As professional football in England prepared to return from the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, StreamAMG faced an unprecedented challenge to deliver an uninterrupted service for club streaming platforms.
StreamAMG has been helping football clubs live stream matches to their fans around the world for nearly a decade. We provide online video technology and live streaming services to organisations across football, including the majority of the Premier League and the majority of clubs in the EFL Championship.
For several years clubs in England have been able to broadcast live games to international viewers on their own platforms, and EFL clubs are able to offer fixtures domestically if they are not shown on TV and fall outside of the 3pm “blackout” window.
Thirteen clubs in the EFL Championship use StreamAMG platforms to deliver live matches to their fans, and for many we provide a full end-to-end solution; from on-site hardware through to cloud-based content management, to supporting users with payments and subscriptions, all delivered through websites and apps that we build and host.
As the 2019-20 season approached its conclusion in March, the severity of the coronavirus outbreak became clear and professional football in England was suspended mid-season. It quickly became obvious that if the season was to resume, it would take place behind closed doors.
The sporting world on hold
As lockdown measures were put in place, the importance of streaming to clubs was clear; with fans locked out of stadiums the clubs’ digital channels, particularly online video, became a key part of maintaining the crucial bond with their supporters. Financially, the sudden absence of ticket sales turned the revenue generated by streaming services into a vital source of income.
Amid the uncertainty and a short-notice shift to remote working, it was evident that streaming services would have to cope with record levels of demand on resumption. Season ticket holders were being offered free access to club streaming for the first time, and the domestic blackout was being lifted, opening live match streams to a whole new domestic audience. Practically, this meant hundreds of thousands of new users redeeming vouchers that needed to be onboarded, and far greater volumes of viewers on matchdays.
At StreamAMG, we were already taking action to ensure continuity in the event of the season finishing behind closed doors. Despite uncertainty over exactly what would transpire, systems and processes had to be robust to cope with demand come the first day of the resumed season. Our platforms are built to handle live streaming at scale, but it was clear that we had to be proactive to provide reassurance for all clubs and handle additional demand.
Rising to the occasion
Across the business, we set about a coordinated effort to prepare for the season resumption, and to be ready for football’s “new normal”.
Our in-house team focused on planning for significantly greater demand, as well as more varied and complex workflows, and potential bottlenecks. The team took full advantage of the depth of our longstanding partnership with AWS (Amazon Web Services), working closely with their experts to deploy cutting-edge cloud technologies and new techniques, bolstering our infrastructure and opening up extra capacity ready for any scenario.
The work was carried out in record time thanks to the technical team’s hard work and innovative approach, aided by input from commercial and operations teams. This allowed comprehensive testing of complex load scenarios to give our clubs absolute confidence ahead of resumption.
The StreamAMG Sports team worked closely with each club and their partners to understand individual situations and requirements, passing on feedback to the technical and operations teams to guide development and flag concerns ahead of time. Working across a vast and complex network of stakeholders, they advised clubs on actions they could take to prepare, and liaised with the clubs’ other digital partners to mitigate known risks to their platforms.
Meanwhile, the live operations team took advantage of the lull in live events to prepare, refine their matchday processes, and establish a remote MCR, with operators working from home. Our customer service team responded to end-user queries, quickly and efficiently helping to onboard season ticket holders and resolve issues.
A successful return
In June, the top two tiers of the English game returned behind closed doors, and for StreamAMG’s clubs the first matchday was a resounding success. Record numbers of supporters enjoyed uninterrupted live action, including over 105,000 season ticket holders who redeemed online passes via our CloudPay system to watch the first round of games.
Record numbers of fans tuned into their club’s streaming services as the games came thick and fast over the next six weeks. Collectively the platforms saw a 500 per cent uplift in data delivery, with viewership records being broken almost every gameweek. Over 100 matches were live streamed by our team on Premier League and Championship club platforms, drawing 2.9 million live stream views over the period, with hundreds of thousands of fans watching at any one time.
Crucially, the clubs also enjoyed no interruption or outages across the entire period, despite unprecedented traffic across StreamAMG systems infrastructure, benefiting from 100 per cent uptime and presenting new domestic viewers with a smooth viewing experience. The clubs generated more than four times the streaming revenue by extending access to new users, securing vital income in an uncertain period.
The return of football in challenging circumstances is a testament to a truly collaborative effort by all stakeholders. Everyone at StreamAMG is grateful for the efforts of our clubs and partners to deliver a thrilling conclusion to the season to supporters at home.