ESPN’s Latest Tech Upgrade: Video Streaming vs. Media File Transfer in Sports Video Production

NBA players playing a basketball game in a packed stadium.

ESPN has long relied on Signiant technology to support their media file transfer needs. As a company that provides just one aspect of ESPN’s vast production facilities, we’re always curious to see how they’re advancing in other areas as well. Last week, Sports Video Group published an article on ESPN’s latest “rollout of high tech tools and workflows, including increased connectivity to ESPN’s Bristol, CT, headquarters via The Switch.”

Timed with the start of the NBA regular season and the new deal with Turner Sports, it sounds like ESPN’s latest technological expansion will allow video streaming of live games between sports stadiums and Bristol over high-speed networks. They also gave Signiant a mention, saying ESPN will continue to use “Signiant file transfer to speed the process of sending postgame melts to Bristol.”

Of course, video streaming and file transfer are two different technologies that serve different needs for a company like ESPN. Streaming is critical for real-time broadcasting and editing. But, once that is complete, the finished files need to be transferred, often multiple times, to different locations around the world for replay and archiving. What they have in common is limitations based in network speed or bandwidth.

Network Speed in Video Streaming vs. Media File Transfer

Network speed plays a critical role in video streaming. Footage captured at resolutions as high as 8K (which is becoming more common in sports video production) requires proportionally high network speed for seamless transmissions. And, while bandwidth certainly impacts the time it takes to transfer files, latency is the much bigger issue with point-to-point data transfers.

Michael Kidd, ESPN’s current director of digital media production technologies, explained the difference well: “Everybody wants files delivered as near to live as possible,” said Michael Kidd. “It’s not signal strength that’s the biggest problem, but speed of light traveling such a large distance,” Kidd said. “FTP and other forms of file transfers tend to break down after so many miles, so you have to use a file acceleration technology to overcome any latency issues.”

Signiant’s file acceleration technology speeds transfers up to 200 times faster than FTP, and never breaks down no matter how far files need to travel. Our acceleration technology is being used within automated on-premises software like at ESPN, but has also been incorporated into a simple yet powerful SaaS solution — Media Shuttle — accessible to every size company and is especially suited to the needs of sports production.

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