An online audience of 1.7 million viewers across 120 countries for a 23-year-old wildly popular event being held virtually for the first time. And… with only two weeks prep time to pull it all together. What could go wrong? 

Quite a bit unless you’ve engaged with the right live-streaming provider. Production company FabriQ Media Group chose to partner with Red Bee Media for the 2021 edition of De Vrienden van Amstel (Friends of Amstel), on behalf of Tribe Company.

De Vrienden van Amstel is a pop culture phenomenon in the Netherlands, growing to legendary status since launching in 1998. The annual multi-day concert and entertainment festival attracts leading international music acts while drawing as many as 150,000 attendees to the Ahoy Rotterdam arena.

In the fall of 2020, festival organizers faced a serious dilemma: while most forms of live entertainment, including concerts, were still dark due to COVID-19 restrictions, fan interest and demand were still high. In fact, despite most acknowledgements that the festival wouldn’t go on, advance ticket sales were still going strong.

There were two options: postpone the event for 2021 or find an alternative.


Image Credit: Set Vexy


“It became clear pretty quickly that we needed to do something,” said Tim Verhulsdonck, founder and managing partner of FabriQ Media Group. “We could not leave this festival dead for a year. Can we run it online?”

Verhulsdonck had worked with Red Bee on previous high-profile events and was confident in their OTT platform’s ability to deliver the hundreds of thousands of high-quality streams that would be required to make this event logistically possible online.

Making the user experience as easy and smooth as possible was top priority for recreating the festival’s high-energy vibe in an immersive and dynamic virtual environment. Also key, was avoiding the usual issues associated with live-streamed online events: buffering, image blocking and poor sound.


"When you mention De Vrienden van Amstel, people immediately think of a spectacular show. The fan base is massive and passionate, so when you announce it’s being held online as a free concert, traffic is a certainty. The main challenge was how to handle the expected huge data traffic, get all these people in and make sure they experience high-quality video with incredible sound. We had to get this right.”

Tim Verhulsdonck Founder and managing partner, FabriQ Media Group

Image Credit: Ben Houdijk – 2021


When the decision was finally made to proceed with a virtual event, time was definitely of the essence. “I called Red Bee and told them I’d sold their platform for a live stream for Amstel,” Verhulsdonck said.  “Then I said we have two weeks to prepare. Once the initial panic passed, we got to work and collaborated closely all the way to the finish line.”

Red Bee handled the end-to-end delivery of the livestream through its cloud-based OTT platform, including feed acquisitions, transcoding, entitlement and delivery to the event website.


"To handle all the traffic, we had to ensure we could establish the proper connections from the arena to our facility where we ingested the signals and made sure they were viewable in our platform. We designed our platform to be as flexible, scalable and commercially versatile as possible, so we were able to easily scale-up to make sure we had enough capacity to handle the traffic and deliver it to more than 100 different countries.”

Anders Wassén Head of OTT DevOps , Red Bee

Red Bee implemented several safety measures to guarantee the stream was flawless, including “evening out the traffic” by letting viewers log-in to the event earlier than the announced start time instead of all at once, similar to the crowd-control practice of opening the doors early at a physical venue event.

The team constantly monitored every aspect of the online event, staying in touch through group-chatting tools to make sure issues were identified and resolved before they became noticeable to users.

Image Credit: Bart Heemskerk 2021


“The internet has to be the most unfriendly environment you can think of to host a live entertainment event,” said Steve Russell, Chief Product Officer at Red Bee. “At any given moment, any number of issues can derail you. Flexibility is critical to be able to react to something instantly, take something down, scale up when needed and keep the show running.”

The results were clear and impressive. The livestream occupied 25 percent of all Dutch internet traffic during the event’s timeframe, even reaching beyond the Netherlands to a total international audience of 1.7 million in 120 different countries, with an estimated 800 subscribers connecting every second.

During headline act Armin van Buuren’s DJ set, the volume of simultaneous streams peaked at 750,000.

"I knew what Red Bee was capable of from past events. They're masters at distributing content. Together, we put in a lot of effort preparing and managed the many last-minute client requests. It worked out very well, and it also opened a lot of eyes.”

Tim Verhulsdonck Founder and managing partner, FabriQ Media Group.

Image Credit: Baart Hemskeerk 2021


Those eyes belong to content owners and rights-holders, with more realizing the potential opportunities possible through the use of the Red Bee end-to-end media platform.

“The world, and especially the events industry, is changing,” said Verhulsdonck. “If you own content or own the rights, you can become a broadcaster without having to rely solely on the traditional broadcast model.”

Even as in-person events slowly return, Verhulsdonck still sees a hybrid online/physical model as practical, and profitable.

“There’s a demand for high-quality content that can be controlled, customized and targeted to a specific audience,” he said. “Even when 60,000 spectators are allowed into a venue, the world is bigger than 60,000 people. Who wouldn’t want to sell more tickets, create unique content and reach a bigger audience?”