Publishers Clearing House is an American interactive media company best known for its Prize Patrol. The famous Prize Patrol began surprising winners with oversized checks on live TV in 1988. The memorable, real-life reactions of stunned sweepstakes winners became a cultural phenomenon, entertaining audiences and spawning a number of good-natured skits on such TV shows such as Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show. With individual sweepstakes winners taking home up to $10 million, Publishers Clearing House has awarded over $315 million in total prize money and was looking to give out even more using Facebook Live.
Streambox “enabled us to go live on Facebook, adding credibility to our process. There are still some who doubt whether we are really giving away money or not and this was a big part of helping confirm our legitimacy.”
Publishers Clearing House needed to be able to stream broadcast quality video live to its Facebook page using professional HD-SDI cameras and could not worry about having available WiFi or ethernet networks. Production trucks are one way to deliver live video without WiFi or ethernet, but can cost over a million dollars each and these production costs stopped Publishers Clearing House from doing live Prize Patrol feeds for several decades. In 2016, Publishers Clearing House purchased a Streambox Avenir Mini 3, a mobile bonded cellular encoder with five embedded 3G/4G/LTE modems, and a Streambox Cloud subscription because of Streambox’s unbeatable reliability and cost to own and operate. With its new Streambox equipment the Prize Patrol resumed its professional quality live productions and now Publishers Clearing House does about ten livestreamed awards a year and that number will likely increase in the near future.
Prior to Streambox Publishers Clearing House would record and run back to the hotel to edit and deliver through a web transfer to headquarters for posting on social media. Kenny Ringgold, Senior Manager of Video and Photography at Publishers Clearing House said that Streambox, “enabled us to go live on Facebook, adding credibility to our process. There are still some who doubt whether we are really giving away money or not and this was a big part of helping confirm our legitimacy.”
Publishers Clearing House films with one of its Canon C300 or Sony FS7 cameras connected to Avenir Mini 3. Avenir Mini 3 encodes the video into Streambox’s ACT-L3 format for reliable video transport via five embedded cellular modems to Streambox Cloud. From Streambox Cloud the video is transcoded and sent live to Facebook.
The Avenir Mini 3 is designed for maximum portability with broadcasters’ needs in mind. It has a small form factor, weighs only 3.6 lbs, has a 1-2 hr battery life (depending on battery type), attaches to many cameras, and holds 5 embedded 3G/4G/LTE modems (expandable to 15 total by adding a Streambox Signal Extender module) that are all be bonded using Streambox technology.
“There has been nothing but positive reaction to our live feeds, the quality of the audio and the video is a huge step up from what we were doing before.”
Streaming to Facebook Live using only cellular networks is critical to Publishers Clearing House’s workflow. Publishers Clearing House works in demanding production conditions without the luxury of pre-production testing. Its various remote and untested locations are not even determined until two days before shooting and are not available to test until literally minutes before going live (the genuine surprise of the winner is essential and bandwidth testing would betray the secret). Facebook advises users to only use WiFi when streaming live as a 3G/4G/LTE connection will not offer enough bandwidth to deliver quality video without buffering, but that would be impossible for Publishers Clearing House and its production demands if not for Streambox. Streambox untethers Publishers Clearing House from the WiFi restriction by bonding multiple networks (including 3G/4G/WiFi/internet) to build enough bandwidth to stream high-quality, uninterrupted video.
Avenir Mini 3 compresses video from Publishers Clearing House’s cameras using Streambox’s Advanced Compression Technology – Level 3 (ACT-L3) codec, optimized for efficiency, low bandwidth, and high video fidelity. ACT-L3 works in conjunction with Low Delay Multi-Path technology (LDMP) for seamless video delivery. LDMP automatically bonds all available networks and maintains the best possible bandwidth, latency, and resolution over the networks. LDMP works with 3G/4G/LTE, WiFi, BGAN and other IP networks, but Publishers Clearing House needs to be fully mobile so it uses 2 Verizon modems, 2 AT&T, and a T-Mobile modem. LDMP automatically selects the best network path for Publishers Clearing House’s stream. If one modem/carrier has connectivity issues, has its network bogged down, or drops out altogether LDMP will adjust in real time to move the delivery to the other modems/carriers and adjust latency or quality if necessary to ensure that the video is delivered to Streambox Cloud. LDMP assures Publishers Clearing House does not have to worry about a congested cell tower eating into its available bandwidth while live on air and interrupting its stream.
“Streambox has given us the ability to broadcast our winning moments to our more than 2 million Facebook fans live!”
The video captured by Avenir Mini 3 is sent to Streambox Cloud where it is archived, transcoded, and played out in real time on Facebook Live. Streambox Cloud’s transcoding enables multiple viewings at once without losing video quality or delivery speed. Along with feed management, security, and delivery reliability, Streambox provides the ability to add post-production effects with live team contribution via third party software. Without Streambox, Facebook Live is a mobile app limited by a phone’s camera and connectivity, but as part of a Streambox Solution, Facebook Live is the publishing platform of a professional quality production with broadcast cameras and not bound by a single cellular network or WiFi connection. “There has been nothing but positive reaction to our live feeds, the quality of the audio and the video is a huge step up from what we were doing before,” said Ringgold.
Using its Streambox solution has given Publishers Clearing House the ability to implement reliable remote streaming for its live events which has positively impacted its social media views and brand credibility all for a reasonable price. Ringgold said, “Streambox has given us the ability to broadcast our winning moments to our more than 2 million Facebook fans live! This has a tremendous impact on our brand credibility, and helps people see that Publishers Clearing House really does give away millions of dollars.”