2023 Predictions: As Competition in Sports Technology Heats Up, Telstra, AE Live, Ateme, and Singular.Live Look Ahead
The consumer appetite for sports is accelerating, especially with increasingly discerning viewers now used to accessing sports content at any time online. The competition for these valuable eyeballs is also heating up, with sports producers reaching deep into their technology arsenals to deliver immersive viewing experiences. A current sports broadcast is likely to include any or all of the following: virtual studios; Augmented Reality or even Mixed Reality (MR), automation, and advanced camera tracking. While sports broadcasters are engaging in these viewing battles, they’re also monitoring key business issues such as diversity and inclusion and promoting the next generation of industry leaders through proactive recruitment strategies.
New Ways to Deliver
Large-scale, high-profile sports events will always have a traditional on-site broadcast component based on dedicated connectivity — a proven, but expensive and complex workflow, notes Emory Strilkauskas, Head of Business Development, Americas, for Telstra Broadcast Services, which provides broadcast media services and solutions.
“The internet is a reliable, lower-cost, high-quality connectivity option that sports producers need, either to complement in-venue events, as last-mile delivery, or as an end-to-end workflow for sports that, while popular, don’t always justify or require the logistics and costs of traditional on-site production,” Strilkauskas says.
Telstra’s Internet Delivery Network (IDN) matches the market’s need for a cloud-based platform for transporting high-quality video content and live streams across shared networks like the public internet.
“The IDN’s flexible software components allow for easy installation on either ‘bare metal’ physical COTS servers or public cloud servers,” Strilkauskas added. “Broadcasters can produce and deliver content from anywhere, while avoiding the costs and logistics associated with fixed connectivity and on-site production.”
The New Must-Haves
“People are still eager to watch sports, and sports properties and rights-holders are fighting harder for those eyeballs which are getting more difficult to attract and retain,” says Dave Gill, Chief Technology Officer at AE Live, a global provider of graphics and data solutions. “Audiences now expect a more immersive experience with online interactivity and a mix of graphics. Technology like Augmented Reality (AR) has emerged beyond being an upsell to becoming a core service. What was once nice-to-have is now a must-have.”
Companies need to adapt their business models to account for this increased and changing demand.
“The Virtual Studio trend is another add-on service turned broadcast staple,” says Gill. “Audiences may not know, or even care about, what they’re seeing but for broadcasters and federations, it definitely makes a difference – financially and aesthetically.”
Gill adds, “A virtual studio environment adds incredible editorial flexibility, expanding what’s possible for giving the viewer at home a brilliant experience. Once a producer sees the end result and the range of programming that comes with it, they understand the potential impact on the entire content ecosystem.”
Sports … as a Service?
Over the past two decades, the media technology industry has continued its transition from traditional hardware to more agile software products, with broadcasters opting for greater flexibility — in both functionality and pricing. Recent innovations in cloud technology, along with the mass adoption of WFH models during the pandemic, have only accelerated this trend, says Dave Brass, VP, North America Strategy and Market Development for Ateme, which develops video compression and delivery solutions.
“As video platforms grow increasingly more complex, it’s almost impossible to efficiently manage all the various components that make up these workflows,” he says. “However, Software as a Service, or SaaS, helps eliminate some of these complexities by providing a ‘single pane of glass’ offering for configuration, monitoring, user management and key metrics. Scalable and customizable, SaaS models fit business’ needs and allow for a more streamlined operation, giving broadcasters more time, flexibility, and peace of mind to focus on delivering content to viewers.”
Brass boldly concludes: “I’m calling it now: 2023 will be the year of SaaS!”
Ensuring the Industry’s Future
Technological innovation and new products are important, but so is providing a career path for the next generation of sports industry leaders.
“I think diversity, equity, and inclusion will come to the forefront in 2023 – with accessibility being the key topic,” says Mike Ward, Head of Marketing, Singular.live, a next-gen live graphics platform. “Broadcasters and sports organizations face multiple challenges, including the lack of awareness around opportunities within our industry – potential candidates don’t understand what we do or what careers are available to them. I think companies need to do a complete overhaul of their policies and approaches to hiring. One solution is to remove the need for a college degree/diploma, which expands hiring pools significantly. A degree or equivalent level of education has become increasingly irrelevant for many roles in our industry as real-world work experience can be an education unto itself.”
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