Broadcast Vendors Gear Technology Toward Sports-Venue Market

The line between venue technology and broadcast technology is blurring. As videoboard-control rooms become responsible for an increasing number of screens, ranging from the center-hung board to thousands of fan smartphones, venues must install the necessary infrastructure to handle the task. The result: venue control rooms that look more and more like broadcast trucks (if a little roomier) and leverage much of the same gear.

And the buzzwords are the same. This month’s NAB 2014 kicked off with Sony’s announcement that the San Francisco 49ers have committed to using its 4K camera system to future-proof content created at Levi’s Stadium (no word yet whether the venue’s videoboard will be 4K-capable). Sony also exhibited an end-to-end 4K IPTV solution, in conjunction with VITEC.

Because sports venues are closed ecosystems, 4K should theoretically be adopted by venues before traditional broadcasters, which must tackle the added hurdle of widespread distribution. However, only a handful of sports venues seem to be considering the jump; most have only recently upgraded to HD.

The focus at NAB 2014, therefore, tended to be on in-venue connectivity and IP-based workflows. Two companies — Nevion and Cisco Sports & Entertainment — detailed collaborations with more-traditional broadcasters to leverage existing infrastructure and content to boost fan engagement and potentially increase revenue. Verizon Digital Media Services continues to leverage its wireless network to meet the media needs of sports fans in venues, and Level 3 works to enhance connectivity among venues using its Vyvx platform.

Without forgetting core mobile-truck and network clients, traditional broadcasters showcased how their gear fits seamlessly into venue control rooms. Among them, Ross Video demonstrated its new Acuity production switcher within a videoboard-control-room setup. Sony’s booth featured the company’s full line of production-switcher models, including the MVS7000X and MVS8000X with 4K capabilities, and Panasonic highlighted a mid-level switcher that could be perfect for a smaller facility. Utah Scientific reports increasing demand from venues for its gear; similar demands are seen across replay, graphics, and more.

Exhibitors dabbling in the venue space were sure to highlight their latest projects, from Click Effects’ current work with the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, and Carolina Panthers to Cisco’s most recent StadiumVision installation in Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre to Nila’s lighting the NBA’s D-League Showcase. Imagine Communications (formerly Harris Broadcast) featured its recent IPTV installation at Madison Square Garden.

As lines blur between permanent venue control rooms and mobile-production units, opportunities for collaboration between venue operators and visiting broadcasters increase. Delivering live video feeds to smartphones, a powerful in-venue presentation to the center-hung board, and dynamic advertising to LED displays via IPTV could be just the beginning. With several high-profile projects on the horizon, it’s an exciting time in the sports-venue space.

For more information on these vendors and many more, check out this month’s Venue Tech Monthly and SVG’s SportsTech@NAB Show blog.

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