NAB 2019 Reflections: ChyronHego CEO Marco Lopez on the Importance of Sports-Venue, Esports Business
In-arena graphics increasingly enhance the fan experience
ChyronHego kicked off NAB 2019 with the announcement that the Dallas Cowboys were involved in a comprehensive upgrade of their ChyronHego-based venue-graphics systems at AT&T Stadium.
Included in the undertaking are Click Effects PRIME — ChyronHego’s integrated graphics toolset for delivering live arena- and stadium-based A/V presentations to any canvas size with any number of outputs in any resolution — and the company’s latest versions of LyricX, Paint, and Virtual 1st, ushering in a new era of 4K production on the LiveFX Endzone board at AT&T Stadium.
SVG sat down with ChyronHego CEO Marco Lopez to discuss this latest news, as well as the importance of the sports-venue industry and the role esports will play in ChyronHego’s business plans.Tell me about your big news heading into this year’s NAB Show.
On the sports and venue side of things, the [work we’ve done with] the Dallas Cowboys is really telling about how these venues are adopting Click Effects PRIME as their primary orchestration tool. That allows them to put on an event that people want to go to. People still speak to family members and say, I’ll just watch [a sports event] at home, and I prefer the experience at home. When you ask them why they prefer the experience at home, it’s because they can get things like instant replay with Paint and telestration; they can get virtual placement. There are all these little things that they get when they watch on TV that they weren’t getting at the stadium.
The Dallas Cowboys are turning that around by going 4K; they’re now going to be using our Paint product and our virtual-placement product so that, when they run a replay on the large screens in the stadium, it will actually be telestrated. People in the stadium will be able to understand the DNA of the sport. [In a football game, viewers have become accustomed to seeing] the yellow line showing how many yards [the offense needs] to go for the first down. Those are some of the things that the Cowboys will put right in the stadium. That will remove the excuse of “I have a better experience at home.” Now people will want to come and watch it at the stadium and get that full experience.
In that same market, we are driving our systems with native GPU outputs. That has helped a lot, because these screens have [a wide range of] resolutions and aspect ratios, and, by going natively, we can hit them with the specific resolution for that screen. As you know, you have ribbon boards, you have perimeter boards, you have large flat-screen TVs and other LED displays, and we can go natively [to each of them].
That’s important because we can output four times more pixels than our leading competitor, so our channel density is four times better. When you’re thinking that you have to drive hundreds and sometimes thousands of displays, the equipment in the equipment rack can get daunting. With four times better density, the equipment would be a quarter of what it would be otherwise. So we’re really happy about that in terms of that market.
And then, for telestration, we released Paint version 7.5, which [gives our customers] some really easy-to-use tools. For instance, we use our AI visioning systems so that we can automatically track players without sensors or any other type of equipment or accessories. Now the telestration operator doesn’t have to key-frame where the players are moving in trying to show the replay of a highlight.
We integrate with the leading replay systems, and we offer full 4K recording on our telestration system, [which] means you don’t have to sacrifice an expensive replay port on your [replay server]. Just record into our system, do your telestration, and then you can either export to the server for the replay of the highlight or publish to the web.
And, the publishing to the web and social media is directly integrated into our system, so there are no additional steps; the telestration operator, once they’re happy with the highlight, can publish to Facebook, Twitter, or any one of the social-media sites that they typically use.
An interesting stat that I learned was [that] more than 50% of the highlights and telestrations done by the operators inside the truck don’t go to air because the game goes on or the producer has other things to move to. But now nothing stops them from saying, Publish it to social media. And the fans on their secondary devices can get all the telestrated highlights that they would have never seen on the linear broadcast. It’s just another way of further engaging fans.
Sounds like the in-venue experience is becoming an increasingly important part of ChyronHego’s business.
It is. Our purpose in life has always been to visualize live data, to engage and entertain. And live data in the form of statistical data on player and team performance are all coming into our systems. What we try to do for the producers is to be the aggregator of all this data. We curate the data; then we quickly visualize that data for fan engagement, and so it’s definitely true for stadium and in venue. It’s also true when you look at other areas or other verticals like news graphics. The news station we did in Philadelphia for NBC [is used] for NBC News, but they also use it as their NBC Sports studio, and it’s amazing. We’re so proud of that installation: the LED floor and the 23-ft. screen that they have for telling sports news. We really believe in integration of the live data. Visualizing it quickly and efficiently so the producers don’t have to worry about it is what we do best.
One of the biggest trends we’re seeing at NAB 2019 – and in the sports-venue space in general – is esports. Is that a focus for ChyronHego?
One aspect of esports is definitely the large arenas, venues, and stadiums that are housing events, and we’re definitely there. That’s a key focus of the products that we offer. The other aspect is, they are now doing fairly elaborate productions, and our graphics products (which have been around since 1966) are still the main graphics engine for live sports events. This is where our Lyric platform has typically shined: getting these just-in-time real-time graphics. So that platform is definitely suited very well for esports.
Are there any other trends that you’re seeing in the sports and sports-venue space?
I think the one [is] virtualization. Not just to virtualize for virtualization’s sake, but it’s more about when we do one-time sporting events that happen in a city and then move to another city or that don’t happen every week or [happen on] multiple days of the week — Formula 1, tennis, the Olympics — and finding ways [to] virtualize our platform so that they can get access to the resources and turn on and off the resources wherever they are in any part of the world. It’s really attractive to these customers. We’re happy to say that our Prime and Lyric platforms are virtualized so we can work with customers in this remote-production manner and allow them to go into these business models and make them more productive with their capital investments.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.