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The Verge: How Baseball's Tech Team Built the Future of Television


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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">How baseball?s tech team built the future of television <a href="http://t.co/WpNjqbvpdl">http://t.co/WpNjqbvpdl</a> <a href="http://t.co/80u4w3uAam">pic.twitter.com/80u4w3uAam</a></p>— The Verge (@verge) <a href="

">August 4, 2015</a></blockquote>

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It was the first week of April, 2015, and New York?s Chelsea Market, typically packed with hordes of noisy tourists, was quiet. It was close to midnight, but five stories above, things were tense. The building is a former cookie factory, and the outlines of ovens still scar the brick walls. In their place, a vast array of screens are now mounted, each tuned to a live video feed. Joe Inzerillo and his team had their eyes glued to the glass, hard at work trying to wrangle the internet into doing something it was not built for.

The launch of HBO Now was just a few days away, but the product wasn?t finished. With both HBO and Apple promoting it heavily, the team had no idea how many people might tune in that first day. "The stakes were high," says Inzerillo. "It was not lost on anybody here how important this was for our company, but also for this industry. Because if HBO Now had come out and face planted, there would be a lot of naysayers who turned around and said, ?See, this is why the adults need to handle television.?"

"GAME OF THRONES IS OUR WORLD CUP."

Six months earlier, HBO had announced it was cutting the cord, finally offering consumers access to their programming without signing up for cable or satellite television. But the in-house streaming service it had previously built, HBO Go, had experienced high-profile outages during the season four finale of Game of Thrones and the premiere of True Detective. HBO Now was set to launch alongside the newest season of GoT, and it had to be perfect. "Game of Thrones is our World Cup," says Bernadette Aulestia, who runs HBO?s digital distribution.

And so HBO went to the company that set new records for online streaming during the 2014 World Cup, a strange tech startup hidden inside of a sports league, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, or BAM for short. BAM began as the in-house IT department for the league?s 30 teams, a small handful of employees originally tasked with building websites for teams and clubs. But over the last 15 years, BAM has emerged as the most talented and reliable name in streaming video, a skill set suddenly in very high demand.

BAM competes for clients with streaming tech companies like NeuLion and Imagine Communications, as well as big telecommunication outfits like Verizon. But, says Dan Rayburn, a streaming industry analyst, "there really isn?t anybody who does the true end-to-end solution like MLB does, especially at scale, out in the market."

"Their technical chops are the best, bar none," he adds. "They set the standard."

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The article mentions this a bit in passing... WWE contracted MLB to set-up the mechanics behind WWE Network, which now has 1.2 M subscribers. During WrestleMania itself, they probably had one million customers streaming. I'm a subscriber, and I have been mostly impressed. There are times during high volume events (such as what used to be termed 'pay per views'), that there is a hiccup in the stream. But it has improved since WWE Network's launch.

On a related side note, WWE Network had a series titled "WrestleMania Rewind", narrated by Gary Thorne. Someone should ask Thorne which WrestleMania was his favorite.

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