As global sports begin tentative steps to restart following the coronavirus lockdown, IBC365 looks at some of the innovations in sports over recent years.

football credit bt sport

Football: Has begun its return with matches happening behind closed doors

Source: BT Sport

One of the biggest absences during the coronavirus lockdown has been the lack of premium sport content to keep viewers enthralled. 

This summer would have seen tournaments such as the UEFA European Championships, the Tokyo Olympic Games, and the Paralympics, dominate broadcasting schedules, but all have been delayed due to Covid-19. 

This week would have been the final of the 2020 Champions League, yet this is likely to come later in the year, as football leagues begin the initials steps to resuming after months of lockdown. In Germany, the Bundesliga has already kicked off again, while the Premier League last week agreed Project Restart, which will see top-flight games resume behind closed doors. 

Horse racing returned in the UK this week, while F1 has also agreed to resume races, with the chequered flag set to be waved for the first time in months in Austria on 5 July. This will be the first of a run of eight races in Europe, with a new race schedule drawn up for the Championship. 

The impact has yet to be measured, but it could be significant. UK broadcasters Sky and BT Sport could face up to £1bn loss from cancelled sports during Covid-19, according to Enders Analysis, although this was based on sporting events being postponed until August. 

With the resumption of sport comes the resumption of technological innovations. The loss of the Olympics could slow progress on 8K deployment, as the technology was set to be showcased at the Tokyo event. But broadcasters will continue to use sport as a testing bed for new tech. 

F1 esports

F1: With races canceled drivers like Charles Leclerc have turned to esports

Esports scores as live sports shrinks 
One of the beneficiaries of lockdown and the postponement of sports has been the esports industry. 

Now more than ever audiences are looking for ways to remain entertained during lockdown and esports has become the answer. 

Since governments have mandated stay at home policies, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc won a virtual Grand Prix, Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford competed in a virtual football battle against Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho. 

Global esports revenues will grow to $1.1 billion in 2020, a year-on-year growth of 15.7%, up from $950.6 million in 2019, according to Newzoo Global Esports Market Report 2020. 

In 2020, $822.4 million in revenues—or three-quarters of the total market—will come from media rights and sponsorship. Globally, the total esports audience will grow to 495 million people in 2020, a year-on-year growth of 11.7%. 

Premier League 2019: Amazon and HDR to debut 
This year’s Premier League has already seen a number of innovations, including HDR, streaming of all games, and the entrance of Amazon into the world of football broadcasters. 

The US online retailer has exclusive broadcasts of all Premier League matches on 26 and 27 December as well as those played midweek on 3-4 December for its Prime Video service. It aired the games on Prime Video. 

Streaming sport: Personalisation and the importance of social media 
The sports broadcasting landscape is in a state of flux as content distribution models shift to meet consumer demands, new technology and monetisation models funnel this change into new directions. 

Live sports have always captured the attention of audiences; according to Nielsen research, eight out of 10 of the most viewed telecasts in 2019 were sports related. 

Whilst many sports fans are already leveraging OTT services to provide access to their favourite sports leagues and teams, pay-TV providers rely heavily on fans to pay to watch the action. 

As the worlds of sport, technology and streaming collide the changing viewing habits of sports fans and the services they want to stream has created a significant opportunity for platform providers. 

Anouk Mertens Eleven Sports COO headshot

Anouk Mertens: COO at Eleven Sports

Scoring OTT goals with sports broadcasting 
Serving sports fans globally, Eleven Sports saw an opportunity to provide audiences an alternative to what founders Andrea Radrizzani and Marc Watson “saw as a stagnant and fragmented sports media market.” 

The company was established as a new platform available across both linear and OTT services with the aim to put sports fans back at the centre of entertainment. 

Joining Eleven as managing director of Belgium in 2015 ahead of its launch, Anouk Mertens was then promoted to chief operating officer in November 2018: “It’s been quite a ride so far,” she tells IBC365. 

Live production webinar: Delivering a richer viewing experience 
Live sports content is a critical component to traditional broadcasters’ linear schedules and an increasingly attractive way for streamers to build audiences.  

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, sporting events across the globe have been forced to postpone or cancel. From non-league football to the postponed Tokyo Olympics, broadcasters are working overtime to fill the now open airtime.  

Viewers today are accustomed to reviewing the action of their favourite sports in a timely and high-quality fashion with large-scale events expected to be seamlessly available live and on-demand.   

In this IBC365 webinar, experts in the technology and sports industry discuss the value of employing the latest technology as well as the techniques they are using to create richer and ultimately more immersive viewing experiences.  

The speakers consider the importance and impact of access to increasing amounts of data, the use of cloud-based tools to handle and turn that data into insights, the role of GFX to support storytelling and what part tools such as augmented reality play in studio presentation. 

BT Sport switches focus to remote production 
Remote production and 5G were among the prominent themes at IBC2019. Both offer the broadcasting world opportunities to transform their operations and connect with users in different ways. BT Sport is leading with the deployment of remote production in order to enhance its output for sports fans. 

The UK sports broadcaster has been steadily increasing its capabilities and output following the successful EE Wembley Cup - the first sporting event to be broadcast live over 5G using remote production. Over the last year it has conducted numerous test broadcasts with remote production over satellite, fibre and 4G depending on the network connectivity at stadiums. 

Sport leads the 5G charge 
With 5G deployments now underway in many part of the world, sporting events have led the way in utilising the new mobile technology for productions. 

5G was demonstrated during the 2018 World Cup, in a game between Morocco and Iran. Feeds from cameras at St Petersburg’s Kresovsky Stadium were routed 600 km over a 5G connection to Moscow. There, viewers in a designated ‘5G zone’, were able to watch the game in VR, switching between camera angles on the fly. 

The 5G platform has long been touted as a potential key link in the 4K video delivery chain thanks to its multi-gigabit speeds and latencies as low as a millisecond. 

Fox Sports put this to the test for camera contribution during the 2018 U.S. Open Championship, in a collaboration with Fox Innovation Labs, Intel, Ericsson, and AT&T. Ericsson provided the 5G radios, baseband and 4K video encoder and decoder; Intel supplied its 5G Mobile Trial Platform, a device capable of transmitting 1.6 Gbps and 5G to IP translation, while AT&T set up a temporary network connection to deliver the 4K shots from the seventh hole.