European Broadcasting Union, Switzerland: In tune
In a world first, the European Broadcasting Union joins forces with Ericsson to deliver an enhanced Eurovision experience on the mobile channel
The Eurovision Song Contest has been running for an impressive 54 years. It holds the accolade for one of the longest running television shows in the world. A total of 51 countries with over 1,000 entries have taken part in the contest over the last five decades, making it a truly international event.
With 125 million viewers and a dedicated legion of fans, Eurovision has a ready-made audience hungry for the latest news and updates on the contest. Appealing to youth culture is important and bringing information to fans on the move is an obvious plus point for the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the organizers of the event.
Every year the EBU works with a technical partner and in 2010 it chose to team up with Ericsson to take its mobile content to the next level. Ericsson responded with a trial of the world's first cloud-based mobile TV solution which was launched during the semi-finals and final of the contest.
The unique solution means that all the computing and calculations required to create a superior user experience now take place in the cloud. This removes the need for the user to download a Java client or an application to their mobile phone, allowing them to automatically enjoy an advanced site in a more user-friendly way.
Kurt Sillén, Head of Customer Business Development, Business Unit Multimedia, Ericsson explains: "We provided an ability to follow the Eurovision song contest before, during and after the actual event, both on-demand and live – and we did it with a new level of user experience. Not only does the cloud-based solution connect directly through the web browser on the phone. Using the existing capability within the device, it automatically adapts to the browsers on 800 different handset models."
The software behind the solution which determines the browser type and controls the user experience has taken several years to develop. This is the first time Ericsson has applied this kind of functionality to a mobile TV user experience. The cloud-based solution guaranteed immediate global reach which was vital for a site like m.eurovision.tv with such an international following.
The experiment has proven to be a great success. The site has been accessed by fans in Germany, Sweden, Russia, Norway, Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Turkey, the Netherlands, Greece and Australia.
EBU relied very much on word-of-mouth with promotion limited to the event website and a Facebook page. The approach paid off and numerous blogs and tweets from fans successfully spread the word, resulting in an impressive 41,000 page views. Statistics implied that users found what they were looking for too as the average session length came in at 17 minutes.
Nicoletta Iacobacci, Head of ITV & Crossmedia, European Broadcasting Union says: "We know that for our digital viewers the user experience is of paramount importance. The success of this trial has proven that a great experience can be provided on 3G phones with minimum expenditure. The buzz that it has created, attracting more than 40,000 people, confirms the value of this channel for us."
Reach for the skies
Ericsson was able to deliver the ground-breaking solution in record time, just three weeks after signing the agreement. Nicoletta Iacobacci adds: "Working with Ericsson has been easy. We specified our needs and they delivered in every area. For us it has been a win-win situation: maximum value at minimum cost, both in terms of time and money."
The success of the experiment with EBU shows that a superior mobile experience can be provided by 3G mobile phones more easily than ever before, highlighting the massive potential for growth in this area. This world first could be replicated in a wide range of scenarios for broadcasters, media players or telecom operators. It makes a quality user experience more widely available in a simple and cost efficient way.
Technical focus - First for Mobile TV
When Ericsson was asked to produce a Mobile TV solution for the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest, the biggest challenge was how to cover all eventualities. The broadcast had to be available to be streamed live or on demand to nearly any 3G handset anywhere in the world. Ericsson had three weeks to do it.
Conventional methods were discounted. Traditional hardware options could mean potential bottlenecks regarding order, shipping and location as well as bandwidth problems. To achieve the delivery time, Ericsson used existing infrastructure in a cloud computing environment. It linked with Amazon Web Services to host its portal TV and Streamzilla to deliver content. The system is auto-scalable, so an increase in users could be accommodated by adding virtual servers.
Using Ericsson's Browser Based Implementation of Client (BRIC) meant people could watch the contest directly from their browsers, with no need to download a client. BRIC makes TV services available on almost any phone that has a browser. In addition it provides enhanced usability with features such as fast channel zapping.
The server site evaluates the phone profile using Ericsson's device depository. So when a phone links to the website, it only receives content it can play. For the Eurovision event, all content was reproduced to cater for different devices. Out of 25,000 requests, more than 99 percent found a profile match.
Ericsson is extending its vision of mass market TV through its Multiscreen TV solution offering.
About European Broadcasting Union, Switzerland
With its headquarters in Geneva the European Broadcasting Union is the largest association of national broadcasters in the world. It provides cooperation between broadcasters and facilitates the exchange of audiovisual content. The organization is at the forefront of new media. It promotes open technical standards and interoperability for the benefit of broadcasters and consumers, exploring the opportunities presented by new technologies.