The live streaming acceleration

In a world where digital communication has become the new normal, live streaming is playing an important role in the communication exchange between companies and their customers. BCE and its subsidiary Freecaster are giving an overview of the accelerated evolution with the pandemic.

Freecaster and BCE

Back in 2018, BCE selected Freecaster as its partner for all live streaming and OTT developments, at that time, the European media leader was looking for a tech-savvy company which would be able to fit its workflow easily while delivering high class media quality.

With production experience in sports and fashion as well as streaming via a proprietary online video platform, Freecaster had developed as a specialist in online video services for both live and on-demand high-quality content.

After a first successful event at the Montreux Volley Master in Switzerland, where BCE produced the interviews of the sport event with its StudioTalk and Freecaster live streamed the videos on the customer website and social networks, followed by the OTT platform for MXGP.tv, BCE acquired Freecaster in 2019.

The integrated video services allow media and non-media companies to develop, launch and operate an OTT service within weeks. The combined expertise of BCE and Freecaster covers the entire value chain: from the video production to adaptive streaming to multiple devices, live storage in state-of the art datacenters and a strong content delivery network to broadcast to the world, including China.

Designing a broadcast grade streaming offer

Having the right technology partner is one thing, live streaming entertaining content is another. When acquiring Freecaster, BCE was looking at the two sides of the coin, namely the streaming platform and the production team.

While BCE already had a strong experience in production, the fashion, events, and sports expertise brought by Freecaster considerably enriched the quality of service. With a launching target set to the first semester of 2020, BCE designed a streaming offer delivering all the quality expected from a broadcaster, combined with the flexibility of a startup-like tech company:

Regarding production, BCE has all the teams and means to answer the market demand, including outside broadcast vans, studios, ephemeral sets, drones but also mobile, terrestrial networks and even satellites to contribute the content onto BCE’s online video platform.

On the streaming side, BCE and Freecaster unity brought numerous features to the offer, including the centralization of the video feeds on one platform, an advanced player giving the possibility to the viewers to select a viewing angle or a separate feed, live rewind, chaptering and live replay, multi streaming format to allow the viewing on any OS or platform, social network integration but also the integration of subtitles, close captions, multiple audio channels or even geo-targeting to adapt the content to selected territories.

After the streaming, the content can be safely stored in BCE’s cloud storage with a direct access via BCE’s MediaCMS, giving customers the possibility to valorize their content through content distribution, live to VoD, video portals, or content repurposing. Of course, the content can be secured via BCE’s Digital Rights Management solution.

From revolution to normality

A few months ago, live streaming was an add-on, but the pandemic accelerated its use bringing live streaming as the first way of communication for any live event, conference, concert.

While many companies state that live streaming was part of their digital evolution and were planning to integrate this type of technology in their workflows within the next ten years, they admit that the pandemic forced them to review their priorities in order to ensure the perfect communication with their customers and contacts.

As a result, BCE and Freecaster faced a huge demand for quality live streaming. The cheap do-it-yourself systems were not an option, the only way to reconnect with people was with high quality streams, meaning more production means, more preparation, more connectivity, and a solid infrastructure to ensure seamless experiences.

The European Commission selected BCE for the live streaming of the Coronavirus Global Response initiative in which governments from across the world teamed up with health organizations and partners to contribute to the worldwide pledging marathon.

BCE took part in the #SpaceConnectsUs Virtual meeting, in which major players of Luxembourg’s space, communications and broadcasting industry joined forces to support people around the world during the COVID-19 crisis and help them cope with self-isolation and quarantine.

The Asteroid Foundation launched Asteroid Day TV 2020, a 34 days streaming featuring asteroid related content and exclusive live programmes in multiple languages produced in partnership with the European Space Agency. The TV was followed by the live streaming of Asteroid Day on the 30 June 2020.

Multiple companies asked BCE to cover their general meeting, like Harmonie Mutuelle, for whom Freecaster created several virtual sets, with direct interactivity from one studio to the other, complying with the safety distances; or the coverage of the annual general meeting of RTL Group which featured simultaneous translation and was integrated in the voting portal for the shareholders.

“To answer the needs of customers like AG2R, we designed a remote production kit, allowing any participant with a simple internet connection to take part in a live stream from office or home.” Adds Tugdual Le Boru Managing Director at Freecaster.

While most of BCE’s customers would answer positively to on-site or remote production, some clients needed to reconsider completely their organization to follow the sanitary measures. The Parliament of Luxembourg asked BCE to move its media infrastructure to other premises with enough room to follow the two meters distance between each deputy as well as between the production team members.

BCE’s system integration team installed the StudioTalk production suite as well as all the cameras, audio, lights, etc. The sessions are live streamed and broadcast over IP from BCE’s mutualized playout platform. Videos are then available for replay on the customer website.

“BCE had installed a complete production platform with a dedicated control room at the Parliament building in 2018. StudioTalk allows us to continue to produce the sessions at the new location despite the Covid-19 crisis. In these complex times, it is paramount to continue to inform the country and we are proud to bring this project to fulfilment.” explains Xavier Thillen, Head of Production & Digital Media Operations at BCE.

In the sports world, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) used BCE’s system to create programmes and distribute streaming feeds to multiple digital platforms such as FEI.tv, Facebook and YouTube.

“It was important for the FEI to continue engaging with our worldwide fan base,” FEI Commercial Director Ralph Straus said. “The BCE services have allowed us to share the best of our sport with our community and their broadcast infrastructure makes it easy and efficient to select our desired content, build new programmes and schedule replays on our channel and social networks.”

The Confédération Européenne de Volleyball (CEV) entrusted BCE with the live production of the European Volleyball Cups 2021 drawing of lots. In addition to the live streaming, BCE ensured the live production and live broadcast of the event.

“We have found in BCE an experienced partner matching our needs to deliver a quality product for viewers across multiple platforms, as we continue to step up our efforts to provide fans with an innovative and entertaining digital experience,” says CEV President Aleksandar Boričić.

Ensuring the live production of well-known fashion houses, Freecaster had to evolve with its customers. While there was almost no public catwalk show during the confinement for obvious reasons, the fashion houses needed to present their new collections to the market.

For Louis Vuitton, Freecaster ensured the streaming of their product presentation to the different offices around the world. In addition to the private catwalk, the customer wanted to focus on all the details of its collection resulting in many product closeup, steady cam views of the models with a very high picture quality. The different offices could interact directly during the live stream.

Guerlain wanted to present its collection to the press and key influencers. Freecaster produced the show and ensured its live broadcast on a secured portal. Participation was ensured via a live chat module.

“Broadcast Live from Shanghai, the show from Louis Vuitton was encoded from satellite and live streamed from Freecaster platform over China as well as on social networks, including LinkedIn, TikTok and KakaoTalk” adds Tugdual.

The fashion house Jacquemus decided to do a public live event. Produced in a wheat field with plenty of space to respect the distance between the guests, Freecaster ensured the production with drones and mobile cranes avoiding any contact between the production teams, the models, and the guests.

Welcome to the media world

The world has never ever been so connected, which is a paradox regarding the actual situation with the restriction of public gathering. There is no clear view regarding the evolution of the coronavirus worldwide.

The world has already entered a new era in digital communication and BCE and Freecaster will continue to put all their production, streaming and technology expertise at the service of any company looking for a way to inform, communicate and interact with their colleagues and customers worldwide.

BCE was one of the first companies to go tapeless, it was also the first company to go over IP, now it continues the development of both its linear and non-linear services to bring people together in the media world.