Busy landscape: Globecast explores the hybrid reality of sports broadcasting

By Liz McParland, Globecast commercial director, contribution

As we all know, the industry has been alive with both talk of remote production and movement to the cloud as part of the broadcast chain. At this year’s IBC, it was clear and obvious to see the step change. A noticeable amount of floor space was dedicated to demonstrations of remote production, the cloud and IP solutions; it was impossible to avoid.

But what is the reality for the sports market? What is the current state of play, and as a long-time sports broadcasting service supplier, what is the impact on the fixture list ahead?

Busy landscape

While IBC presented many possibilities, from a customer perspective it looked like a very busy landscape to navigate. Who can customers trust to actually provide the services they want, at the quality that’s required, when there are so many options and ideas?  Many customers know they need to be looking at the cloud and what that could mean for them, but they are unsure where to begin their journey. There is undoubtedly a nervousness about committing to cloud solutions, across the sports market.

It is a significant moment of change. We’ve heard many concerns, and some feature more frequently than others. For example, the issue of accountability seems very prevalent, unsurprisingly when valuable content is released into the wilds of the internet!

Who’s responsible should things go wrong? How can this be tracked, measured, seen and ultimately resolved? The service level of video content delivery must be maintained and the quality must, at the very least, match up to the more traditional methods available.

Cloud costs

This dovetails with a second point, the common misconception that when looking at the cloud – or IP more widely – it can be accommodated cheaply, that the finances involved are demonstrably lower. However, this doesn’t always stack up.

For broadcast-grade delivery, in a highly competitive world, quality matters more than ever, and this of course, has an associated cost. The movement of data, by whichever medium you choose, has a price tag, and the cloud is no exception. Significant savings can be made, processes can be optimised and streamlined, geographical challenges can be overcome, but those advantages do not come for free.

Cloud distribution is definitely challenging the existing model of world feed distribution. Wide beam European satellite still remains quite unbeatable value for point to multi-point delivery. However, blanket distribution on intercontinental satellites may not be the most cost-effective method when there’s only a handful of broadcasters in a global beam.  Enter the cloud-IP solution, which solves the issue of moving content far around the world, without the prohibitive cost and infrastructure associated with satellite transmissions.

Cloud-IP is undoubtedly an enabler for lower tier sports coverage, full stop. Less well-known sports properties can benefit from the budgetary savings and ease of reach offered by IP delivery. When it comes to Tier 1 players, it’s often about additional content distributed via IP, removing the need for additional fibre or satellite paths. Outer court tennis matches are a good example, with this additional content can be personalised and tailored to suit the requirements of specific regions and countries. It allows for more niche content, such as matches involving a particular player or team, to be seen.

Producers now often have a vast amount of additional material, including pre and post programming and shoulder content, all of which has value and can be monetised. Add to this lifestyle or fan engagement content, along with pop-up channels, and you have a recipe for delivering more than ever before to the viewer.

Processing possibilities

On the processing side, once content is in the cloud, it opens up many possibilities. It’s so much easier from that virtual point to hand off content for language variants, remote commentary, captioning, or to online archive and VOD. By its very nature, the cloud is easily accessible. With the cloud, content can be moved to an online library at the same time that it’s being streamed and recorded, for example. This concurrency and versatility coupled with being geographically agnostic, is a huge advantage. Service providers and customers alike are starting to really open their eyes to the gains.

It’s still a case of conveying these benefits and advantages to customers in a way that’s easily grasped. Cloud use and the possibilities it affords are not quite joined up enough in people’s minds yet, so, again, the reality is a hybrid world. We’re moving from a place where there may well have been three or four different specialised service providers, all within one broadcast chain, to a situation where all points are deliverable from one provider, via an integrated cloud approach. Add to that the built-in ability to be more scalable than previously possible and we’re at an exciting stage of a developmental journey with our customers.

It also comes down to trust in lots of ways; trusting that the one service provider a customer chooses has the credibility to understand and develop the best solution specifically for them, then to actually provide it. With so many options that could be possible, it’s vital to offer real solutions that work.

When it comes to remote production, we’re now seeing how elastic this term is, as it stretches to cover a multitude of services. It’s definitely happening, as we’ve seen on numerous deployments, but it’s not happening across every event. There are use cases where remote production absolutely makes sense, but this is not true of every event.

Instead, we’re seeing a move towards a more distributed model where some production functions take place onsite and some remotely either at production hubs or in the cloud. Spinning up services in the cloud to create a production hub holds many advantages and moves us away from an A-to-B linear situation towards a more flexible and scalable solution.

To continue the theme of traditional meeting new, challenging the idea of ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’, we must mention the profile of women in sport. There seems to be a significant turning point right now, where female athletes and women’s teams are stepping out of the shadow of the traditional, male-dominated environment, and are getting the recognition, support and following they richly deserve.

We cannot underestimate how the women’s European football tournament in 2022 moved this change forward. This is great news for everyone, from grass roots to elite level. But also, from an industry perspective, and for the sports fan too, it ultimately translates into more quality sports content becoming available. A victory to be celebrated.

Looking around and ahead, we’re undoubtedly living in a world of significant change; a hybrid world combining possibilities. As customers come to understand the clear opportunities they afford, we can explore this new landscape together, and continue to provide the solutions they need, for the win-win.


Subscribe and Get SVG Europe Newsletters