TranSPORT 2014: Cell-based Technologies Boost Content Creation, Monetization Opportunities

From press conferences to postgame interviews, media days to breaking-news updates, content providers increasingly turn to cellular- and WiFi-based camera systems to capture unique moments efficiently, reliably, and cost-effectively.

At SVG’s TranSPORT in New York City on Tuesday, leading vendors of cell-based camera systems were joined on stage by representatives from the NHL and American Athletic Conference, who discussed how they are using these systems to deliver content across multiple platforms.

LiveU's Tim Prukop (right) and AAC’s Mark Hodgkin

AAC’s Mark Hodgkin (left) and LiveU’s Tim Prukop

“Last year, when we established our conference and tried to form our digital network, we were looking for a way to get as many games as we could,” said Mark Hodgkin, assistant commissioner, digital media, American Athletic Conference. “We wanted to increase exposure to our brand. That was the primary thing with a new league: getting out there. So, when we talked to LiveU, we got an estimate on cost that was far lower than most even subcontracted productions, but also it allowed us to do this without investing massively in something that our membership wasn’t ready to do.”

Tim Prukop, VP, sports sales, North America, LiveU, pinpointed several use cases for cell-based technology in sports. The most popular current use is in creating the ancillary content surrounding games: press conferences, interviews, etc. According to Prukop, the technology helps content creators post their content to Web platforms more quickly.

“Everybody is starting to get used to the fact that I don’t have to worry about Internet connection and how its bandwidth oscillates during the game,” he said. “I don’t have to pay for a satellite truck, and the quality of the video is going to be as good as, if not better than, if I was going just across the Internet.”

Dejero's Bill Nardi (left) and NHL’s Eric Eisenberg

Dejero’s Bill Nardi (left) and NHL’s Eric Eisenberg

Echoing Hodgkin, he noted that the technology is making inroads in live sports production, particularly with smaller events for digital platforms. However, because cell-based technologies must rely on the available bandwidth within a venue — not to mention, compete with thousands of cellphones — producing a live sports event for broadcast television isn’t a reality just yet.

That’s not to say that cell-based technologies have no place during huge events. Vendors like LiveU, Dejero, and TVU Networks continue to work with the cellular providers, tweak their wares with larger antennas that avoid cellular congestion, and make use of the WiFi networks that are increasingly available in large venues in order to support the broadcast.

“It’s all based off the variable bitrates and the H.264 and the H.265 encoding that we’re coming up with,” explained Bill Nardi, VP, broadcast integration, Dejero. “There are ways that both companies augment the offsetting of cell-based technology. You can use WiFi, you can use hardwire, you can bond that all together. You can parcel out WiFi from a hardwire connection. There’s Ka band, there’s Ku band. So there’s a lot of different ways to offset the types of coverage you want to do to alleviate the dangers of not being able to [use cell-based technology].”

Using cell-based technologies, broadcasters and leagues alike report the freedom to try new things. Player interviews are no longer tethered to cable hookups; they can be done from virtually anywhere inside or outside the venue. Smaller sports events, press conferences, and media days can be covered with limited onsite staff. And new content provides increased opportunities for monetization.

“Realistically, both on the league level and also the team level, we’ve been able to do things we weren’t doing before,” said Eric Eisenberg, director, programming and operations, NHL. “It’s not like we [used to use] a sat truck and now we’re just going to use a backpack. These are new content opportunities. We’ve worked as the league, but also we’ve been pushing the teams to do more of this and incorporate this at the team level, and [then we] bring that back and merge all of this different team content together.”

Password must contain the following:

A lowercase letter

A capital (uppercase) letter

A number

Minimum 8 characters