U-NEXT Co., Ltd. Attracts More Viewers Running Multi-angle Livestreaming on AWS
U-NEXT is a major player in Japan’s streaming subscription market, boasting a catalog of over 680,000 titles. When the company launched a multi-angle livestreaming service in 2020, it chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its platform. In June 2021, the company built a new multi-channel platform on AWS, developing a system to provide a wide range of new video experiences, including exclusive coverage of Japanese golf tournaments across seven channels.
Using AWS Elemental Live and AWS Media Services provided everything needed for a livestream workflow and helped us build a streamlined, intuitive platform.”
CTO, U-NEXT Co., Ltd.
Combining on-premises solutions with AWS for livestreaming during the pandemic
U-NEXT has been a video distribution pioneer since its launch in 2007. As of February 2021, the company had boosted its subscriber numbers by 33 percent over the previous fiscal year, capturing a huge share of the Japanese market with around 2.18 million subscribers.
Although U-NEXT’s core focus is on-demand video, a growing number of canceled live shows due to the global pandemic prompted the company to launch a livestreaming service instead. In March 2020, U-NEXT launched a program providing free infrastructure to artists and promoters for audience-less livestreams.
For instance, it streamed a concert by popular Japanese rock group, Southern All Stars, in June. “We broadcast multi-angle live shows including top artists, theater, voice actor events, stand-up shows, and Rizin MMA. As of September 2021, we have over 300 livestreams,” says Takatoshi Kakimoto, VP of Talent Acquisition and Corporate Development at U-NEXT.
The livestreaming platform comprises two systems operating in tandem for redundancy: an on-premises infrastructure in U-NEXT data centers, and an environment built on AWS. The AWS platform uses AWS Elemental Live encoder running on-premises and a cloud-based encoding system with AWS Media Services (AWS Elemental MediaLive, AWS Elemental MediaPackage, AWS Elemental MediaConnect, AWS Elemental MediaConvert.)
“Having used AWS Elemental Live appliances for our data center-based delivery platform for many years, we created a similar setup on AWS,” says Rutong Li, CTO. “Using AWS Elemental MediaConnect enables seamless interaction between AWS Elemental Live, AWS Elemental MediaLive, and AWS Elemental MediaPackage while delivering massive savings by scaling back when not in use.”
A scalable platform for growing multi-channel needs
To respond to new viewer needs as livestreams grow in popularity, U-NEXT set out to build a multi-channel livestreaming platform capable of handling multi-stage music festivals and multi-angle sports broadcasts.
“On-premises platforms can’t cope with the growing number of concurrent livestreams, so we leveraged the scalability of AWS to build a multi-channel platform,” explains Li. “Just a year after first implementing livestreams, we built an AWS platform based on the service’s excellence in multi-angle streaming with hundreds of cameras.”
The new platform also leverages a traditional AWS environment with AWS Elemental Live and AWS Media Services. New services include Amazon CloudFront for delivery; AWS Lambda and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) for control; Amazon CloudWatch, Amazon EventBridge, and Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) for management; and Amazon Athena for analytics.
According to Li, “Using AWS Elemental Live and AWS Media Services provided everything needed for a livestream workflow and helped us build a streamlined, intuitive platform. We finished the project in under three weeks—in a quarter of the typical time needed.”
Development focused on leveraging AWS's managed services to create a platform with highly scalable channels. A core part of the system is AWS CloudFormation, which delivers Infrastructure as Code.
“We can create all the channels we need in less than half an hour. We’re able to make and delete multiple independent channels at any time and centrally manage them without interference,” says Li. “We also created 10 new AWS Lambda functions to achieve our setup.”
Seven-channel, multi-angle livestreams of women’s golf
U-NEXT first used its new platform to livestream a Japanese women's golf tournament in June 2021, receiving high acclaim for its multi-angle coverage over seven channels. The company expects its enhanced sports coverage to attract more subscribers.
“Conventional golf broadcasts only provide one point of view, so viewers miss out on seeing some valuable footage. Our comprehensive coverage had channels for practice areas, interviews, athlete spotlights, and par three holes,” Kakimoto says.
“Viewers felt like they were actually at the golf course following their favorite players and strolling around the driving range. Many said they watched the whole four days without getting bored.”
Leveraging AWS cloud migration support to expand scope of use
U-NEXT plans to use its new platform to expand multi-channel, multi-angle livestreaming to a wide range of genres, positioning it as a new business pillar. “Because sound is becoming as important as video for enhancing the viewer experience, we’re looking forward to AWS Media Services supporting Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, HDR, and other support surround formats,” says Li.
The company took the opportunity to join the AWS Migration Acceleration Program (MAP) for cloud migration support. Besides livestreaming, U-NEXT will use AWS where needed. “Joining MAP will further expand our use of AWS,” says Li. “However, we’re not going 100 percent cloud. We’ll examine the advantages and disadvantages of on-premises and cloud options, and adopt the best solution for operation and cost.”
To learn more, visit AWS for Media & Entertainment.
CTO, U-NEXT Co., Ltd.
VP of Talent Acquisition, VP of Corporate Development, U-NEXT Co., Ltd.
About U-NEXT Co., Ltd.
- Business description: Planning, development, operation, and marketing of video delivery service
Benefits of AWS
- Meet growing needs for livestreaming during the global pandemic
- Improve customer experience through multi-channel livestreaming
- Smooth integration between AWS Elemental Live on-premises and AWS Media Services on the cloud with AWS Elemental MediaConnect
- Improved customer experience and satisfaction
- Valuable managed services and cost benefits
AWS Services Used
AWS Elemental Live
In a video processing workflow, an encoder compresses a video stream, using high-quality video as input and producing compressed renditions as output while maintaining optimal picture quality.
AWS Media Services
AWS offers the most purpose-built media services, software, and appliances of any cloud to make creating, transforming, and delivering digital content fast and easy.
Amazon CloudFront is a global content delivery network (CDN) service built for high-speed, low-latency performance, security, and developer ease-of-use.
AWS CloudFormation is an infrastructure as code (IaC) service that allows you to easily model, provision, and manage AWS and third-party resources.
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