Discovery serves passionate fans around the world with content that inspires, informs and entertains, reaching 220 countries and territories with more than 8,000 hours of original programming each year across a range of content genres. With consumer demand for on-demand video increasing, Discovery looked to build a new technology platform that would enable rapid innovation and rich direct-to-consumer experiences.
With decades of valuable programming in its archive and nearly 1,500 hours of linear and live content delivered daily, Discovery brings a wealth of assets to a streaming video offering. Previously, the company focused its streaming strategy on bundled offerings, striking carriage deals with service providers to distribute its content. In 2019, Discovery broadened its streaming strategy to build and operate a direct-to-consumer platform of its own, taking advantage of its unique content portfolio and dedicated fan following. For its first foray into direct-to-consumer live and video-on-demand (VOD) streaming, an all-new video technology infrastructure would be required.
The new content workflow would need to be reliable and ready to scale quickly, without sacrificing high quality. It would need to be flexible to consolidate hundreds of channels and thousands of on-demand assets into a single workflow. And, it would require reaching outside the organization for the expertise and resources to meet the project’s key requirements in a short timeframe and make the most of audience demand.
Discovery selected SOUTHWORKS, a software development firm and AWS Partner Network Partner, to design its new streaming content infrastructure using AWS Cloud services. SOUTHWORKS reviewed Discovery’s key requirements for reliability, scalability, flexibility, and time-to-market and decided to build the workflow around AWS Media Services, a set of managed services dedicated to transporting, preparing, processing, and delivering live and on-demand video content in the AWS Cloud.
Discovery’s live streaming workflow ingests video sources from content providers or media storage over IP networks directly into the AWS Cloud using AWS Elemental MediaConnect, a cloud-based transport service designed for live video. MediaConnect pushes live streams to AWS Elemental MediaLive using Real-time Transfer Protocol (RTP) with forward error correction (FEC). MediaLive then encodes and generates multiple versions of the source video as adaptive bitrate (ABR) outputs to address the full range of viewers’ screens and device types.
MediaLive provides live streams to AWS Elemental MediaPackage in the HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocol, using MediaLive’s output locking feature to ensure the video pipelines are synchronized. MediaPackage prepares live streams in different distribution formats including HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocol and DASH, creating new streams on the fly in response to requests from viewers’ devices in a format and bitrate optimized for the consumer’s screen, player, and internet bandwidth.
Reliability was a critical requirement for Discovery. SOUTHWORKS specified a dual-pipeline workflow architecture, duplicating resources for video transport, processing, and packaging across two AWS Availability Zones to create redundant video streams with real-time failover between resources. SOUTHWORKS and Discovery took this resilient architecture a step further, duplicating the dual-pipeline workflow within a second AWS Region, again with redundant resources across Availability Zones. This level of redundancy was specified to maximize the availability of Discovery’s live video workflow, even in the event of a service outage at the regional level.
SOUTHWORKS’s approach to achieving resiliency extended to operational systems. To help ensure continuous, uninterrupted viewing for active live streams, the firm engineered a playback and failover console as a single page web application leveraging APIs built with AWS Lambda and Amazon API Gateway and hosted in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). The SOUTHWORKS team also developed comprehensive monitoring dashboards, enabling Discovery’s digital operations team to quickly identify, respond to, and resolve issues.
By building the Discovery workflow with AWS Media Services, SOUTHWORKS was able to deliver on its customer’s other key requirements: flexibility and scalability. AWS Media Services are managed services dedicated to video workflows; customers can spin channels up or down within minutes, paying only for the resources they use, and deploy the services as modular building blocks to support new channels and offerings. AWS Media Services scale virtually as needed, adding resources in the AWS Cloud to accommodate spikes in viewer demand or shifts in global viewing patterns without affecting ongoing workloads. For Discovery, this means whenever or wherever live video is in demand, its workflow can be trusted to scale up, adapt, and deliver.
The live video workflow SOUTHWORKS delivered for Discovery quickly made a significant positive impact on the network’s business. In only six months, SOUTHWORKS delivered a complete workflow capable of supporting hundreds of live channels; now, Discovery has the capability to deliver a broad array of new channels and subscription-based services to audiences across the world.
Previously, preparing a new channel for a live event would take days or weeks. Its new video platform means Discovery can add live event channels in less than 30 minutes, including channels in 4K ultra-high definition (UHD) format. With automatic conversion of live TV to VOD content, time spent manually converting files for archive has been eliminated. The redundant workflow has proved reliable, maintaining high quality for live streams even during periods of peak demand, such as high-profile sporting events.
One of the first new offerings Discovery built on top of its live streaming workflow was Eurosport Player, a mobile and web app that achieved more than six million views in its first month. The app has been so successful that Discovery plans to use it as the streaming video platform for major global sporting events, hosting up to 45 UHD channels of live and on-demand sports action. Discovery also deployed its new video platform to build Food Network Kitchen, an interactive app that connects subscribers with popular cooking shows and celebrity chefs. With SOUTHWORKS and its video workflow built using AWS services, Discovery was able to bring Food Network Kitchen from concept to launch in only 10 weeks.
“Our live streaming platform has to deliver what our audiences have come to expect: a robust choice of engaging, one-of-a-kind content, delivered reliably and with great quality,” said Avisar Ten-Ami, Vice President of Video Delivery Platform at Discovery. “With the expertise of SOUTHWORKS and the foundation of Amazon Web Services, we’re able to bring the complete Discovery viewing experience to viewers on any screen.”
SOUTHWORKS is an AWS Select consulting partner with a specialization in media & entertainment solutions on AWS and is the remote dev firm AWS customers turn to for their most complex, high-profile projects. Our “own it, bring it, prove it” approach lets you make everything right – without the endless hand-holding and do-overs outsourcing is known for. Established in 2004, SOUTHWORKS has more than 200 highly skilled developers who’ve delivered more than 800 successful projects.