Grand Slam: How Neustar Helps MLB Advanced Media Deliver and Defend Baseball Content
Major League Baseball (MLB) Advanced Media accurately and securely delivers OTT content, with critical systems now protected from DDoS attacks.
Baseball fans don't want to hear excuses about not being able to see their favorite team's games live.
That fervor helped launch Major League Baseball TV (MLB.TV) in 2002 as the first over-the-top (OTT) subscription streaming service, and maintains it today as the most widely distributed sports streaming subscription service.
To serve these loyal fans, MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) has two related but distinct needs for its 2500 live games each year:
- Make sure geographically-relevant content is delivered to every fan
- Keep the sites and infrastructure up and running in the event of attacks
In addition to MLB.TV, these imperatives cover MLBAM's other properties, such as the mobile apps At Bat for following live games on phones and tablets, and Ballpark, for customizable in-venue experiences when visiting one of the 30 MLB ballparks.
The Neustar Solution
Like a good switch hitter, Neustar can handle the challenge from both sides.
"Our relationship with Neustar actually began in 2003 when we started using [Neustar] IP Intelligence," said Rob Del Greco, VP, App Infrastructure for MLBAM.
"We were streaming Major League Baseball games and needed a solution that could accurately identify and geo-locate IP addresses by geographies and markets to help us comply with broadcast regulations."
Neustar IP Intelligence provides MLBAM with granular IP decisioning and Internet connectivity data, allowing them to enforce blackout rules while also providing insight into potentially risky viewers.
"By understanding where a viewer is located, we receive invaluable insight that allows us to confidently deliver the right content to the right subscriber and to provide the best baseball viewing experience possible," Del Greco said.
"And when it appears there is an unauthorized viewer, we count on Neustar's Network Geography Analysts, who research tens of thousands of IP geolocations each year to ensure we're monitoring geo-based content appropriately."
The other side of the challenge was making sure the streaming service remains up.
Enter Neustar SiteProtect, an on-demand hybrid DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) defense solution, capable of quickly detecting and mitigating these kinds of attacks while keeping critical systems up and running without any streaming interruptions.
SiteProtect assures us that "our infrastructure is protected against any type or size DDoS attack," said Del Greco.
In 2016, the Mirai botnet attack "came as a real wake-up call for everyone relying on one DNS provider," he recalled. In that attack, bots infected countless connected consumer devices like home routers, which were then marshalled to launch denial-of-service waves against targeted sites.
Del Greco said that MLBAM "engaged with Neustar immediately and they helped us implement our current practice of using dual primary DNS providers over a weekend."
Neustar UltraDNS provides this dual primary DNS service, while also keeping DNS DDoS targets at bay. Unlike BIND-based DNS services, UltraDNS is engineered on a proprietary non-open source platform that is less vulnerable to online threats.
"Now, we have a DNS failover to make sure we're always on for baseball fans," he said.
Since MLBAM counts on Neustar "to help us accurately deliver our content and protect us against DDoS attacks," Del Greco said, "it was a natural next step to trust them to run our DNS infrastructure."
"The integration was smooth and the level of service that we have received - from integration to production - has been fantastic. We haven't had any downtime or issues."
In the digital media world, where competition for viewers comes from virtually everywhere, MLBAM remains well positioned to provide geographically-relevant, uninterrupted baseball - and is well positioned for the growth opportunities ahead.
"We're beyond happy," Del Greco exclaimed. "We're accurately delivering a high volume of content to users located all around the world and we're very confident in our ability to deliver without interruption."