With every major event, professional sports leagues continue to transform the fan experience using a range of technological advancements, from artificial intelligence (AI) to machine learning (ML) and analytics. Looking to boost fan engagement and streamline its video production and delivery workflow, the PGA TOUR (TOUR) recently enlisted Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its official cloud partner. As part of the arrangement, AWS technology now powers ML, natural language processing, storage, compute, analytics, and database capabilities for the TOUR, which enables it to deliver an enhanced golf fan experience across tournaments. Rounding out its cloud-based infrastructure, AWS Media Services simplify content delivery across viewing platforms and devices by accelerating live video processing and the extraction of relevant data in real-time, while simultaneously enabling new fan-centric video experiences like “Every Shot Live.”
To bring live, low-latency content to fans worldwide via simultaneous live broadcast and over-the-top (OTT) delivery, the TOUR uses AWS Elemental Live encoders on the golf course and AWS Elemental MediaLive for cloud-based encoding. The hybrid workflow allows the TOUR team to quickly and easily process and format tournament footage to ensure a reliable viewer experience across platforms and devices. AWS Elemental MediaStore origination services built into the workflow enables video asset storage and delivery for live streaming and machine learning-enhanced workflows, and AWS Elemental MediaConnect then provides high-quality video transport into AWS for simpler media partner access. MediaConnect also creates subscription feeds that make it easy for the TOUR to share video with authenticated media partners and content subscribers across the globe from AWS and other sources. Amazon CloudFront, a content distribution network (CDN) service, handles the global distribution and delivery of TOUR video content.
On top of using AWS technology to ensure top picture quality across traditional TV and OTT platforms, the TOUR is also harnessing AWS Media Services to give fans more control over their experience with the groundbreaking fan application “Every Shot Live” at THE PLAYERS Championship in 2021. Accessible to PGA TOUR LIVE subscribers, the app gives fans live and on-demand access to nearly every shot any player makes in a group, and fans can follow any player they’d like via livestream. For a tournament like THE PLAYERS Championship, those options translate to access to over 32,000 shots over 72 holes from a group of 144 golfers, versus traditional TV, where only 11 percent of play on average makes it to air. Scott Gutterman, Senior Vice President of Digital Operations for the PGA TOUR describes “Every Shot Live” as “the future of golf coverage” and “one of the most exciting undertakings in technology ever done at the PGA TOUR.”
“With ‘Every Shot Live,’ we can now show viewers every player at all times throughout the course, and that’s a game changer for our fans as it puts them in the producer’s seat and gives them more control over the content they’re seeing,” Gutterman adds. “AWS Media Services have enabled this experience while also reducing bandwidth requirements by as much as 35 percent, so that we can save on costs without ever compromising on image integrity. At the same time, we’re able to reduce our gear footprint on the course, with the cloud doing most of the heavy lifting.”
Under the hood, the ‘Every Shot Live’ app harnesses machine learning and cloud-based processing tools from AWS to comb through clips and deliver digestible player highlights in seconds. To get player clips into the cloud for OTT live streams and VOD asset preparation, AWS Elemental Live appliances provide on-premises encoding and redundancy, which are managed by AWS Elemental Conductor. Feeds from multiple cameras throughout the course are condensed and transferred to the cloud for processing and packaging. One production output feeds into the machine learning process directly from an AWS Elemental Live appliance and into AWS Elemental MediaConnect.
A second stream transmits from the encoders on-site to AWS Elemental MediaLive for cloud-based transcoding and ultimately to the PGA TOUR’s OTT partners and platforms, and feed into AWS Elemental MediaStore, which serves as the origin to Amazon CloudFront for delivery to audiences worldwide. For the golf fan, this means that with a few simple taps of a button on their phone, tablet, or other viewing device, they can easily watch any shot and follow their favorite players. The cloud-based nature of the setup also allows the TOUR to provision and scale up quickly and easily to meet increased audience traffic demands.
The TOUR’s suite of cloud-based tools and on-premises technology are opening up new opportunities to deliver golf coverage that brings fans closer to the game and, as the TOUR dives further into its partnership with AWS, they plan to continue breaking new ground to reimagine how golf fans connect with and follow the sport.