Hello! My name is Lee Cook (@leethomascook) and I am the Head of Development at Aqueduct, the lead digital agency for Manchester City FC. Russell has kindly allowed me to post some more techie things on this blog. First up, I would like to talk about the new match day centre.
I have been working on City’s digital estate for over 4 years, so had the pleasure of being involved in the original match day centre. While the original was great and quite ahead of it’s time, 4 years is a long time in the digital world. It was time for a new version, built with modern tools and one which worked cross platform.
Form a technical point of view, our aims for the new version were simple:
- It must be responsive and work cross platform (desktop, mobile and tablet)
- It should be the fastest match centre out there (faster than Sky and BBC)
- Look forward and support best of breed technologies
So, without further ado, here are the new designs:
Behind the scenes the application is written in ASP.NET MVC 4. @OptaJoe continues to provide the real time statistics. We process their data and store it in RavenDB, a NoSQL implementation for .net.
In order to achieve speed and scalability, we are using PubNub for delivering real time updates to your browser, which takes considerable load off of our servers. Whenever we have an update, we send it to PubNub and they distribute it to all connected clients for us. In effect, PubNub functions as a messaging CDN for the MCFC Match Day Centre.
A note about live audio commentary:
Obviously the live audio commentary was a key part of our offering before, but it was very limited as it was created using Flash, so did not work on mobile and tablet. We wanted to bring this cross platform and we have achieved this. It should now work on iOS, Android (4.1+) and desktop.
We would love to support all android versions, but unfortunately it is just not technically feasible. The sheer numbers of different android devices and versions are staggering. The open signal report on android fragmentation is very interesting reading and it suggests there are currently nearly 12,000 different android devices.
We looked at stats of visitors to the mcfc.co.uk site and it suggested that nearly 60% of android users were using version 4.1+. Based on this data we made the decision that we would only support version 4.1+, as people generally upgrade within 12 months and we wanted to keep things simple.
However, it is currently incredibly tricky to support the multitude of devices out there. In order to do so, we have had to create two different audio streams. One RTMP stream for the desktop flash version and one for http live streaming (HLS) on mobile. It is worth noting that HLS only really works on Android 4.1+.
We have various android devices in the office and it seems to work on a lot of them, but we have obviously not tested every single android device. If it does not work on your version, please leave a note in the comments and we will investigate.
One unfortunate problem we have noticed in testing is that there is currently a bug in the HLS implementation in Chrome on the latest Android 4.3 You can see the bug report here. I believe it has been fixed by the chromium devs and should be in the next chrome update.
The new MDC will be live tonight for the Newcastle game. I hope you find it an improvement. This will be a continuously evolving product and there are more features coming over the next few weeks. You can get a sneak peak at some of the latest design features that are being implemented this week below :