market evidence showing how tailored content strategies that target specific audiences, through marketing, content, and ads, are an effective way to develop meaningful relationships with viewers. It can also increase customer loyalty and improve the viewer's satisfaction simultaneously.
Once every two years, depending on the season, a unique international sporting event takes place. Millions of winter and summer sports fans come together to watch their countries athletes demonstrate their talents on the world stage, striving for a gold medal. These memorable moments are often in front of a screen.

Harmonic, alongside Dolby, AWS, and NBCU Technical Operations. and several other partners including a major content programmer in the United States, came together to deliver premium video, in 4K HDR to millions of affiliates around the country.

A World-First for Live 4K Sports Broadcasting

Once every two years, depending on the season, a unique international sporting event takes place. Millions of winter and summer sports fans come together to watch their countries athletes demonstrate their talents on the world stage, striving for a gold medal. These memorable moments are often in front of a screen.

Harmonic, alongside Dolby, AWS, and NBCU Technical Operations. and several other partners including a major content programmer in the United States, came together to deliver premium video, in 4K HDR to millions of affiliates around the country.

Deploying the Solution for Live 4K Sports Broadcasting to Affiliates and Consumers

Harmonic recently deployed a UHD HDR solution to enable a major content provider to deliver premium Olympic-grade sports content, live, to hundreds of affiliates across the U.S. The content provider’s goal was to preserve video quality from contribution all the way to the affiliate to provide an immersive stadium-like experience for viewers.

Harmonic’s XOS Advanced Media Processor is an all-in-one solution that handles ingest, graphics insertion, video encoding, audio encoding, and delivery. It was deployed at both the content provider and affiliate locations.

For the content provider, XOS streamlined the video workflows. The XOS solution used an SDI video ingest to deliver a high-quality HEVC encoding, with HDR10 and Dolby AC-4 formats. A TS-over-IP stream was generated for transmission to affiliated reception points and was protected using the secure reliable transport (SRT) protocol.

At the affiliated reception side, XOS was used to receive the TS-over-IP stream and process it to adjust to the end-user delivery formats:

  • Transcoding the CBR UHD HEVC input to an adaptive bit rate (ABR), multi-profile UHD streaming format,
  • Transforming the HDR10 content to a Dolby Vision delivery,
  • Translating the Atmos audio from Dolby AC-4 to Dolby Digital Plus audio (DD+JOC) to cope with consumer devices capabilities.
Translating the Atmos audio from Dolby AC-4 to Dolby Digital Plus audio (DD+JOC) to cope with consumer devices capabilities.


With XOS, affiliates gain support for numerous video formats, including next-gen codecs, and encoding schemes to maintain high video quality with exceptionally low bitrates throughout the distribution network. Harmonic, along with
Dolby, AWS and NBCU Operations & Technology ended up creating a groundbreaking immersive experience in 4K HDR for this premier live sporting event.

Customizing Content Delivery

Affiliates needed to be able to localize, or personalize the content to deliver the live 4K feeds to the consumer. At the affiliate side, XOS uses seamless source switching at affiliated reception ingest points using HD or UHD, non-HDR or HDR formatted content to seamlessly integrate local content into the national mezzanine source without worrying about source incompatibilities. To trigger these changes in an automated manner, XOS processing supports SCTE 35/104 commands for dynamic ad insertion (DAI).

In addition to seamless switching, XOS includes automatic format detection. For example, if a national mezzanine source is provided with HDR, and there's a switch to a local source with SDR, XOS will automatically upconvert the local SDR source to HDR to maintain continuity and provide a consistent experience.

Set the Bar High for Your Premium Content

The world of multi-screen entertainment continues to make progress with superior video quality, at any resolution. Although we're able to provide premium, live content on every screen, agile media processing and delivery remain key factors. Delivering immersive and personalized experiences to capture the attention of viewers anywhere in the world offers benefits to viewers and advertisers.

Distributing high-quality, bandwidth-efficient linear content with low latency for premier sporting events can also be economically feasible. Since all live sports productions are not the same, options for variable distribution formats and transmission attributes need to be versatile. Harmonic offers a variety of software-based solutions that can solve any challenge presented by live sports 4K broadcast and delivery.

With Harmonic’s XOS Advanced Media Processor, variable video and audio formats can be customized as desired, with total confidence that video quality will remain intact. Regardless of your premium content demands, Harmonic provides scalable, and flexible solutions to handle the next generation content demands from source to screen. Contact Harmonic to explore sustainable, scalable and agile solutions to deliver your premium, high-quality live video.