With mass gatherings impractical for the foreseeable future, event production is taking on a new shape. To adapt, sports leagues, music festivals, theatre companies and other organisations are taking a page out of the modern media distribution playbook to reach their core audiences online. Harnessing the same tools that today’s major OTT players use, more event organisers are delivering live and on-demand pay-per-view (PPV) event coverage to global audiences. As a vendor to live event organisers, TicketCo has similarly pivoted to serve the new market, and CEO Kåre Bottolfsen sat down with us to talk about how the company is helping event organisers evolve with intuitive cloud-powered technology.
What are TicketCo’s origins?
TicketCo started out as a platform offering ticketing and up-sale solutions for event organisers. When Covid-19 struck, our market began to collapse, and we had to rethink our business model. After careful consideration, we launched TicketCo Media Services, a series of cloud-based solutions that are integrated with our event payment platform and designed to help event organisers keep the show running. They provide a simple and affordable way to deliver high quality PPV live stream and video-on-demand (VoD) content.
Why did TicketCo move into the business of PPV broadcast services?
As the pandemic hit, we could either cut costs and try to ride it out or evolve, and we chose the latter. In talking with clients, we discovered that the community lacked an intuitive, secure way to distribute and monetise video content, so we built it with the TicketCo platform as a foundation and paywall. We knew we had all the pieces that we needed to execute our vision; we just needed to find the right media services partner, and then integrate its tools on top of our payments platform, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) played a crucial role here.
How are TicketCo Media Services accessed and deployed?
Every customer gets a unique log-in to our site, which is hosted on AWS. For live events, clients sign on, create an event, determine the viewer live stream cost, then select their live stream preferences, and viewing regions that will be supported, and they’re ready to broadcast. In the case of VoD, content can be uploaded to the platform and users then select their preferred viewing regions, create an event and determine the PPV cost.
AWS Media Services, including AWS Elemental MediaLive, AWS Elemental MediaConvert, and AWS Elemental MediaPackage, handle all the legwork on the backend to prepare the video for distribution, from encoding through to video packaging and beyond. All content is delivered using Amazon CloudFront as the Content Delivery Network (CDN), which supports millions of viewers with geographical restrictions and DRM to safeguard copyright and licensing issues. PPV audiences can access the full HD video on a range of viewing devices.
Who has used the solution?
An early adopter, UK theatre company Wise Children live streamed a full-scale musical production at Bristol Old Vic in collaboration with 34 different theatres worldwide at the onset of the UK lockdown last year. Ticket sales quadrupled the venue capacity at Bristol Old Vic for five shows, and the enthusiastic response we’ve received from them and others has both humbled us and made us proud. They’re just one of many theatre companies, sports leagues and other event companies leveraging our tools.
Tell us more about your experience in the design and build phase
Designing and building a solution in Q2 proved a race against the clock. We had one chance to prepare a beta version of the service that would stand out, but also craft a plan to spread awareness of our product. At the same time, we had to minimise operational costs and adopt a new way of thinking internally. This required a suppression of old habits and our established market approaches. Even though we were starting from scratch, we had a huge advantage thanks to our existing platform, and put faith into the pattern of the technology adoption lifecycle. We had to get those innovators in the community engaged as a start, and then quickly progress to the early adopters. If we could achieve both, we knew we had a fair chance at success.
Our first priority was finding cloud-based services to manage all of our video encoding, packaging and distribution needs. We looked at a number of options but were already using AWS for hosting. The flexibility that AWS Media Services offered stood out to us in the research phase, making it a natural fit. In fusing our existing e-commerce product with a video service on top of a strong monetisation layer, we knew we’d also need a familiar interface. AWS Media Services helped remove a lot of fragmentation on our end, while also ensuring a positive experience for our clients and their viewers. Reporting was another factor for us. Although our platform already covered reporting on the payment side, we’d need geo reporting for the video portion of the service to handle broadcast licensing rights issues, for which ended up leaning on CloudFront.
What development challenges did you face?
We needed to deliver an easy-to-use solution set for our clients and their audience, which meant integrating with marketing tools, CRM systems and other services in addition to payment, verification, streaming and stream monitoring tools. Our product also needed to work consistently and send out 25 frames per second (FPS) video in full HD quality with low latency. This is easier said than done, however, and the biggest hurdle proved to be the complex nature of the solutions we were trying to build. By combining our ticketing and payments platform with AWS Media Services as a wrapper, though, we were able to deliver a toolset they can use without much training. Our hope is that it will help the community advance its live streaming and VOD competency, which will be essential as the industry continues moving in this direction.
Is TicketCo’s new business model indicative of a larger trend in the events industry?
The feedback we’ve received from clients across the board has been overwhelmingly positive, and while we initially focused on immediate demands in our core European market, we’ve since scaled and are working on expanding into the US. Now that the industry has seen what’s possible with PPV video distribution and its inherent value, there’s really no going back. Moving forward, we expect to see more organisations take a hybrid approach that combines in-person ticketing with virtual ticketing. Our goal is to help event organisers pull off the same calibre video delivery as high-end broadcasters and OTT providers, and we think our solutions are a huge step in the right direction to democratising the technology used to deliver premium sports matches and other content across digital platforms.