Digital Rapids StreamZ Encoder Fuels Free Agent Fever for NBA's Miami HEAT
The Challenge: Encoding live and on-demand content efficiently and at high quality for the Miami HEAT website and internal production workflows
The Solution: StreamZ
The Benefits: "By enabling us to efficiently create high-quality material for HEAT.com with very fast turnaround, Digital Rapids helps us engage and grow our fan base, and that has a direct impact on our revenues."
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With the worldwide appetite for online sports growing by leaps and bounds, streaming video is rapidly becoming an indispensable tool in the marketing arsenal of the major leagues and their individual teams. From a technical standpoint, the key to successful deployment is to be able to deliver reliably across a range of bitrate-constrained settings -- including both desktops and mobile devices -- while maintaining the visual quality that fans have become accustomed to from DTV. That makes video encoding and transcoding a key element in the success of sports organizations' online video initiatives. For The HEAT Group, owners of the Miami HEAT National Basketball Association (NBA) team and operators of Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena, the right tool for this critical job is a StreamZ encoding system from Digital Rapids.
The importance of streaming video as an integral part of the team's overall marketing strategy was underscored at the recent start of the NBA's 2010 free agency period. HEAT mascot Burnie took up temporary residence on an exterior ledge of the arena, pledging not to come down until HEAT star Dwyane Wade re-signed with the team. To fuel publicity surrounding the stunt, Burnie's seven-day vigil was captured on video by a robotic HD camera. The live video signal was encoded in real time by The HEAT Group's StreamZ system and streamed to the NBA servers that host the HEAT's extensive online video offerings. Fans were then able to check up on Burnie's exploits live at HEAT.com.
"We were able to stream Burnie 24-hours a day for a week," says Ed Filomia, The HEAT Group's senior director of broadcast services. "So we really put our Digital Rapids system to the test, and it worked great." The StreamZ system was also used for live streaming of the welcoming party and press conference marking the signings of Wade and his new superstar teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh. But beyond the occasional big event, the system has proven its value to Filomia and his team by facilitating the day-to-day workflow of a busy production group.
"We are basically the in-house production agency for The HEAT Group," Filomia says. "We produce and execute any live or pre-produced event presentations for all departments, including advertising, marketing, and our HEAT.com website. That includes not only ticket promotions and public service announcements, but also television shows that air on NBA TV and on SunSports, the regional partner for Fox. We also make content (like half-time features and pre-game shows) that is used in more than 70 live game broadcasts each season."
In addition to programming for external consumption, Filomia adds, the group also handles a whole spectrum of production for The HEAT Group's internal needs, ranging from "training videos for our 1,200-plus event staff to motivational videos for the players featuring legendary coach and HEAT President Pat Riley."
A producer/editor with eight regional Emmys and a producing background including stints at local Fox and CBS affiliates, Filomia has seen tremendous growth in the HEAT organization's use of video production over the last 13 years. "When I was hired in 1997 to start a media production department," he recalls, "I was basically a one-man band: cameraman, producer, editor, director, writer. I even had to build my own edit suite. Putting video on the Internet really didn't exist for us back then." Nowadays Filomia manages a busy, sophisticated operation that includes a staff of four engineers, a production department with eight "preditors" (producer/editors), and a team of graphic animators for digital signage.
Building fan engagement
Video on the Web has become a big part of the production group's efforts. Filomia says that HEAT.com has the most content of any team site in the NBA and -- perhaps not coincidentally -- has the highest Web traffic in the league. Used to help shape a team's brand and to build fan engagement, Web-delivered video rewards fans for visiting team sites and provides an enticing taste of the in-arena action.