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Two NRL footballers on the field

NRL converts content to digital, kicks goals with cloud data

Microsoft Azure hosts 100 years of rugby league footage – freeing fans to watch what they want, when they want

The National Rugby League (NRL) has completed a large part of massive content digitisation program, loading footage from the last 100 years onto Microsoft Azure to allow fans the freedom to watch what they want, when they want.

In tandem, the NRL has used Microsoft Azure and Azure Databricks to create a data platform that brings together information from online, ticketing, turnstiles, and grassroots to gain a comprehensive understanding of the manyAustralians who play or watch rugby league.

NRL is currently exploring how it can use artificial intelligence to analyse that data and deliver exceptional consumer experiences based on the increased understanding of fans and players.

This is part of the more hands-on approach to innovation that the NRL has taken as it seeks a more direct digital engagement with rugby league fans through its various Digital products and services.

Microsoft Azure delivers the security, scalability and elasticity that the NRL sought, while the platform as a service cloud reduces the NRL’s administrative burden  according to NRL head of technology, Domenic Romeo.

The modernisation has been a huge hit with fans according to Romeo. “During COVID the NRL was unable to create new content during our season suspension, so we actually virtualised some seasons and ran games out of our archive to mimic a season,” says Romeo.

All current and future content is now stored in the cloud – including match photographs which are also stored in Azure and available to media partners and affiliates who can subscribe for access.

All NRL non broadcast live content and on-demand video streaming uses  Azure Media Services as the storage and delivery platform.

NRL has also secured a deeper understanding of its base and enhanced operating model through its newly constructed data lake built with Azure Data Factory and Azure Databricks. Machine learning algorithms intelligently group information that allows the NRL to identify fans and consumers across all their different touchpoints.

“That’s been a huge value add to us as we are on our journey to understand more about our consumers,” said Romeo.

With the data platform now in place the NRL is also keen to explore how it might in the future be able to further leverage  services such as AI and Machine to add more timeline metadata for example, or to use voice recognition and speech recognition to identify and access content.

Lee Hickin, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Australia said; “Microsoft has been proud to work alongside NRL on this program of work over several years. The data lake provides the NRL with greater clarity about its community while the digitised content can be accessed via the NRL network of apps and websites to deliver an entirely new user experience.

“The NRL is a very seasonal organisation which experiences massive peaks around State of Origin and Grand Final times.

Backed by the massive capability of the Azure cloud which offers unparalleled scalability and performance, the NRL can be confident about its ability to deliver rich and compelling experiences for its fans now and in the future.

Aerial shot of football match
All current and future content is now stored in the cloud (Source: NRL Image Archive)

About NRL

The National Rugby League (NRL) is one of Australia’s most popular and entertaining sports. The NRL telecasts have grown to become among the most watched sporting programs on Australian television. Branching off the NRL is NRL’s Digital division; creating, producing, archiving and live-streaming hundreds of hours of content to NRL’s official website and the NRL Official app on smart devices as well OTT platforms. NRL Digital’s underlying media technology also powers the 16 clubs and 2 states and NRL operational websites and mobile applications content delivery, enabling better fan and members content experience online

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Rudolf Wagenaar, Commercial Communications Lead, Microsoft Australia

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