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The Growth Of 4K And New Production Techniques

From what I’ve discussed in my previous post “Live Sports Leads The Way In The Future Of Live Streaming”,  the future of live sports’ sure looks bright.

Over the years, producers of sports content have always been innovative in bringing live sports closer to people viewing at home. Today, there is more emphasis on creating content to attract an online audience. Technology, such as wearable cameras, is coming to the fore, in providing the kind of customized content that audiences demand.

The availability of digital sports content has also been enhanced by the amount of additional storage available for content, as the price of the storage itself has decreased. Innovative storage has led to a noticeable expansion of the amount of available content. This is not the only area where online sports video has benefited from technological advances. Even thought, I’ve been driving live events management on more technical and operations level, below I wanted to emphasize few of the upcoming techniques that in my eyes will definitely change the way we are watching online live events in the next few years. Content is still the king, but more additional aspects are making it attractive for the viewers.


The emergence of 4K

In the beginning, use of 4K necessitated the employment of workarounds. This is often no longer the case; now the equipment is in place to make 4K technology work more seamlessly. One such piece of equipment is the systems camera with a two-thirds-inch clip. This makes it possible for current zoom lenses to be used so that the feeling of depth in sports coverage can be maintained. There is still room for improvement, of course. Although there have been recent developments in the creation of 4K wireless camcorders, to use on the touchline during games, they are not yet completely useful as mini-cams, due to size and latency issues.

The emergence of 4K in live sports is highlighted by the fact that the first 4K live channels were both sports orientated. There are some who argue that the market’s first channel BT Sport Ultra HD is not quite what it says as it does not have high dynamic range. The productions use a 3G-SDI (serial digital interface) workflow, which is a workaround based on traditional infrastructure. Across the Atlantic, Rogers Communications in Canada is committed to broadcasting in 4K by the end of 2016. An advantage of being later to the market is that their content will have HDR added.

The next big event in the broadcast production world is set to be migration from SDI to IP. The major change this will make is to drastically cut costs of sending OB trucks to a live event. Many big broadcasters, such as NBC Sports, have already got plans in place for large remote production workflows, at events such as the Olympics and NHL games.

What happens with remote production


One of the major advantages of remote production over IP is that it opens up far more live sport for coverage. For instance, PAC-12 Network uses remote production over IP and t this enables it to remotely cover 850 sports events on an annual basis, and save up to $30 million dollars each year in doing so. This does not mean broadcasters will not send mobile crews to major events, such as Super Bowl, but it does enable wider coverage at a lower cost. In many cases, broadcasters are looking to tie in video over IP with the introduction of 4K.

It is not certain when this will happen for many broadcasters, as there is still a little way to go before the technology of the Internet enables the complete smooth running of 4K, without the potential of viewers missing vital action due to downtime. What is certain is that the greater editorial freedom of the wider Internet platform will help facilitate the move from traditional broadcasting to IP and finally this move will ensure many minor sports to make the essential move and start online delivery.

Access to data

Many die-hard sports fans love their facts and figures. Technology is helping producers of content to gather more and more of this type of data, using devices such as wearable cameras and sensors. As time goes on fans will come to demand more and more live data, such as that provided by MLB Advanced Media during baseball games. In this aspect, second-screen applications will definitely be on the rise, once combined with more live data, as it will give a completely new level of watching live games.

Virtual Reality and sports content

Virtual Reality first game to live sport streaming when the NBA’s Sacramento Kings used VR headgear to interact with Google Glass during the 2014 season. This meant that fans could see the game through the eyes of reporters and cheerleaders. Google Glass is no longer, but that does not mean the VR connection with sport live streaming has been broken. One of the new options is NextVR which has been tested in sports leagues such as NHL and NBA, with a view to launching a monetized pay per view event later in 2016.


As live sports coverage seems likely to keep moving online, technologies such as 4K, remote production over IP and VR, seem set to personalize the customer experience and maximize overall viewing satisfaction.

And maybe all of the above mentioned new improvements are closer to big broadcasters, some of them will surely help and be used by 2-tier sports leagues since it will cut the always tricky over-head when planning online stream budget.

In my next post, I will evaluate in more details why online live streaming and monetization should be the way forward for (not so) popular sports.

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