Pro Baseball Streaming Moves to Omaha

Major League Baseball will soon be coming from Omaha—or rather, the 1.5 million gigabytes of live and recorded video it produces every year (and 4.5 million gigabytes of other content) will be coming from the Tier-3 certified Scott Data Center in Askarben Village, a million-square-foot shopping and entertainment facility in downtown Omaha.

Under terms of a deal announced today, MLB Advanced Media—the digital-content marketing and distribution division of Major League Baseball—will establish MLB’s first “technological footprint” outside New York by locating much of its video-streaming and storage operation in a new datacenter owned by Level 3 Communications.

The agreement is an extension of MLB’s existing contract, under which it uses Level 3’s content-delivery network, content- and application-acceleration services and hosted datacenter facilities to house, operate and distribute the video-streaming business that is becoming one of baseball’s most consistent moneymakers.

MLB video services—including MLB.TV, MLB Gameday Audo and other multimedia streaming services—are growing so quickly that the company had to move content away from its headquarters to a datacenter that could handle its content, performance and availability requirements.

Keeping up with the growth of MLB’s own video business has been a growing concern, but the impact of Hurricane Sandy’s October 2012 visit to New York made the search urgent, Inzerillo told the Omaha World Tribune.

MLB’s New York datacenter didn’t store enough fuel for its backup generators to last through four days’ worth of power outages; every day, MLB staffers had to carry 400 gallons of diesel fuel in 5- and 10-gallon containers up six flights of stairs to the 600-kilowatt backup generator on the roof of the Chelsea Market building.

The effort allowed MLBAM to deliver 500 hours of live video streaming—including coverage of the San Francisco Giants’ World Series victory parade—despite the power loss to the city, though it took a lot of careful balancing of power draws, fuel capacity and load balancing between two generators.

“I was constantly running through joule calculations,” Joe Inzerillo, MLBAM senior vice president of multimedia and distribution, told SportsBusinessDaily at the time. “Every single draw of power had to be monitored and measured, even down to charging cellphones.”

MLBAM, which was founded in 2000 and built with an investment of $77 million, paid the investment back by 2007 and has been in the black ever since. MLBAM will be the second and likely the largest tenant of Level 3’s new datacenter in Omaha, which holds 10,000 square feet of raised-floor hardware space, power densities greater than 200 watts per square foot, and safety/security features such as a secure caged storage facility for customers who want it; there’s also a concrete outer shell able to withstand winds blowing at more than 200 MPH, according to Level 3.

The facility’s various high-speed Internet backbone connections are fast enough that network latency between Omaha and Denver is only 9.4 milliseconds and 13.9ms to Chicago, though New York is a comparatively pokey 34.6ms.

Omaha is home to datacenters owned by Yahoo, Google, Fidelity and others, though each of those facilities is dedicated to a single company. MLB will share, though not all that much; it is slated to take up 8,000 square feet of datacenter space, leaving only about 2,000 for other potential customers.


Image: MLB Advanced Media