_wige MEDIA highlights sports potential of innovative new camera system

A new camera system introduced by Cologne-based broadcast production company _wige MEDIA could lead to a TV revolution in amateur soccer. The innovative video technology – which was recently tested at an exhibition game between SV Lippstadt and FC Bavaria – is capable of capturing the entire pitch. The camera automatically follows the action of the game and can even zoom in and out as it would if operated by a professional photographer. This technology enables live transmissions for a low budget because there is no need for an OB van.

The Alibaba Sports Group, a subsidiary company of Chinese E-business giant Alibaba Group, that has about 400m customers quickly discovered the huge potential of this innovative video technology. In February 2016, the Chinese group and _wige MEDIA AG signed a cooperative agreement that includes the organisation, production and marketing of sporting events, initially in the core segment of motorsport. A further significant component of the cooperation will be the equipment of sports venues in China with innovative video technology and marketing the content in media channels, as well as within its own sports media programmes.

If a stadium is equipped with this camera technology, the live transmission can be streamed via the Internet. Thanks to a specific algorithm, the camera follows automatically even those very quick movements in the playing field. The software allows the viewers to select any kind of perspective and zoom shots. Originally developed by an Israeli start-up for security applications, the 180-degree video camera can produce professional video images of a huge area or a stadium which are not static as webcam images.

Sports potential

Peter Lauterbach, CEO of _wige MEDIA, immediately recognised that this camera system could be adapted for sports broadcasts. Instead of providing an OB van and the required staff at a venue, the cameras need to be installed in the stadiums. After _wige MEDIA had secured its grip on this technology, they sealed a deal with Alibaba Sports for fully-automated live coverage of sporting events.

“This cooperation is a significant milestone in our ongoing digitalisation and internationalisation strategy. We are delighted that Alibaba Sports has decided to collaborate with _wige in bringing European sports to China, equipping Chinese sports venues with technical infrastructures, and in the production and marketing of sporting events,” says Lauterbach. “Alibaba Sports is an ideal partner for our ongoing plans for expansion into new and extremely attractive markets.”

In 2017, the Chinese company plans to equip about 1.5 million sports facilities with the transmission technology and software. The idea is that every user can create its personal sports show on any device from any venue such as soccer stadiums, golf courses, natatoriums or riding halls.

“Technology and science bring society progress. We’d like to have deep collaborations with _wige, dedicating ourselves to developing stadium intelligence and media presentation, [and] bringing brand new sports experiences and making everyone a sports person,” emphasises Zhang Dazhong, CEO of the Alibaba Sports Group.

Aso in Germany, broadcasters, sports clubs and corporations are providing their customers with live streams of huge sports events. The new camera system could also be used to produce fully-automated live coverage of the amateur clubs, enabling their matches to be distributed in various media channels. Since the successful test at the exhibition game between SV Lippstadt and FC Bavaria, the German Football Association (DFB) is taking a closer look at this technology.

“Video is an attractive [medium] and offers amateur soccer and its clubs a great opportunity to present themselves,” says Rainer Koch, vice-president, DFB.

Indeed, the live broadcasts of the matches will give the clubs the possibility of marketing their video coverage to broadcasters. This could have the side effect that amateur clubs become much more attractive to sponsors.

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