Live sports broadcasting is at the forefront of technological innovation - from immersive overlays, HDR camera operations to harnessing data and 5G, industry experts share tips on ways to sophisticating the delivery for audiences.
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 the latest IBC365 webinar insight from 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.
Vizrt vice president and product manager Remo Ziegler explains how image quality, the growth of ultra-high definition (UHD), high dynamic range (HDR) and 4K gives viewers the best possible opportunity to enjoy sports content with the best available viewing experience.
He was asked if he agrees that we have reached the peak, shifting more towards immersive features?
Ziegler says: “Image quality is highly important to provide a sense of realism especially when watching sports coverage at home.
“UHD brings an advantage from the experience of it and additionally for all outdoor sports with big dynamic ranges, HDR gives it a much nicer experience when watching the content at home.”
The ability for broadcasters to offer audiences content which shows the depth and details of the content with shadow ranges and over exposure ultimately changes the perception of the sporting event dramatically.
Innovating with live
Despite the current global pandemic, the speakers agree it’s a time to reflect and focus on the future of sports and the huge amount of innovation that is emerging with live production.
Live sports production is changing, and broadcasters are faced with the conundrum of working out how to deliver more to sports fans and give audiences more immersive and engaging content on every screen than ever before.
With data driving personalisation and new technology changing the ways broadcasters operate to enable more live production, more efficiently and effectively, Michael Cole who is regarded as a leading expert in technology with sport is the PGA European Tour and Ryder Cup Europe chief technology officer, joins Ziegleron the webinar.
He has transformed the technology landscape and delivered new technology infrastructure for events such as Ryder Cup in Paris in 2018 and previously advised committees and technology sponsors for various Olympic Games.
The developing role of technologies like cloud, augmented reality (AR) for enhancing sports content and live sports production is the hot topic.
He says: “Ongoing process transforming the landscape and coronavirus pandemic shows the importance of maintaining agility and being able to continually react to situations.
“Golf is a technically complicated sport and it is not surprising that therefore technology for golf is complicated also.
“To keep those fans engaged and excited with the course, the European Tour must meet the expectations of world class sporting events, and this includes connectivity.”
One of the greatest challenges for the PGA European Tour fans and stakeholders is to ensure they enable audiences to remain connected wherever they are on the course and feel a real sense of immersive connectiveness.
“Typically for any tournament we are delivering for five separate infrastructures, across operations, spectators, media – which is a concept we refer to as a connected course – when everything is connected, then everything is possible and this is part of our vision to transform the technological landscape,” he explains.
Ultimately the engagement of fans is at the crux of the Tour’s mission and with golf fans traditionally being as loyal as they come, they expect a “true spectator experience whether in the venue or at home.”
- Read more: Live sports innovations on track
Taking technology to its limits
Cole addresses some audience questions from live streaming to innovating behind the scenes beyond linear using immersive technologies such as AR overlays.
He goes on to say that “data is out currency and fundamental to all innovation” and the Tour has been collecting data in golf since 1972 and us arguably one of the most data driven sports.
“5G is absolutely critical, sensors are not yet allowed on players, but we are also looking to run IoT across operations.”
He also mentions the delay of the Tokyo Olympic games whilst unfortunate enables the team to embark on a closer discovery and innovation ideation to showcase its technological abilities.
Joining Cole and Ziegler is Futuresource senior analyst Chris Evans who specialises in technology, innovation and sports research.
He addresses why delivering a richer viewing experience is important and looks at the ways audiences consume sports content.
While technology is significant, there is no doubt sporting experiences can be enhanced with HDR but ultimately at its heart good sports is told through excellent storytelling and that is what engages with fans and audiences of all ages.
Evans says: “For the more traditional types of services, live video is one of the genres that cuts through – sports particularly – drives viewing for audiences to get a big screen experience wherever they are.”
On innovation he says broadcasters need to enrich experiences for all audiences across platforms and channels.
“Broadcasters and content creators have more tools at their disposal than ever before but [make sure you] bring it back to the story and allow us to showcase sports and other events in other ways.”