The Game is Changing in Live Sports Production

5 min

Live sports production is one of the best examples of how dynamic media & entertainment can be. By their very nature, live sports are unpredictable and fluid, both qualities that are central to their thrill. Of course, with that thrill come unique challenges. Thanks to advancements in technology, the experiences consumers enjoy while watching sports are becoming more immersive and engaging. The state of sports production is constantly evolving, so here are some of the trends to watch.

Remote production (REMI) continues its ascent

While REMI (REMote Integration) or at home production isnt a new phenomenon, the continued growth of this model is enabling new opportunities. Much of the initial focus on REMI was around cost savings driven by the benefits of simply not having to bring as many people or as much equipment on site. That has not only opened the door for smaller events to create high quality live productions, it has also allowed for more rapid innovation, as it's easier to test and deploy new tools and new skills with an at home model. And, thanks to modern intelligent file transfer software remote production is now possible using standard IP networks further driving down costs and making the model accessible at nearly any venue, even high school football games.

Just this past April, ESPN and the NFL pulled off a major success in broadcasting the 2020 NFL Draft during the global pandemic using an entirely new workflow to work around the challenges of quarantine. NFL Media deployed iPhone production kits to roughly 200 prospects, coaches, owners, and others and coordinated more than 400 additional fan streams to produce the event with an almost entirely remote team.

Graphics, special effects, and the battle for audience eyeballs

A key result of the increase in live events and their distribution across more and more channels is the challenge to hold an audience's gaze. After all, when there are so many things to watch and so many screens available, the content must be captivating.

Because of this, sports broadcasters are becoming increasingly invested in providing a viewing experience that's as current and exciting as possible. New graphics tools are emerging to enhance viewing experiences in amazing ways. For instance, Discovery Norway is employing 3D models and augmented reality graphics to provide fans of the Norwegian Football League with an unparalleled viewing experience straight out of the future. As explained by Vizrt, the company behind this innovation, Discoverys team of Vizrt experts have the time and capabilities to explore possibilities and push themselves further with new ideas to bring the match in the studio closer to viewers. And, this is only one small example, as everything from esports to live news are joining in on the phenomenon.

More prerecorded content in the mix

With advancements in search, AI, and archiving technology- much of it available via the cloud-broadcasters now have easier access to archived content. With fast search and retrieval times and more editors at home, broadcasters can more easily include previously recorded content to enhance the viewing experience. For example, due to the stay at home virtual nature of the 2020 NFL Draft, NFL Media had to capture at-home interviews of the top 58 draft prospects in order to be ready for the live 3-day broadcast. Viewing experiences are enhanced tremendously by adding prerecorded content into the broadcast and thanks to technology advancements this is another area of rapid innovation.

Automation helps drive major sports events

Automated, intelligent file transfer software has serves as the backbone for delivery of content from outside broadcast (OB) trucks to and from headquarters, quickly and securely moving large volumes of data. Before the game, things like graphic elements and produced segments from the studio are delivered to the truck for use during the game production. During the game, the content being shot can be delivered back to remote production facilities in near real-time with clips and highlights edited and returned to the venue immediately for insertion into the live production or displayed on the jumbotron. During the game, these fast-turnaround workflows generate staggering amounts of data that can only be accommodated with the right intelligent file transfer solution.

For example, just one OB truck at a 6-hour game might generate 2,000 to 2,500 clips, with larger weekend-long tournament events generating up to 40,000 clips. Of course, many clips and files are delivered on an ad hoc basis, but using automated file acceleration technology, broadcasters can ensure that the content is steadily flowing out of the truck and back to headquarters, where it can be available for use immediately.

Social media is a central part of the live ecosystem

Social media has become such a huge part of the live viewing experience that commentators or broadcasters will actually boast about a trending hashtag or share some of their favorite relevant posts with the audience, and social media engagement brings with it new economic opportunity.

Because of this, broadcasters have become much savvier about how they integrate social media into their live productions. In many cases, the broadcaster has minutes or even seconds to get a highlight out on their social media channels before a fan in the stands posts that same highlight from their phone and pulls the audience to their own feed. Those are lost opportunities for engagement and, ultimately, revenue. Especially for live sporting events, content needs to be edited and distributed quickly to keep fans engaged and extract maximum value. In fact, social media is so critical to how live entertainment brands maintain fans that, even as the Washington Post reported a dip in NBA cable viewership, the league's social media following and footprint remains at an all-time high with 1.6 billion people engaging on a global basis.

Live sports and file-based workflows

The unique environment of large sports productions is constantly testing and pushing technological and financial models forward. Every sports broadcaster, everywhere in the world, is looking to achieve maximum coverage with minimum technical and financial resources. To enhance productions with file-based media, intelligent file transfer software (both automated and person-initiated) is central to sports broadcasting.

It is always fascinating and rewarding to see how broadcasters continue to stay on their toes, and bring audiences to their feet.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jon Finegold joined Signiant as chief marketing officer in 2017, bringing 20+ years of experience in launching and growing software companies. After working as a software engineer, Finegold became a pioneer in SaaS, helping to launch OpenAir in 1999, one of the first B2B SaaS offerings which was acquired by NetSuite in 2008 (and later Oracle) and remains a leader in its category today. He also led the launch of where.com, a SaaS platform for mobile location aware advertising, which was acquired by PayPal in 2011. Finegold was chief marketing officer at Scratch Wireless from launch through acquisition and then founded and ran a consulting firm called Digital Jolt to offer part-time CMO services to early stage technology companies.

 

This article was written by Jon Finegold from Streaming Media Magazine and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.